Does art need to sell?

Yes it needs to sell!

But this is a point of ... well, not exactly contention, but it separates artists into two factions. I have wanted to sell my art-photography since the mid-1980s, and came close at one point back then. In the interval, some work has been published: magazine covers, calendars, for example; but with retirement from Medicine came the time to devote myself more to this decades-long dream, and that has involved:

  • learning more about the craft, and

  • marketing.

  • Need I add "persistence".

I hear from some artists, more accomplished than myself, that they produce art for themselves, and have minimal interest in all that commercializing that would entail. Fair enough.

However, I also hear from some exceptional artists that they lack the confidence to try to sell. Also fair. But I will tell you this about me: putting myself out there pushes me, and I think I need that.

So that's where learning comes in, and I could go into detail, but for the present purposes will spare you. Always keep learning.

An art-photographer needs to keep on photographing. Greavette Island, Gravenhurst, Lake Muskoka, Ontario. It was a very dull day, and I could have been forgiven for saying, "Why bother?" Now: I can make this much more dramatic (in editing). I can put back what little colour was there. I need not have broken my own rule about not including an expanse of featureless, overcast sky. I say to all of that: tough. I like it as is.

I did however have a fascinating conversation about the image above with an amazingly-elevated oil painter—he wouldn't have painted it like that. Details some other time perhaps.

I have to add this: have a strong enough ego to relinquish your ego. My lighting-coach—and he has been essential—no longer asks, "May I be frank?" I have a small and loyal cadre of devoted critics, and I listen to them. (I don't do everything they tell me! But I do listen.) If you don't want to hear anything negative then you're not going to make progress.

No ego: you aren't going to promote your work. Enough ego to promote but not enough for humility: you aren't going to learn about your art or about marketing. (My uncle jokingly used to boast about his humility.)

If you note the apparent contradictions in my opinions about ego, then know that they are intentional, and I believe them not contradictory at all.

Marketing I don't take to as naturally, but it has to be done. One very cool thing for example is to have a merchant say, "Yes, I like your work, and would like to carry some." That does wonders for the artistic ego, careful though one must be with that. But the merchant cannot offer to exhibit your work if they haven't heard of you, so one thing which has worked well for me is to walk into a gallery and ask if I can show them some photographs. They all say yes ... to reviewing my work.

They do not all say yes to exhibiting it.

So, this is going to involve some rejection—hence the requirement for persistence. I can say with absolute certainty that not every gallery-owner will want to show my work, or yours, on a first (or second or third) exposure. So if an artist doesn't want to deal with that, then don't start. You do need the self-confidence that you at least deserve to ask.

Wizened autumnal foliage. I use this as an example of several principles. i) Go out and make photographs. ii) When I get there and there is nothing to photograph, look around me more carefully. iii) An anonymous passer-by looked at one I had just made, and said, "Yes, you're making art!" That encouraged me, although I elected later not to work up that image; but were it not for him, and a 3-second conversation, I might not have made this. (One way or another, we accomplish nothing significant alone.)

I would like to throw in here that I have been on television. Getting interviewed on Kingston's CKWS morning show by the very personable Bill Welychka was a real buzz, and thanks to David Dossett of the Martello Alley Art Gallery for initiating it (and participating). Then, some of my photos appeared on a subsequent CKWS morning show, during a feature about the Nature Conservancy of Canada, for whom I do some promotional photography.

The links to those two videos are here and here.

So I wrote down recently the history of my artistic exposure, and was surprised by the length of the list. Some of the items go back years, but the bulk of them are more recent.




This does not include many other photography activities, such as portrait sessions, private fine-art commissions, shoots for charities of various natures, musical performance photography, teaching, and much other busyness.

Distilling recently, rising to the surface, is Fine-Art Photography. I capitalize it because it matters to me. Apparently that is working because my fine-art photography is selling, which pleases me immensely. Here are a few which went recently:

Broad Street, Brockville, Ontario. I'm particularly pleased that this sold (and to a repeat customer!), because the vantage is one which almost every Brockvillian has seen without recognizing. I only saw it because I was desperate that day, and began to look more actively for a composition. I like that—well, firstly, I just like it or I wouldn't be showing it—I like the light, the intersection of lines, the power lines which are usually such a bane but are fine here, and that I felt bold enough to detune it, making it softer. (That doesn't sound very "photographic", but remember my mantra: "It's all about the image.")

Sloping Forest. This has been a perennial favourite, and has appeared in this blog before. I can only hypothesize about why people respond to it: the contrast of the diagonal against the verticals, the recognition of an appealing subject, but I think most importantly it's the light, the dark foreground against the almost luminescent distance. Critically, I didn't create that light. Equally critically, I recognized it, while out with other hikers, and made the exposure. (Keep a camera with you!)

(Incidentally, my father called me up a year ago, wanting to buy this photograph. I refused. I just gave him a print. He's my father for goodness sake!)

King St. West ("Wet"), Brockville, Ontario. I was able to deliver this personally, and the recipient was thrilled, which ... well, what can I say other than it felt good!

As I have said, I live in a city and I photograph in the city—clearly not exclusively.

This one, Snowy Evergreens, mentioned in the last blog, was bought about a week after I made it. Conferring with the purchaser, because nothing falls into any kind of mass-produced category, I had it custom printed and custom-framed, and then I didn't want to sell it (but I did).

Thanks to Ginny Fobert who did the printing - simply astounding quality - and to Hang Ups who framed it superlatively, which is the only kind of framing they do.

An important thing for an art-photographer, trite thought it might sound, is to keep photographing. It's like the advice to people with writer's-block: sit down and write something! Live a life, read widely, or in a photographer's case, look at many other photographers' output, travel, meet people—all sorts of people, but include some who can advance your work (artistically and promotionally)—do not stay indoors all the time, but then go back indoors and write—or edit some photographs.

Fortunately, I cannot help but keep photographing. If that ever stops, then worry.

County courthouse in Brockville Ontario

The image above occurred to me because I was photographing something across the road—something which ultimately has not yet worked out (but watch this space!)—and before I turned for home, I just looked around me and saw this.

The same thing occurred at the same time and at the same location with the photograph below—I just looked up higher.

This is Sally Grant, a statue atop the county courthouse in Brockville, Ontario, and apparently named after the model who posed for the piece. (I find it interesting but cannot comment further than she has a set of balance-scales, and a sword, but is not blind-folded, as are many of these icons.) My vantage is an unusual one, and I like it. It occurred serendipitously because of the other (so-far failed) project.
Finally, I got up in time for sunrise—less obvious in a snowstorm—hoping to find something under artificial light. The over-sized chairs at Blockhouse Island in Brockville, Ontario appeared through the snow. You can't tell from this photo that you need to climb several steps to get into these huge chairs, which are therefore a popular snapshot setting in the warmer seasons. No one was clamouring for them at 7:00 a.m. in a blizzard.

Feel free to join the throngs who are buying up my Fine-Art Photography. You know where to reach me.

As well as large prints, I have a lovely collection of smaller ones—5x7-inches on a wider matte, $15, and notecards with envelopes, $6 each, or less as a package.

I also have a recent book, Brockville in Photographs, already in its second printing, ready for the Holiday season. Readers have said very nice things. You can find it at in the Brockville Tourism store, or directly from me.

While You're Here ...

Reminder: I make photographs and I sell photographs.

Art - Most of the photographs which you see on this web site are for sale. Prices at the time of writing, for example, for an 11x14" fine-art print with a generous white border would start at about $65, and you can go up or down from there. Check the rates page. More importantly, check out my gallery. I would love to provide you with a work of fine-art photography, or to discuss a commission.

Portraits - Book a sitting - the right frequency with which to commission formal portraits is a bit more often.

Anything (almost ...)! Please inquire for photography categories such automotive, industrial, charitable ...

Another reminder: kindly leave a comment, or contact me to sign up for new blog notifications. I will very much appreciate referrals to potential new subscribers. I am very careful and respectful with your privacy.

Thank you so much for reading.

Charles T. Low


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