Becoming a Fine Art Photographer | Jennifer Schwartz | Skillshare

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Becoming a Fine Art Photographer

teacher avatar Jennifer Schwartz

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (19m)
    • 1. Trailer for the 10-course series

    • 2. Working in Projects and Creating Bodies of Work

    • 3. Stages of Fine Art Photographers

    • 4. Putting Your Work in Context

    • 5. Connecting to Community

    • 6. Project Description

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About This Class

Crusade For Your Art: Best Practices for Fine Art Photographers gives you the tools to take your fine art photography career by the reins and thoughtfully and purposefully develop a plan to get you where you want to go.  Learn how to tighten your work, develop your brand, identify goals and a plan for your photography, and strategically launch your project.

In this first of ten courses, you will learn what a fine art photograph is, how to develop a photographic project, what it means to create bodies of work, how to put your work in context, and the importance of connecting to the photographic community. For your class project, you will pull together 10-20 images that have a consistent look, feel and story and may be considered a fine art photographic project. You will also evaluate which stage of fine art photography you feel you are in and what steps you need to take to move your work to the next level.

Jennifer Schwartz is the creator/director of Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization focused on cultivating demand for art, specifically fine art photography. Jennifer owned a fine art photography gallery in Atlanta (Jennifer Schwartz Gallery) for five years, showcasing the work of emerging photographers. She also created the online project, The Ten, and is the co-creator of Flash Powder Projects. In the spring of 2013, she traveled around the country in a 1977 VW bus, engaging audiences with photography. Her book, Crusade For Your Art: Best Practices for Fine Art Photographers was published in March 2014.

Meet Your Teacher

Jennifer Schwartz is the creator/director of Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization focused on cultivating demand for art, specifically fine art photography. Jennifer owned a fine art photography gallery in Atlanta (Jennifer Schwartz Gallery) for five years, showcasing the work of emerging photographers. She also created the online project, The Ten, and is the co-creator of Flash Powder Projects.

Jennifer regularly participates in portfolio reviews such as PhotoNOLA, PhotoLucida, Atlanta Celebrates Photography, FotoFest, Medium, Filter and others. She was invited as a curator to the Lishui Photo Festival in Lishui, China in 2011 and travels around the country giving talks, guest-lecturing at universities, leading workshops and hosting photographic retreats with Flash Powder P... See full profile

