I will have to admit, my Middle Ground project took off faster than I was prepared for that in quick succession I was offered a solo exhibition, which then required the production/launch of my artist book. In retrospect, I think I knew who my audience was, but maybe not as well as I could have.
I now have the opportunity to look at this project and better understand my audiences for this project. Although my questions below are focused more on developing a book project, these four basic questions can be asked of yourself while creating an artist project;
Basic questions #1: Who is/are my audience for this project, how does my audience connect with me and this project? What is the project about? Is this audience super engaged? What is the wider audience beyond fine art photography? Is there a potential international audience?
Initially for Middle Ground I thought that this project was primarily a social/political satire of the Trump Mexican-American border fiasco, thus only a contemporary art project that would appeal to a social-political audience in the U.S. The project methodology was influence by the late urban landscape photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher and the artist book was inspired by the book-works of Ed Ruscha. A mashup of documentary in a contemporary presentation. cool.
What I had not anticipated is that my subject matter was going to be demolished the following year (2019) to widen this section of the San Diego freeway. Now my project is a historical San Diego project regarding this iconic freeway landmark. That means that this project has a NEW potential audience related to the history of San Diego. This of course was not planned but one needs to enjoy chance and serendiptiy. I am now focused on Historical exhibition opportunities first on San Diego county, then expanding into all of Southern California, then beyond.
My audience brainstorming came up with another audience; my subject is primarily centered around the Oleander bushes that constitute the main landscaping element. Also one of the deadliest plants on earth. So now I am working on a Horticulture artist statement that would support that potential audience, an international audience, which is huge.
Last, is my fourth audience for this project that is related to this project is about a roadway and Transportation. The car audience is another huge group of super engaged individuals, but they also don’t usually get excited about a roadway. So this is going to take a bit more to develop a connection and opportunities, thus on the bottom of my audience to-do list. But the good news is that in recognizing this audience that then increases my awareness for potential opportunities. cool!
Question #2: It is a cohesive series, edited, sequenced (and perhaps assembled into a book dummy)? Can you make a convincing argument that there is an audience of anywhere from a few hundred to many thousands (who might buy the book)? If YES, then a publisher might be interested in your book. If NO, Self-publishing might be an option. OR self-publish a small number of books to determine if there’s a larger demand.
For Middle Ground, I was unsure of my audience in 2018, thus went the route of self-publishing my artist book. So this is done. What was really nice was Fabrik Press wanted to create a limited edition Middle Ground Box Set that is a combination of the artist book and unique photographic print. The Fabrik Press opportunity was not anticipated, but a really nice validation of the project.
Question #3: Galleries, Museums, and book publishers exist to help express a vision; what is the vision?
Middle Ground continues my vision about increasing awareness of the issues of memory retention due to issues of demintia and related diseases. This body of work expands on my investigation of the passage of time and the issues of reality and memory, and the contradictions where these intersect.
Question #4: The marketing and sales question, what is going to be sold and where is the best place to sell it? How do I connect with my audience?
This one is on-going for Middle Ground; I have a couple of book stores and my gallery, Fabrik Projects that sell this body of work. Now looking to expand on this.
Hope that my Middle Ground example helps you with thinking about finding the audience for your project.
Featured photograph: Surveillance (Middle Ground) copyright 2020 Douglas Stockdale
Medium Photo 2020 Workshop: Developing a Creative Book workshop that I will be leading from March, 19-22, 2020, a four-day extended weekend workshop in San Diego (workshop registration is now open and some seating is still available…sold out in 2019)
Medium Photo 2020 Lecture Series, I will be giving a one-evening lecture Artist Books as Art Objects on March 20th, from 7:30 – 9pm at the You Belong Here artist venue, located at 3619 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, California 92104.
Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) Faculty Exhibition, in Los Angeles at the new LACP gallery, located at 566 Washington Blvd. The exhibition opening and reception is Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 7-10pm. The exhibition runs until May 12.
As someone working on long term photography projects, I found this post and your insights encouraging. Thank you. It has been helpful to read how Middle Ground has evolved and, with it, the change of audience. I have for 9 years been photographing around my earthquake damaged city (Christchurch). What started merely as a ‘personal distraction’ and opportunity to learn my camera has become a body of work, the actual content of and purpose of which seems to change with the years. I continue to work on ‘filling the gaps’ in content, although this virus has for now stopped me dead in my tracks.
Very cool! And thank you for the nice feedback and validation. Cheers & stay healthy!