Getting represented by an established agency or gallery is what many professional photographers equate with success. And in some respects they're right, but the path to achieving that sought-after endorsement isn't always clear.
Established in 1992 in the heart of London's Chelsea, Michael Hoppen Gallery is one of the city's foremost galleries, exhibiting work by photography masters and contemporary artists. With decades of experience discovering new talent and selling their work, Senior Director Katy Barron has some essential tips for photographers who are seeking gallery representation.
"We represent a wide range of both contemporary photographers and also artists' estates – we specialise in Japanese photography: vintage, post-war and some contemporary. Beyond that we only represent a stable of artists we consider wonderful. We're very interested in the processes behind our artists' work. For example, we represent a young Chilean artist called Juana Gómez, who embroiders canvases printed with self-portraits. We also represent French artist Thomas Mailaender, who prints found photos onto a variety of surfaces – including human skin. They're working at the edges of what you might consider conventional photography. But, at the same time, we show classic images by Bill Brandt and contemporary fashion photography from Tim Walker and Harley Weir."
"It's not about a type of photography, it's about photography that we love and find inspiring. We're not interested in anything derivative, badly made or ill-conceived."
"We discover new work in a variety of ways. We go to degree shows, we hear about work through word of mouth, we go to photography and art festivals, we look at magazines, we look on the Internet. We almost never, ever take photographers who just walk in through our door. If you approach us, it will help if we already know of you."
"You're unlikely to get a response if you approach us cold, particulary at art fairs – it's not a clever thing to do. An art fair is our opportunity to sell, so we're not looking at other people's work. If you do want to show us your work, it's much better to start coming to the gallery, attending our private views and getting to know us."
"If we're interested in a photographer, we normally get in touch and invite them in to show us their work. We start a conversation, maybe take a couple of prints, show them to clients and see if they respond the way we do. Then we'll start working with that artist to help them get exposure and, ultimately, we'll give them an exhibition. The best artists to work with are those who can talk intelligently about their work and are open-minded to our suggestions."
"Photographers often want to produce their work in too many sizes and in large editions. Increasingly, we find that smaller editions in one or two sizes are much more attractive to collectors, so it's a good idea to listen to us when it comes to pricing and editioning your work."
"I think it's important that there is a story attached to your work. It doesn't necessarily need to have a complex narrative, but something that makes it distinctive. You can't build a career on one or two stand-out images."
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