Apparently, this is the bash-Peter-Lik week. I happened onto this New York Times article this morning. It is not charitable at all, but I’ve seen worse and myself I’ve done my share of bemoaning his supposed lack of artistic vision. Say what you want, however, but you can’t say the guys hasn’t got a huge amount of business acumen.
Anyway, if you are like me and you can’t find a way to sell more than a handful of prints every year, I think you should definitely read that article. Too long, you say? Well, you don’t actually have to read it all, because I have copied here below the paragraph that is absolutely essential to make you sell many more prints. This is from an interview with one of Lik’s repeat customers:
“We were not art collectors,” he said in a phone interview, “but we had this wonderful trip with our kids, and at the time the gallery featured some photography that Peter had done on the island, shots of places that we’d been. So we bought a handful of photographs that we were in love with — the serenity and beauty of places that he captured.”
Do you see it? This person bought a handful of prints, each one costing thousands of dollars, because they were in love with the places they had been to and that Lik had captured.
The general public is not composed of sophisticated art buyers that appreciate the subtle qualities of a Gursky print that tells absolutely nothing to most of us. The lawyers, the dentists, the investment brokers that have money to spend and houses to decorate, but also the middle-class families will buy the photographs that resonate with them, that romanticize the places they have visited and whose memory is rekindled by looking at a picture that is about a thousand times nicer than the one they took with their cellphone at high noon.
In a way, this resonates a lot with this other post by Nigel Merrick, though the latter is more about online sales than gallery sales:
People buy from people and, more importantly, they buy from people they like and who they can relate to in some meaningful way.
Nigel’s post is all about the importance of establishing a relationship between the prospective buyer and the photographer and, as you will discover if you read the NYT article, Lik’s galleries are all about building his persona, in addition to presenting prints that people can relate to.
Too many photographers, me included, think that all it takes to sell prints, either online or in a brick-and-mortar gallery, is to display great images, but I’ve begun to realize this is a mistake. A mediocre image that relates to the buyer will sell many times more than a great picture that doesn’t.
This interview with Paul Marcellini on Visual Wilderness is also highly relevant.
Now that I’ve given you this incredibly useful bit of business advice, I am going to gratuitously close this post with one of my pictures of Venice. If you’ve been to the city but don’t have any good photos of it, you should definitely consider buying a large print of this one. It’s a limited edition of 995 and starts at $2,000, but the more I sell, the higher the price goes, so buy one before it’s too late. Hey, if it works for Peter Lik, it must work for me too 😉
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