This interview with Francesca Genovese of Francesca Meffeo Gallery gave an insight into the processes involved with galleries working with photographers as fine artists. This post summarises some key points from the presentation. My reflections can be found in a separate post.
The Francesca Meffeo Gallery works with around 14 photographers and when discussing how they came to be working with the gallery, it was clear that both informal meetings e.g. at private views, exhibitions, fairs were very important. The gallery must form a relationship with the artist for the arrangement to work successfully. Media / online presence is also important, but it is the talking and meeting that leads to the working relationship.
Genovese recommended that artists can email galleries, but only having researched the gallery first to make sure that their work is in line with existing artists on the books already. It was suggested that email is a start but should include a PDF and artist statement. Links to websites are useful but often websites are incomplete or incoherent, so to receive one project in a pdf is preferred. Occasionally an artist will be invited in for a portfolio review as a result of making initial contact. It is not advised to turn up with a portfolio for consideration.
The need for funding was discussed, with many photographers working in both editorial and fine art, and every artist represented having another practice of some kind to enable them to fund and direct their fine art work. The work may not be too different between editorial and personal, with the difference being whether it is commissioned or not. Another possible funding source is grants and prizes.
Editioning is a variable science and for new artists the pricing and editioning strategy can be a long process to find out where they sit within existing artists in the gallery. Once an edition is set, it cannot be changed, and prices cannot be reduced (they can be increased, but the initial setting is very important). The price will reflect the edition size also. “You can’t just decide and do it on your own. There are lots of places you can seek advice to help you price your work. You know you have got it wrong if you are not selling it.” (Genovese). Editions were often between 1 and 15, with artists usually working in coherent projects. Single images could be editioned, but they were still part of a bigger picture or archive of practice, e.g. Spencer Murphy.
Photobooks were often created as a support to an exhibition, or sometimes a book was the end goal of the project, to tell a story where there was a story to be told. Genovese stressed that not everything suited the photobook format, but also that books increased accessibility as people could own them whereas they may not be able to own a print or visit a gallery. An example given was Matthew Finn, Mother, an intimate portrait of family created over a number of years.
With gallery exhibitions, each one was like working in a new job with new people and suppliers etc. each contractual arrangement was different too, depending on the artist, as personality, place in career etc. impacted upon the way a contract was negotiated. As a general rule, the relationship between the artist and photographer was that the artist must keep the gallery informed of new work, publications etc, and the gallery would support with promotion and generally being there for the artist. Genovese showed the print boxes from some of the gallery’s represented artists and it was useful to see how the gallery maintains the relationship with the photographer’s work in the long term, well beyond the exhibition. A selection of prints are kept in printboxes so they can be continually viewed by visitors and buyers
It was clear that the gallery/photographer relationship is dependent upon coherent, professional work, but also very much on the relationships between those involved.
Artists referred to in this presentation:
Laura Pannack https://laurapannack.com/news/
Matthew Finn http://www.mattfinn.com
Spencer Murphy http://spencermurphy.co.uk/
Jordi Ruiz Cirera http://www.jordiruizcirera.com
David Chancellor https://www.davidchancellor.com
Sophie Harris Taylor https://www.sophieharristaylor.com
Francesca Meffeo Gallery,
Leigh on Sea
Featured image available at https://www.francescamaffeogallery.com [Accessed 28 November 2018]