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Writing About Your Photographs

Posted in Discussions by Paul Turounet on November 28, 2007

Writing about one’s work, an artist’s statement, can be quite a daunting and challenging task. However, once the challenge is embraced, the artist’s statement can provide a tremendous benefit in the presentation of one’s work. It allows the artist to contemplate and transform their work from a visual to both written and verbal contexts, allowing for moments of insight into their conceptual concerns and/or working process and how their visual works suggest their artistic intentions.

The artist’s statement is a brief essay, usually one or two pages, that discusses the work being presented. A well-executed artist statement guides the viewer into the work, providing insight into the artist’s conceptual thoughts and working process. It is essential the discussion is presented in a clear and thoughtful manner, and also allows for the viewer to develop their own meanings and interpretations.

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In preparing to write about your work, the following questions may be helpful in organizing your thoughts:

  • What inspired you to create the work?
  • What was the starting point for the work and how did the work evolve into what it is now, including conceptual, visual and/or technical considerations?
  • What were the challenges faced in making the work and how were they addressed?
  • What concerns, ideas, and/or curiosities were you hoping to reveal and/or suggest with the work in relationship to your intentions?
  • What would you like the viewer to understand about the work?

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As a visual artist, some photographers may feel rather uncomfortable about the writing process for whatever reason and desire that the work speaks for itself. The following suggestions on the writing process may alleviate some of the anxiety when putting your thoughts on paper:

  • Talk (write) in a manner that is natural to how you would discuss your work. It is not necessary to have command of an “art-speak” language if this is not already part of your vocabulary. Attempting to instill your discussion with such a dialog will be apparent in lacking authority and will not be convincing unless this reflects your current way of thinking and talking.
  • Arrange your thoughts in a clear and interesting manner that continues to engage the reader as they proceed through the discussion. It may be helpful to prepare a brief outline as a means of helping you structure your thoughts clearly and identifying the necessary points of discussion.
  • Once an outline has been developed, it is helpful to just write and get your thoughts down, and then, go back through what you’ve written and edit the content, structure as well as grammatical/spelling corrections.
  • Write clearly in a manner that is descriptive and allows the reader to gain a conceptual and visual sense of the work they are about to look at.
  • Utilize an “active” voice as this is more persuasive.
  • Each paragraph should focus on a major point with discussion that supports and substantiates the point.
  • Provide the reader transitions from one paragraph to the next for a smooth flow of discussion from idea to the next.
  • Have others read what you’ve to see if your ideas and thoughts are being presented clearly as well as for any necessary grammatical/spelling corrections.

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