We live in a world of uncontrolled noise. A world in which it is hard to be heard. In such an environment it is tempting to shout louder than others, but in doing so we merely add to the general cacophony. Frustration, anger and depression can soon start to take hold and the process of being heard can become toxic and negative. And yet as photographers we need to be heard, our work needs to be seen, for a perceived or real validation to take place that keeps us making work.
That cannot be achieved by following a simple template based on one form of communication. It cannot be achieved by shouting louder and more aggressively than those around you, and it cannot be achieved by keeping quiet, and hoping someone will notice you, and your work.
Too often I hear that the solution to getting noticed is to be different. I always respond by asking different to what? Difference is not an answer or a solution. Different can be just as easily ignored as the status quo, but it also promotes the idea that success comes from difference. It does not. If only life were that simple.
However, not following the crowd can be a solution. Traditional forms of communication still exist and still work. This does not mean different but it does mean considered. When the world is using email, why not write a letter? Being heard and getting your work seen relies on being strategic, not different.
That strategy can come in many forms. I use a process of connected thinking to build a strategy based upon best practice. You can build your own strategy, and you will probably base yours on personal experience, but I have developed mine over many years and suggested it too many photographers with great success, so you may want to give it a go. This is how it works.
Imagine you enjoy photographing horses, and you want to get commissioned to photograph horses. You should be making personal projects connected to your area of interest, putting a portfolio of work together and hoping to get noticed by those who use images of horses. You should be aware of the social media presence of the obvious potential clients for your work, such as magazines.
That’s the simple part. Here is the connected part.
Think about the brands associated with horses; the clothing, equipment, event organisers, riders, sponsors, associations, the support services, farriers, vets, trainers, food suppliers, the list is endless and the client potential inexhaustible. These are all clients who are not being contacted by photographers, they are not part of the white noise of photographic marketing, and yet they will all need photography in some aspect of their engagement with your equine passion.
Your challenge is to then communicate with these potential clients in an appropriate and empathetic manner. Don’t bombard them with generic emails just announcing your existence. Think about demonstrating your passion for the subject as well as for your photography. This will rely upon a personalised approach and the use of digital and analogue artefacts. Letters, postcards, phone calls and personal meetings were once the only option for the photographer hoping to make connections, but today they are rarely used. This makes no sense.
My wife is in the position to commission photography as an editor of a magazine and she receives over 1,000 emails each day. She receives no postcards or letters and yet on the very rare occasion she has, that photographer has remained in her memory and been commissioned by her. Brands regularly send her small gifts to gain her attention and listen to their message. So, why wouldn’t a photographer?
There is no point in adding to the white noise or complaining that no one is listening to you if you are not thinking about who you want to speak to, and who you want to listen to you. Don’t be different for the sake of it, be smart, work smart and make connections, not only with people but with your work, and the potential it has.
Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019).
Grant’s book What Does Photography Mean to You? including 89 photographers who have contributed to the A Photographic Life podcast is on sale now £9.99 https://bluecoatpress.co.uk/product/what-does-photography-mean-to-you/
© Grant Scott 2021