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Five Reasons to Visit a Photo Show or Festival

Post by Andrew Darlow

The spring season brings with it many photography festivals and photo-related art shows in locations across the globe. For example, The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) annual show is coming to New York City March 18-21, 2010. It’s an event I truly enjoy attending, and as it approaches, I thought I’d share five reasons to visit a photo show or festival.

1. The first reason may seem obvious, but it’s to see the many types of prints and subject matter that is being exhibited. There have been many photographic processes used over the years, and a show like AIPAD covers the vast majority of them, from 19th Century Daguerreotypes to modern inkjet prints. Most shows and festivals also encompass a huge range of subjects, from photograms to high fashion.

2. Another great reason is to see how work is being presented “in person.” This is a big advantage vs. looking at photographs on a screen, in books or magazines. There is nothing like going “nose to nose” with a stunning portrait mounted on acrylic and hung so that it appears to float in mid-air, or experiencing a huge photograph printed on canvas. The way in which a series of related photographs is presented is also great to experience. And the sheer number and variety of frames on display is incredible, especially at shows like AIPAD.

3. For those who want to break into the world of fine-art photography or just sell more work, walking the floor at the AIPAD show or similar event is a good way to see what type of work is being sold. Though not an exact science, it’s common for some dealers to place little stickers on the placards that contain the artists’ names, print information and prices as they sell limited edition work. For example, prints are often limited to 5, 10 or 50 prints (limited editions are a whole other topic worthy of discussion!). Whether you sell work on your own, are represented by one or more galleries, or a combination of the two, seeing how photographs are sold can be very enlightening.

4. On the topic of gallery representation, attending a show allows you to pre-qualify dealers who you might like to contact in the future to submit a portfolio. This should go without saying, but if you are attending a show like AIPAD, it is generally not appropriate to ask dealers (usually gallery owners or employees of a gallery) if they would take a quick look at your work, even if you offer to show them your work at later time. They are almost always there primarily to meet collectors and sell prints, books, etc. produced by the photographers whom they represent.

A better approach is to follow-up with galleries by mail, e-mail and/or phone after the show. Always check their websites first to see if they have submission guidelines. Some galleries or publishers will clearly state how they prefer to be contacted, and whether or not they are accepting new work for consideration.

5. The last (but not the least) reason is to become a collector (or expand your collection) by buying something. It could be something that you really love, or to invest in an item because you think it will increase in value. There is usually something at every show for collectors on just about any budget.

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