On ‘branding’ your ‘photographs’ as ‘art’ to ‘sell’

I’m halfway finished with my fairy tales project and holy shit did those photos come out way better than I ever imagined they would. No, I’m not posting them (yet) because the project is not finished and I want them to be seen altogether the first time they are shown.

Brace-Yourselves-InvestorThat said, I mused that it would be interesting to showcase them all at once somewhere public for my friends once it was all finished. A show, if you will. Though I have absolutely no knowledge to fall back on as far as how art is selected for Art Walk or other “art” events in Los Angeles, I didn’t think this was a deterrent given my extensive event background and I could fund and just do it myself. That is, after all, why I have a job: I am my own investor.

So I called a friend of mine in the art world – a real art person, as in, she makes her living buying a selling art and showcasing artists. We met for coffee, and I described the finished product as I envision it and she said she supposed it was ‘interesting enough’ to be interested in seeing more once it was finished. (And really, that’s the best I could have hoped for, and would have totally understood if she was like ‘um, this is kind of crap.’)

But then she said, “So how are you going to sell it?”

“Uhhhh, well I uhhhh, haven’t thought about th—I mean, uhhh, I didn’t like, do it so that I could sell it, you know? Like, I just did it.”

She looked at me just like this:


And then said the most brilliant thing ever, “Because I’m not in the business of curating museums, I’m in the business of buying and selling art.”


My head exploded. OF COURSE! This makes total sense. I’m *in* branding and PR as a career but I’ve separated the two so completely in that taking pictures is just a hobby and I never thought, for one second, that I’d need to “brand” or “package” my project into something collectible or appealing to a buyer.

The little vinyl Japanese figurines are so perfect in that regard since they are always only ever released as a series and branded as collectible (and I’m such a sucker for it.)

I’ve always criticized artist acquaintances for never understanding that they needed to “brand” themselves or their art (read: products) BECAUSE NOW THAT I’M STANDING IN THAT EXACT POSITION IT FEELS WEIRD AND DIRTY. I’m usually the one in the long stylish overcoat and scarf with my double finger guns explaining “messaging” to indie developers and how “we’re positioning the game for maximum exposure to the key audiences and influencers.” *finger gun* *wink*


And in that moment, I hated myself and I loved myself so equally I felt the chasm rip right down the center of my being. On one hand: Man, I’m awesome! On the other: Ew! Shouldn’t my work just be good enough to stand on its own without making it all dressy?


Shit got real for me that afternoon. I know better than most people that things don’t sell unless you market them. You can be the best photographer/DJ/painter/singer/dancer/hooker and if no one knows it, you’ll always be the legend in your own mind. And for some people that’s totally fine. But for folks who want to live off their art, you need to make said art sound as appealing as possible and perceived as something desirable or fun or unique or valuable. And if this is how you want to make your living, you’d better get used to it and bridge that gap between being a showman and being an artist as quickly as possible.

That said, my conversation sparked so many cool ideas as to how to package this project – should I make it into a really cool leather bound thorn-wrapped grimoire-eque book? How do I incorporate framing into each photograph that best matches the tone of the “story” that I want to convey? 


And on the other hand, man that sounds like an incredible amount of work. Just designing each set, shooting the subject, wrangling hair and makeup and lighting was hard (and expensive!) enough. I could just throw these in a frame and do a pop up art show with music and friends and just showcase them that way. Do I really want to double the effort here for a “real” show and a “real” chance at making something that someone might actually review and/or buy?

Yes! And no! I don’t know. I have no idea. The thought makes me kind of tired.

lack of motivation

And thus, I’ve been on hiatus about it until after the holidays. Running a company is tough enough, and it’s December and I’m exhausted after another busy year in video games. I have a vacation coming up, and I’ve been letting this idea marinate in my brain for some weeks now.

When I come back from Costa Rica in January, I’ll bang out the last two shoots before the month is over. Hopefully the decision will have made it’s way through my brain enough to know which way I’m going once the shoots are in the bag.

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1 Response to On ‘branding’ your ‘photographs’ as ‘art’ to ‘sell’

  1. Can’t wait for our next conversation my Dear ! It’s going to get REALLY good now ! ( *finger gun – wink* )

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