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1. Trailer for the 10-course series: Hi. I'm Jennifer Schwartz on the creator and executive director of Crusade for Art, a nonprofit organization with the mission to educate, inspire and empower photographers to connect new audiences. Start I owned a commercial fine art photography gallery in Atlanta for five years, and I'm working with the photographers both with the gallery and with a nonprofit realize there is really a lack of information out there about how to navigate the fine art photography world. And it can seem pretty intimidating. Trying to figure out how to approach a gallery, how people get their books published. How museum collections acquire where So I wrote this book called Her Savory Our best practices for fine art Photographers. And this 10 core skill share series is gonna roughly follow the form out of the book. And it will talk about basically the ace ese to navigating the fine art photography world. How to edit in sequence your work, how to write an artist statement, how to cement work to a gallery, how to prepare for a portfolio review, how the price, your work, really everything. So I hope that you will join me and have fun and appreciate for your art. Thanks 2. Working in Projects and Creating Bodies of Work: Hi. In this first course, we're talking about becoming a fine art photographer. And first, I think we need to really define what is a fine art photographer. What is fine art photography? I think it's a term that gets thrown around a lot, and anyone that makes a beautiful picture puts fine art Photographer next to their name. But there really is a distinction between a fine art photograph and a snapshot of beautiful snapshot. And there's definitely a place for both. But what's the difference? So making a finer photograph, it's really important to capture the intent of the photographer. So it's not just creating a the most beautiful image you can and have being incredibly competent with your gear. The camera is really the tool that expresses the fine art photographers message, so usually it should have a concept behind the work. There should be a story that the photographer is trying to tell. So a lot of times when I worked with photographer hours, I'll look at their work and say, OK, what's the story that you're trying to tell me, What are you getting me the viewer to think or feel or know that I wouldn't. Otherwise, you know. Why are you uniquely positioned, Teoh tell this story. So in thinking about that and then thinking about your work, it's really important to figure out the difference between Are you making a beautiful snapshot, or are you really expressing something to the viewer? You telling a story? Are you communicating something that comes from within you? So photographers generally work or fine art. Photographers generally work in project. So not just a one off picture here and there that you pulled together in a theme. So a lot of times you might see someone's website and it will be broken into themes like people, places, travel. Um, those aren't doesn't really fine art photography projects there more categories that their work fits in. If you're really trying to work in a project, it's 20 different images that tell a story that are all individually strong. But build and together tell a stronger story, and they're all speaking about the same thing. They should have a consistent look and feel. I say 20 images. Generally, a project would be 15 to 20 to 25 it's something that you would be working on for a long period of time. So it's very rare that someone would go on a two week shooting spree or on a trip somewhere and come back with enough strong images that can really give a depth and breadth to the project that it would need to tell a complete story. So you would want tohave, ideally many, many, many more images than that. 20 or 15 might be what you call it down to, to do a portfolio review or to put on your website. But having a lot more images gives you more flexibility when you might be meeting with a curator who is more interested in the part of the project that's moving in this direction. Or you might be able Teoh meet with the gallery, and they're interested in the work that's a little bit more on this side of the project and eventually might see that the project would divide into two parts. So a body of work is one group of images that give a consistent, tell a consistent story, have a similar aesthetic and feel, and so that when you're when you're looking through a portfolio of images from start to finish, it carries the same emotional tone. It's telling the same story just in different ways, through unique imagery that can be strong individually but work together as a. 3. Stages of Fine Art Photographers: I like to think of fine art photographers as being in one of three stages, and they're not necessarily hierarchical in a lot of sense is we're sort of in every stage all of the time, But I think it's a really good way to think about where you are with your work and what direction you need or want to be heading. So in the first stage, it's really about getting comfortable with your equipment, learning how you shoot, learning what you like to shoot. It's a phase where we tend to walk around town with our camera all of the time and where photographing just a scattershot and we're practice saying it's arts a practice. So, um, figuring out one how to get your equipment? Teoh do what you want it to do, so you might see a shot a certain way. And how can you get your camera to have to reflect that to make it look the way that you want it to look? And also, I'm figuring out what your aesthetic issue no, Do you tend to shoot, Really? Why do you really enjoy shooting? Close up a shallow depth of field? Do you like landscapes. Do you like urban scene? So figuring that kind of thing out is really an important part of the first stage. The second stage is when a photographer wants to try to work in projects so they are interested in trying to create ah, body of work with a similar theme and tone and story. So, like we talked about in the first course, starting to move into that direction of a project. So it's coming up with an idea and then figuring out how to make 20 really strong images. All that fit in with that same theme, an idea where each images individually strong but works together as a group, but also that it doesn't feel repetitive. So I tell this story about when I was a moving through us and I fell into a situation where he met a graffiti artist and really interesting guy started following him around for about six months, and I wanted to do a photo project about him and about his work, and it was really hard. It ended up for a while, looking like All right here is spreading in this world serious, repeating this well, here he is spray painting that wall. Okay, what if I did some close ups of the cans or his hands and and then and it? It was a real challenge to try to figure out how to make this an interesting story because it wasn't It wasn't really turning into a story. It was just turning into a look at what he was doing. It wasn't It wasn't maybe teaching anyone anything or expressing anything. What? So I was really trying. Teoh eventually moved into trying Teoh find out more about him as a person. And what brought him to do this and try to capture that in the photographs? But was a really great exercise in trying Teoh create a project that really meant something that really showcase something. So But then ultimately, I realized that I didn't have such a huge interest in graffiti. It just was something that fell into my lap and seemed interesting at the time. But it wasn't something that I felt like I had to shoot. And that's when you get into the third phase is when you find something where you realize what it is that you need to photograph. So what would you be making pictures off, even if you knew that no one would ever see them. What's the story that you really feel like you need to tell? What's the story that you're uniquely positioned to tell? What is it about you or your interest of your background or your feelings or thoughts that you need to get out there that you need to express and communicate that you think you can do photographically? And when you get to that point, that's really the third phase. And that tends to be the work that will really connect to people. Because when it comes from such an it's strong place within you. It's easier for the viewer to feel that and to connect to that work, and so that would be the third phase. So think about your work and think about where you're falling right now in terms of the stages. So are you really still figuring out what you shoot? What you like to shoot, and how are you starting to work in projects and you're going through exercises of figuring out how to tell a full story in images? Or have you really figured out what it is that you feel? You have to shoot and then you can work from there? 