How To Write An Artist Statement

Evening Glow, Jökulsárlón, Iceland

The Artist Statement is one of the most important written works a photographer, or anyone else involved in a creative endeavor, can produce. This post will guide you towards crafting an Artist Statement that articulates your own, unique creative journey.

Standing separate from a business plan the Artist Statement allows you to articulate your own place in the world.

Your own Artist Statement should explore the following:

  • The nature of the photography you create

  • Why you make the photos you do

  • What’s unique about the images you make

Ultimately, your Artist Statement explains the unique creative journey you’ve embarked upon through the art of photography.

Artist Statement And The Road Ahead

Photography can be considered a metaphor for life. It’s full of ups and downs, challenges and rewards.

My own life in photography has been creatively rich with lots of amazing experiencing along the way.

I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say that with photography, just like life, you never stop learning.

I think that once we get to a particular level of technical competence (e.g., camera handling, exposure, focus, composition) we can hit a bit of a rut. Is this all there is?

To keep the ball rolling we can try to inject some more excitement into our photography by embarking on new projects, learning new techniques or buying more gear.

But, ultimately, none of that matters if there's not a reason that underpins why we do what we do.

A portrait of a young boy, with his father watching on, in front of their store in Kolkata, India.

What, Why and How You Make Photos

I'm convinced that, once we've gained a sense of technical competency, our photographs become less about what we're photographing (e.g., people, landscapes, architecture, objects) and more about why we make the photos we do.

The reason why it is that we do what we do is going to be based around the following:

  • The story (e.g., growth) we want to tell

  • The message (e.g., forgiveness) we want to impart

  • The metaphor (e.g., broken heart) we want to suggest

  • The concept (e.g., transience) we want to explore

How we go about achieving these ends (e.g., the techniques, styles and approaches we apply) follows on from and is informed by why, far more than from what, we photograph.

And that's as it should be.

Design prinicples of symmetry and repetition explored in this photo of a high-rise apartment block in Singapore.

What Is An Artist Statement?

The first thing to understand is that, just like your photography, an Artist Statement is an ongoing and evolving process.

To help make sense of all this it might be worthwhile crafting a short Artist Statement exploring the main motivations, intentions and objectives that underpin your work.

Now this is not written in stone, and it's completely up to you whether or not you share it with anyone. If you’re like me you’ll need to rewrite it several times before you’re relatively happy with it.

You might then decide to publish it on your website or favorite social media platform.

 
Alleyway at Night, Bruges, Belgium

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Artist Statement Template

You can also use it as a template from which to create a variety of different Artist Statements for the various projects, books and exhibitions you’ll create over time.

By its very nature an Artist Statement is organic and open to change. It should, therefore, be re-read and amended often.

Writing an Artist Statement is an important undertaking. But that doesn’t mean the process should be particularly difficult.

I constructed my own Artist Statement, a bit at a time, by writing down a series of thoughts and notions.

I didn't worry about spelling, grammar or even structure (e.g., paragraphs and sentences).

I simply wrote down a series of dot points which I then re-arranged into an order that made sense.

The next thing was to take each point, one at a time, and turn them into sentences. Sentences that seemed to belong together began to form paragraphs.

Before I knew it I had the basis of my Artist Statement.

Finally I added images to illustrate the text and subheadings and bullet points to break the text up into a form that’s easier to read.

Most of us work intuitively by which I mean we start a creative project because we’re interested in exploring an idea, subject or technique.

It’s perfectly natural to do so without, necessarily, knowing what the final outcome will be.

It’s important to understand that expertise is a destination and all experts start as novices.

Because we gain expertise through the process of producing art, starting a project without a clear idea of how it will look or read, when the job’s done, is completely normal.

Once you understand that there should be no need to feel any pressure.

Starting can sometimes be hard, but once you start writing or typing you’re on your way to realizing a document that will announce to the world, and to yourself, who you are and what you’re all about.

Best Artist Statements

A little bit of structural finessing with headings, bullet points and images, that represent the work you produce, will bring a higher level of professionalism to your Artist Statement and enhance the reading experience.

As this is a highly personal work you might want to avoid publishing it for a time.

Instead come back to it, regularly, re-reading and amending it so that you're able to say as much as you like within a relatively small space.

Perfectionism is fine, it just takes longer
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

I believe that economy of words and clarity of thought go together. And reader fatigue should always be considered. After all, you’re not writing Magna Carta.

With that in mind I strongly advise that your Artist Statement should not exceed one page in length. A point that’s particularly important if you decide to put it on the wall at your next exhibition.

Artist Statement Examples

If what you’re saying is important you’ll want to encourage your audience to read and comprehend what you have to say. An economy of words is important in that regard.

Once you're finished be proud of what you've done. You may even want to matte and frame it and display it on a wall at home, close to where you organize and process your digital images.

An Artist Statement is ideal as part of an exhibition catalogue or, as a subpage under the About section on your website.

A traditional sheep shelter on the island of Bordoy in the Faroe Islands.

Artist Statement | Putting Words to Work

For your own Artist Statement to be of value it must both inform and underpin your work. Read and think about it regularly.

Do the words reflect who you are, as a person and as an artist?

Once you've tapped into your creative self and allowed the creation of art to outline your creative journey, are you staying on track and is it helping you navigate your way through life?

Can you see this is about far more than photography, the vehicle by which you produce art? It's about you and the way you choose to live your life.

Digital photography is a means to an end. It allows us to do the following:

  • Photography acts as a magnifying glass allowing us to observe the world around us in amazing detail

  • As a visual recorder photography allows us to document the world, not just as it appears to the general public, but how we respond to it as creative, meaning seeking beings

  • Photography brings attention to all manner of beauty, courage, disadvantage and injustice and, through greater awareness, helps change the world, one photo at at time, through the power of the internet

A nature based image that explores abstraction through an out of focus plant backlit by warm sunset light near Harcourt in Central Victoria, Australia.

Just as a poor diet can tell the world something about ourselves, as we currently exist, our photographs tell the world whom we are, at our very core.

Let's be true to ourselves and, through our photography, recognize our value and begin to realize our true creative potential.

Sample Artist Statement

I hope you've enjoyed this post. Simply click on the link to read my own Artist Statement.

I do hope you'll consider creating one for yourself and that it will help you on your own, unique creative journey through life.

Please feel free to share this post widely and wildly.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru