I recently received an email from an artist deadline mailing list. This is a helpful resource for artist call-for-entries to local gallery exhibitions, craft fairs/festivals and contests.
In this case, it was an email for an artist grant, awarding up to 30 artists in any and all mediums a grant for $1,000 each.
The instructions were rather simple, pay a non-refundable $40 application fee, submit your Instagram handle, allow them to tag you on Facebook, upload 10 images and/or videos, and gain worldwide promotion and exposure. Sounds good?
And wait patiently for several months before they choose the winners.
I gave pause to this email for a day or two, then ultimately decided against it for my own reasons.
So why did I decide against this?
On the fence a bit, I decided that valuing my time and money was the biggest concern.
Every choice in life involves a risk, whether major or minor. The application fee for me was not worth spending the $40 for a potential $1,000 or more. The 20 minutes or so to fill out the app was not worth it either.
You have to choose your battles, and the chances of winning the grant versus not were to big to take this chance.
To go back to the title, staying local has become integral to my overall success as a photographer for a multitude of reasons.
I have applied to many online photo contests only to not see any ROI (return of investment) whereas there is a more personal satisfaction in getting into a well-renowned gallery cooperative in town.
This has simply been my experience, whether the quality of my work has not been enough or not. Sticking to being closer to home has given more opportunities.
By working this way, I have met other local artists and creatives to network with, something the internet isn’t quite good at frankly.
These contests are judging your work purely on its merit alone, however a personality and a face behind the art can provide so much more context.
I am a member of a long-running gallery co-op in my county. This is one I had my sights on joining someday, and so I ultimately got my foot in the door by submitting work to an open community show.
That’s a good first step, but I went further with the idea and joined the other members at the gallery reception. Dressing nice, being social-able and friendly while talking to the members. The night was a success.
Only after networking and meeting them did I submit an application, after receiving encouragement from some of them.
This got me farther than any submission to a faceless photo contest. The personal satisfaction of the local scene meant my name got out.
The same themes apply greatly to photographing the outdoors. The grandest of national and state parks far away from home are stunning to say the least, yet a budding photographer does not need them to pursue their work.
How bad do you want it? You will find a way.
Think small, start small, at one point early in my journey. I had dreamt of being a contributor to a very “geographic” organization. So much so that that was my initial goal.
Defining success is a catch-all game as everyone is different. The notion that “making it” is something to ponder for your own personal goal.
Years into my career, I could frankly care less about the bigger picture.
If you are struggling to create or promote your craft, get along with the idea of thinking small, starting small. Stay local…you don’t need exotic.
Just like a poorly-composed photo, re-frame and recompose. The results will turn out better.
I hope you enjoyed this opinion piece! If you disagree or have a comment, leave it down below! I’d love to hear someone else’s story of success on a bigger scale.
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