Photographers now have more ways to share their newest work with audiences, but it’s also harder than ever to know what kind of exposure is most likely to help them achieve their goals. Understanding what will stick in the minds of clients, gallerists or collectors amidst a constant flood of new imagery is challenging. I have talked to many photographers who have used ingenious methods to build an audience or generate positive attention for their work. We’ve also evaluated some of the tools available to photographers who want to raise the profiles of their projects.
WHAT CAN A PUBLICIST DO FOR YOU?
For photographers who want to use their gallery show to land a book contract, or use their book to land commercial assignments, a publicist can help get the work in front of more people through newspapers, magazines and online publications. Margery Newman, a publicist who has worked with David Maisel and other photographers, notes, “Once a photographer’s name gets out there over and over, and people start to recognize it, that enhances your career.” Publicist Andrea Walker believes photographers should think of publicity as another part of their self-promotion: “If I have a gallery opening, and I hire a publicist to help, I could get twice as many people to come.” Publicists not only pitch story ideas to reporters, editors, and TV and radio producers, they also keep track of the lead times and deadlines at monthly, weekly and daily news media. To meet publications’ deadlines, publicists expect photographers to supply photos and captions as soon as possible, and then make themselves available for interviews. “If this is a museum exhibition planned well in advance, and there’s an opportunity for coverage in a national magazine, I want to get started early—ideally, six months ahead of the opening,” says Newman. “For a gallery show, I can have the materials ready for the press releases four months before the exhibition.” While many photographers use social media to announce their projects to their current circle of acquaintances, what a publicist can offer are contacts at less obvious media outlets. Publicists can be hired by the hour, on a project basis or put on a retainer to handle public relations regularly.
HOW TO BE YOUR OWN PUBLICIST
Photographers who want to save money on their publicity campaigns can often find freelance publicists willing to work on an hourly basis just to brainstorm ideas for organizing newsworthy events or to think of some publications to contact. But for those photographers willing to put considerable time, effort and energy into running a publicity campaign on their own, professional publicists PDN interviewed had a few suggestions for how to get started. Kate Greenberg, for example, suggests photographers “sit in front of the computer and think [about] where would be the best place to get press.” Publicists also suggest photographers widen their scope by thinking how the subject matter of their photos might interest people outside the art world. Holding an event can offer you a timely reason to contact—or follow up with—reporters and writers. “I think it’s incredibly helpful to have book-signing events, exhibits, school visits,” but only if they’re all coordinated and timed, says Greenberg.