Hey fellow students! I want to share some thoughts with you today about submitting your work to juried shows. As a recent graduate, I just went through the process and was accepted to my first juried show! Believe me, I know, finding calls and submitting your work is not easy. You have to research the juror and the kind of images they like as well as whether your photographs fit the theme of the call for entries. Then you have to find your artist statement and biography somewhere on your hard drive. Did you even write a biography yet? Next, resize your image files to whatever size the call for entries requires. Pay $35 and wait not-so-patiently to receive a kindly worded rejection letter or email. On the other hand, if you get in, you have to price, frame, ship and return ship the work, and not even sell anything. Honestly, why do we even do this?
Here’s why.

Seeing your work on the wall is a great feeling.

The first reason, and the simplest is that there is NOTHING like seeing your work up on a gallery wall. I mean it, nothing. Many of us tell ourselves…. “I make work for myself, as an outlet. I don’t make pictures for other people.” This is noble and brave to say, but there is something much more gratifying and beautiful about putting what feels like a small piece of yourself up on a wall in a gallery for other people to examine.

You will learn about your work

Whether they “get it” or not, opening up yourself to other people is rewarding. They will see things about your images that you had no idea is in them or point out things you could have done better. Both of these experiences make you a better artist. Talking about your work with jurors, gallery owners and the general public is one of the best ways to feel more confident in your work and your ideas. You’ll meet people along the way that become your fans, and hopefully collectors. When a curator enjoys working with you, they will remember you and your work for future exhibitions. That level of personal engagement is valuable to your art career.

Sometimes you won’t be accepted to the show

If you don’t get into the show, just remember rejection is a normal part of being an artist. You work isn’t going to fit every show or strike every juror’s fancy. Sometimes the competition is fierce. Don’t take it personally. Keep making work. Keep submitting your work and putting yourself out there.

Tips and advice

  • Follow the call for entries to the letter. Some shows are so competitive that the slightest deviation on your part from the requirements will immediately disqualify you.
  • Be sure to have someone read your artist statement and biography to give you feedback.
  • Pay attention to deadlines so that you don’t over-commit yourself.
  • Research new shows you haven’t heard about before. Be sure that the show, the gallery, the juror are all reputable and that the submission fee isn’t too outrageous. (More on that in another post)
Use an inventory application to manage your submissions like PhotoWorkflo. I’m not joking, and I realize this is a shameless plug. BUT before PhotoWorkflo was up and running I had one body of work. I had two photos chosen for a local art show and was super excited about it. I went to grab those framed pieces out of my bedroom closet (which is not where you should store your work, by the way), and realized that one of the images wasn’t there, it was hanging in the lab at my alma mater for an alumni show. I had ONE BODY OF WORK, and I couldn’t keep track of it. PhotoWorkflo keeps track of this stuff for you, so you don’t have to email the lab manager and say, “Hey do you still have this picture, and can I get it back in time for this other show?” Instead of not knowing where the print is located, you can see on your dashboard where your pieces are, and when they are being returned to you. Win win.
My favorite feature is the ability to keep all your artist statements and documents in one place. This makes it easy to create a nice little zip file with all the documents and images needed for a particular submission. In the future, PhotoWorkflo plans to roll out a call for entry feature on the site that allows you to find out what shows are looking for work. All of this in the same place. Pretty cool.
So fellow students and recent graduates, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and submit your work to juried shows. Pick shows you know well, or others recommend to you, select jurors that you think might respond to your photographs, and make sure you follow all the call requirements and deadlines to give yourself the best chance for success.