Artist Statement Writing Guide
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR
LONG LEAD-INS: Get to the point in the first sentence or two. Don’t begin your statement with
background information and detail or people will lose interest before they get to your ideas. Get
them interested from the start so they will want to read the details and background information
that back up your ideas.
CONCEPT VS STYLE: Terms like abstraction, documentary, fashion and landscape describe
your style or approach to photography rather than the ideas or concepts you are interested in. It is
okay to use these terms but they need to be followed up with ideas. For instance, you may be a
documentary photographer (style) who is interested in issues of gentrification in the Pilsen
neighborhood of Chicago (concept).
GENERALIZATIONS: Be as specific as possible and avoid all-encompassing terms that could be
applied to many photographers. “Capturing a moment in time,” “documenting the world” and
“exploring issues that are important to me” are statements that apply to most photographers.
What specifically makes you different?
ROMANTICISATION: Avoid getting nostalgic or glorifying photography in your statement. It isn’t
necessary to tell us how you got your first camera for your ninth birthday or how you always loved
to look at old family pictures, unless these concepts are present in your work.
Keep a realistic perspective on photography and it’s limitations by avoiding terms like ‘truth.’ Truth
is a very loaded word in photography and can sound very naïve if not used carefully. Try not to
put photography on a pedestal. Instead show that you have a realistic understanding of
photography’s strengths and weaknesses.
FLOWERY LANGUAGE: Big fancy words with vague meanings can kill an artist’s statement.
Don’t try to impress people with your vocabulary because it will come off as pretentious and won’t
sound genuine. Write in a style you are comfortable with and be straight. Often, large words are a
way to cover up a lack of understanding about what you are doing.
QUOTATIONS: Lots of people like to quote philosophers, writers or artists in their statements.
Some of them do it very well but most of the time the quotations end up getting in the way. If you
insist on using a quotation, make it short and don’t lead with it. Never use more than one
quotation. If you quote a famous philosopher, make sure you really know what that philosopher is
talking about. Misinterpreting well known thinkers can create very embarrassing situations and
may hurt your credibility.
TECH TALK: Your statement is intended to accompany your work, not stand in for it. You do not
need to explain the technical details of your work that people can see for themselves in your
pictures. It is important to address technical issues only if they have unusual conceptual
significance or if they dramatically affect the way people interact with your work. For example: if
you are creating a book, if there is a specific style of installation, if your images are particularly
large or small, or it may be important to say what kind of camera you are using (view camera,
Holga). Regardless, be brief and put it in layman’s terms or you will put people to sleep.
Artist Statement Writing Guide PDF
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