4. Putting Your Work in Context: you make photographs because you need to, because you feel compelled. Teoh, you have a story that you want to tell. You have something that you want to express, and it can be hard to take a step back and figure out how your work fits into a larger context. But it's really important. And you want to think about a few different things. You want to think about what photographers have influenced you, What other art in any media, what writing has influenced you and your work? How does your photography that within the larger framework of the history of photography and who is out there making similar work to yours? Um, a lot of times I hear photographers say they don't want to look at other contemporary photographers work because they don't want to be influence, and they want their work to be original. And I can understand that impulse, but you also need to see what else is out there and make sure that you are being original, that you're not, uh, going down a road that has been done over and over and over again. And if you are wanting to go down that road, you have to figure out. You have to know what that other work is so that you can see how yours is different and that you can be able to defend it and explain. Yes, I'm aware of A B and C's work, and while minus similar and theme, it's different in these ways. It's also imported because it can be really helpful. Teoh look at other photographers who are making similar work and see sort of what their trajectory has been. A lot of times I encourage people to look online at those other photographers, TVs or exhibition history, and it can give you some help to figure out where might be some good places for you to approach. What are some galleries that that were interested in that work? They might also be interested in yours if it has a similar aesthetic or a similar topic that you're exploring. So don't be afraid to look at other photographers work. It will inspire you. It will frustrate you. It will definitely challenge you to create something in your own voice, and it will help you find your own voice, and it will also help you achieve your goals 5. Connecting to Community: for the last session. In this course, we're gonna talk about reaching out to the photographic community and becoming a part of it . It's an amazing, amazing resource that there so many blog's and Facebook groups and all kinds of forums online, where you can connect with other photographers who are at the same level as you or maybe more advanced and can give you some feedback. And somehow it, you know, you can live in the middle of nowhere and make work and be connected to a really rich community online. And it's something that I definitely encourage you to do. There are a lot of groups that can. You can post questions. You can build relationships. You can get something back about your work and beyond. Just posting a recent photo to your own Facebook page, where all of your friends and your mom and your next door neighbor are gonna like it. That's really nice, and that's encouraging. But it's not going to give you the critical feedback that that you might need or want. Another opportunity to meet with photographers and also to meet with photographic professionals to get feedback on your work is by attending portfolio reviews These happen all over the country, both on a large scale. Some of the large ones being voted fast in Houston. Atlanta celebrates photography annually in Atlanta. Photo LUCIDA Medium built dirt They just they go on and on. But there are also a lot of smaller, carefully reviews that you might find in your own community that source photographic professionals from the area and you sit for 20 minutes and show them your portfolio, and they give you feedback on your work. And it's really helpful when it's a great way to possibly get an opportunity if your work is ready. But it's also a great way to to meet other photographers when you're not reviewing your usually sitting in a room and with other photographers who were waiting and you're looking at each other's work and you're giving each other feedback and you're discussing the feedback that you just received in a portfolio review. It's a really nice community, and it's a great way Teoh connect with other people who were doing the same things that you're doing and that are are loving what you love 6. Project Description: However, at the end of the course, it's time. Start thinking about our project. This project has two parts. So one part has to do with looking at your images and see if you can pull together and edit . That makes sense as a body of work or as a single project, and the other is to really look at that at it and look at your work as a whole and figure out where you might feel you fit in in terms of the stages of fine art photography. So, um, if you are, if you're just starting out and you have a whole variety of images, the real exercise for you in this project is to look at all of those images of all different things and see if you can pull together a group of them that feel similar that have a consistent look and feel that have a similar similar way that you shot the images. You wouldn't want to put something that's kind of dreamy, ethereal, blurry was another image That's a complete straight street scene, for example, on that probably wouldn't work together in the same portfolio. So you're gonna pull together, gonna look at everything. You can figure out what you think goes together and create a many body of work. Now you might be thinking, Okay, I can do that. But it's not. It's really gonna be more of a category or a theme on. That's okay, that's completely fine. It doesn't have Teoh have a hard hitting conceptual base right now, if that's where you are in your work, and that's totally fantastic. So do this exercise. Pull together the images. If you are starting to move into the direction of wanting Teoh, we're gonna project to tell a consistent story. See, look through your images and see what you have that does that maybe you've already started calling them together. Put them together in 10 to 20 images for this project. And that way you can get some feedback for me and from the rest of the class members and see if it's working. You know which images feel like outliers? Does it? Does it have a consistency? Is it coming together on the second part? Off this project is Teoh. Evaluate where you feel you are in terms of your fine art photography practice. So are you in this first stage of experimentation. Are you in the second stage really trying Teoh, Come up with project ideas and work on it. Or do you feel like you really made it to that third level where you you know, when you feel like you have to shoot your really? You have a consistent style, a consistent message that you are putting out into the world through your image rate. So once you figured that out, we're gonna use one slide to determine what stage you're in and just a brief sentence of why you feel you're in that stage. And then the final side for the project will be three steps, three really specific steps that you feel you could take. Teoh, move your work forward to move to the next level. So if you are looking at your work and you're saying while these this is really dividing war into categories and I want to tell a story, what are the three steps you could do to put yourself forward that way? What idea do you have that you could go out and try to experiment with? What if you're still getting comfortable with your equipment or the way that you shoot where some exercises that you could dio Teoh get you more comfortable to push your work forward. So the project as a whole is going to consist of 10 to 20 slides that have one image each. That's going to represent the edit that you come up with to create a body of work. One slide that talks about what stage? Fine art photography you're in and why, and then a final slide that has three action steps that you feel are manageable for you to take your excited about. Teoh. Help push your work forward and to become more of a photographer that you want to be. Thanks.