The Photographer's Resume-How to Boost Your Shows (Exhibition Record)

TheTakingOfTheUrnPart1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

A few people have asked me about this recently, so I thought I would devote an entire post to it. It’s what I like the call “the paradox of the beginner.”

Basically, what happens when you start applying for shows is that a lot of times they ask to see a resume, a C.V. or some kind of record of shows you’ve already been in. That’s all fine and good, but what happens if you haven’t been in all that many shows? What happens if, say, you’ve been in none? It seems impossible to get a show without, well, having already had a show. Frustrating, isn’t it? So, I thought I’d try and help out. Here are some tips to get you started.

The easiest ways to boost your shows (exhibition record) is to:

  • Consider entering mail/postal art show-these are usually non-juried shows where you basically just mail the gallery some artwork. It’s simple, easy to do, and it puts a line on your resume. Browse Art Calendar or looking for mail/postal art shows or “open” shows and start sending stuff out there, but be careful. You don’t want to stack your record with only mail/postal art shows, but they can be fun and a great way to get your work out there a bit more.
  • Join a camera or local art club. Check out some local clubs in your area and ask around-find out which ones do a lot of shows, especially group shows. This can be a great way to boost your exhibition record because it also cuts down on framing costs. A lot of these clubs either buy frames in bulk (and you can sort of tag along) or they can help you with the presentation of your work, not to mention you don’t have to frame as many pieces for a group show. Be careful to ask around though, and find a group that is somewhat active and allows new members to be included in shows, even if it’s for a modest fee.
  • Check out restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, doctor’s offices, hair salons, and other odd assorted places where artwork is not their primary goal. These places often don’t know a thing about “exhibition records” and just want to decorate their walls. If you’ve got something that’s pretty, not too offensive, and isn’t too complicated you can probably get yourself a show pretty easily.
  • Enter more shows-might seem a bit obvious but, the more shows you enter the more shows you are likely to get into. Start sending your stuff out more, but be realistic. Try to aim for shows where your work fits the theme and your “look” fits the juror’s aesthetic.
  • Consider gifting your work-places like charity auctions can be a way to boost your show record as well. Consider donating some older work or a print to something like a silent auction and you can not only list this on your exhibition record but also feel good that you just might be helping out a worthy cause.
  • Finally, keep an accurate record of the shows you are in-gosh, I wish I had done this. If you look at my record, it’s says “selected group exhibitions.” Yeah, well, that’s because I can’t remember all the shows I’ve been in over the years. It hasn’t really hurt me much (in the long run) to have dropped some off the list but, man, there have been times I’ve really wondered what other shows I’ve done that now I just can’t seem to recall. It’s kind of like when you can’t think of the name of a movie or song title-it will drive you slowly mad-not to mention you might as well take “credit” for the work you do, so keep an accurate list of all the shows your in. Trust me, it helps.

If you have any other “resume boosting” ideas, please feel free to share them with us. I’m sure we could all use a tip or two.

Until next time…


  1. mythopolis
    August 13, 2009 / 8:36 pm

    I think your points are legit, for those who want to go that route. I guess I took a more deviant approach. I
    made a studio in an abandoned warehouse, devoted one week of each month to showcasing artists the galleries had turned down. I took only a small commission and only after the artist had recouped the money it took to install the show. Not a living, but it afforded me the space. Along the way I built an extensive mailing list, I printed up my own openings and staged them in other vacant buildings, sometimes working with realtors who had empty houses on the market. I would stage a show,and break it down, always leaving the house in pristine condition. For me, if you have a body of work, hang it anywhere, and invite your friends to a party. Even if you wind up in the red, you will have fun celebrating creativity.

    Word Ver….foody…stuff you put on the table at a reception. : )

  2. Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers
    August 13, 2009 / 8:59 pm

    Thanks Carol. Great ideas. And thanks to you too Mytho, for the extra one. Some of them seem perfectly do-able even for a sloth like me!

  3. Carol
    August 13, 2009 / 10:15 pm

    @Mythopolis, thanks for that idea!

    I think that whatever gets the work out there and let's you enjoy it more with your friends and fellow artists is a good thing. For some people, it's the "traditional" gallery route, for others, they make their own way.

    For example, I know a lot of folks in Austin who try to rent (or get/loan etc.) empty storefronts (Austin has a very cyclical commercial real estate market so sometimes you can get these free or close to it.) They then do the same thing that you've described-put up a show in it. It sometimes even looks like a "real" store or gallery, though a temporary one.

    But, yes, you're right. Whatever allows you to celebrate creativity and enjoy the work is best.

    And, don't worry, Janice, you'll get there.

    Would somebody please explain to me how they get these oddball word vers? Mine too is very strage: reasears

    There must be a factor for these kinds of things, I swear.

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