Being Well Hung in a Gallery

Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

This article was originally published in June 2012.

Art, an acquaintance, owns a gallery that exposes photos. As most gallery owners, Art wants to make money on whatever he puts up on his walls. And how does he do that? Here are the four rules of selling photos that Art told me:

1.There are two main audiences; the one who wants to invest and the one who buys what it likes. The audience who wants to invest has the advantage that it can buy anything, no matter how weird it looks. Unfortunately, this is a rather small audience, so unless the gallery owner already knows this audience, he or she shall have to attract the other audience, i.e. the one who buys what it likes. If so, the photos hung on the wall cannot be weird anymore.

2.There are two pricings of photos; high or affordable. Curiously, it is easier to price weird photos higher than popular ones, exactly because these photos are so weird and, thus, unusual. However, as we have noted there is a rather small audience for the weird.

It will therefore be easier to aim for the audience who buys what it likes, which is a much bigger audience albeit usually with less buying power.

3.There are two types of photos; the ones that are understandable and the ones that are not. As mentioned, the ones who invest in photos tend to buy the higher priced ones and that in turn tend to be more of the abstract kind (abstract being a diplomatic way of saying that it looks weird as hell).

Interestingly though, Art told me that most people actually prefer to buy photos that are recognisable, i.e. where the buyer can relate to the photos. An artistic photo with a blurry spade hanging from an upside down goat is not the kind of photo that most people can relate to. That is why such a photo is ‘artistic’. On the other hand, a photo with a clear reference point is easier for most people to like.

4.There are two types of sizes; big photos and manageable photos. Most people will buy what they can carry with them and then put on the wall at home. A giant photo of 150×200 centimetres—and in a frame on top of that—is going to scare away people because they cannot get it into the car and then there is no room for it at home. So what would be the point of buying that? Unless, of course, you do it as an investment and in which case the photo is probably so weird that you would not want it on the wall anyway. Yup, size matters; the more normal, the easier to sell. Photography is indeed a world of its own.

Concluding what I learnt from Art, it should seem that the easiest way to get one’s photos sold would be to aim for a bigger audience through affordable pricing, non-weird motives, and reasonably sized. What Art also said is that anyone selling photos need a good sense of humour, which is a diplomatic way of saying that they need patience of the kind rarely found when driving in central Mumbai.

There will always be discussions like these:

Gallery Owner (GO): I see you are looking at this photo showing three orangutans in the jungle.

Prospective Buyer (PB): Yes I am. And I like it. But I would like the photo to be smaller so that it will fit on the wall above my mother-in-law’s bed.

GO: Well, this is the size it is. But it is nicely framed.

PB: I don’t know really. And it would fit better on the wall if the photo would be more bluish.

GO: Well, orangutans are rarely blue and neither is the jungle.

PB: Yeah, but blue would be a better photo. And smaller. And cheaper.

GO: Well, may I suggest in that case the photo over here, showing an early misty morning overlooking the Himalayas? It is more bluish.

PB: Yeah, but I always prefer snowy mountains to be yellow.

GO: But snow is rarely yellow. And if it is, you do not want to approach it anyway.

PB: You know what. I think I shall give my mother-in-law something else than a photo. Like makeup. Lots of it. She needs that.

Yup, buyers can be as weird as the creators. The world is full of fun.

Tags: Gabriel Fuchs, june 2012, Being Well Hung in a Gallery