There are some specific things that you can add to a well-written photographers artist statement. It’s important that you as a photographer write it from your own perspective which helps you express the meaning and purpose behind your work.
Why do you need an artist statement?
An artist statement is a stand-in for the artist when they can’t be present to talk about the work. So it is essential that it will communicate what is needed when you as an artist cannot be there to do that for yourself. Think of it as your business card, a bit longer though, but it is a tool for you to show who you are and why your work is important.
The best statements put the work in context but don’t force an interpretation on the viewer. Keep in mind to have some personality to your statement — the tone should fit really well with the work that you’re describing.
The emphasis should be on the basics of communicating something about the work.
How To Write Your Photographers Artist Statement
1. Personalize It To Sound Like You
An artist statement isn’t a persuasive statement. You don’t want to tell viewers how to receive your photographs. Rather, you want to provide them with details that support your images and allow them to react to those details in whatever way they see fit.
The voice that comes through in your writing can help you differentiate yourself.
Ask yourself the following:
- What is the reason I have created this work?
- What is the narrative in my work?
- What do you find to be inspiring regarding your work / what have influenced it ?
Always write your artist statement in first person (using ‘I’ and ‘my’)
2. Brainstorm Keywords
Brainstorm a list of words that best describe the mood and elements in your work.
These words will work as guidelines to form the rest of the sentences around with. Choose wording that is clear and concise, and try to take out repetition in the form of synonyms.
3. Explain Who You Are And What You Do
This requires the artist to know who they are and where do they fall into, in the field of photography. So before you start, look at your work objectively, and maybe even see how the artists who have similar themes have gone about it.
It should cover the subject of your photographs, what are the mediums you’ve used while creating them and how did you come to the conclusion of creating them (your why).
You can communicate whatever you feel in necessary for the background of the project or the overall work you’re presenting. If you feel your gender clarifies the reasons behind your work, add that information.
Make sure you have a sentence or two to truly emphasize the main points in your work.
4. Tell What Is Your Medium And Methodology
Provide details that express how the ideas in your statement are reflected in your work and why you chose the medium of photography to express yourself. Describe how your experiences have influenced your work.
If your method for creating the work or the materials you use are crucial to understanding the work, include that information in a statement.
If you’re shooting with analog, you can add that to the statement. The reasons for shooting analog might be to being present in the photography moment for example.
5. Keep Your Audience In Mind
Even if your audience is changing, and you find it difficult to address it to a specific audience, it will eventually narrow the way you communicate about your work.
Some artists are afraid that by writing too literally, they risk pinning down the meaning of the work. There is a risk for that, but by providing something tangible, the viewer can then make their own interpretation.
First it might seem like you want to leave it open for everyone to experience -which you of course are doing – but by expressing your standpoint in your work, you give the viewer the ground to know how they fall on the spectrum of the audience.
If for example your work is about mothers, you are also addressing an audience who want to be mothers in the future, or even the people who have grown without a mother.
But your audience will change once you change the focus of your application; you might have to rewrite a statement if you want to apply for a grant than if you would be applying for an exhibition.
6. Write Multiple Versions
As a photographer and photo artist, be aware when writing anything about your work and process, you do not write anything with haste.
Start by writing one statement with everything you can think of adding, and then start to peel it like an onion, by taking something out of it and revising it over and over again.
This way not only can you better your writing skills, but you will start to see what are the words and elements that show up again and again in different versions of your statement.
7. Take Out The Fluff
Everyone of us has probably read a statement that left you without any real information. It was a statement with some fancy wording and repetition. It might’ve even left you more confused than what you felt prior to reading the statement.
Photographers tend to be defensive in their statements, and to explain why they are making the work and why it is being made. An artist statement shouldn’t have such theoretical, specialized language in it that any reader is going to lose interest after two sentences.
You do not want to bore your viewer with something that will have them lose interest before they even get to your visual material.
A teacher once pointed out; ‘Would your mother understand it if she read it?’
8. Show Your Statement To Someone Who’s More Experienced
It’s critical that artists find people who will give them good advice about their writing.
As artists we get so stuck in it and we think that something is really clear when it isn’t, which can be a detriment to the work.
The same works with our actual imagery, we might be infatuated on a specific way of creating it, but having a fresh pair of eyes to review it will bring out details you might’ve not noticed otherwise.
9. Less Is More
A photographers artist statement doesn’t have to be lengthly. The more you add to the statement, the more it might start to repeat itself. Choose to write a compact piece that is short yet punctual, leaving the reader to instantly know what you’re about and what is your work all about.
Just make sure you’ve articulated the most important points all while keeping it interesting. It might need some practice, over and over again, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it.
Artist Statement Examples
Here’s an example where the artist personifies their pieces by comparing them to nature:
Timeless and tasteful, or modern and messy, flowers demand to be examined. I use multi-layered wax paint to create highly textured, three-dimension works on canvas and paper. I’m inspired by the color, wildness and creativity of springtime. I also recreate wedding bouquets and other meaningful arrangements to capture these focal points forever.
In this collection, I’ve focused on the wildflowers of Maine, often growing unencumbered and inconspicuously. But they still take my breath away. Forget the demure; these flowers burst with energy, life and texture, layer upon layer of evolution and growth. They challenge your expectations of the everyday.
In this example, a glass artist connects with their viewers on a more personal level:
Throughout my years as a glass artist, I’ve found that only grief is more fragile than the medium I work with. My shards strive to capture this emotion that’s so personal yet universal using a combination of refracted light, bold staining and unique sculptures. While the pieces are off-limits, I hope they encourage you to get in touch with the feelings you may have been avoiding.
What are the struggles you have when writing your own artist statement?
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