Doyles guide to the gallery..

Lets face it folks, the photography industry is a tough nut to crack. I could go on about photographers copyright, photographing in public places, crap day rates, assistants with egos etc, etc. But instead I thought I write about my main photography area, The Gallery.
Hopefully some of you will find this honest approach useful from someone who has worked in the Gallery market for 12 years. I will make no pleasantries here..

1. Galleries are about one thing, money, they are a business after all and should not be see as some magical portal and an easy way to make money. Remember this and you wont go into one with sweaty hands and crumpled prints..

2. All galleries take 50 percent. Its wrong and something you want to fight, but that's the way it is and it stinks.

3. Usually the artist is expected to provide prints at their own cost. Be careful here because galleries tend to want everything you have. If you only have portfolio prints let the gallery use them. Don't go out and spend hundreds (or more) on new prints for them to show clients (I have been stung here in the past). They will more than likely get damaged (finger prints, creases etc) from handling and you will only have to produce more at your own cost. I have always done this and will print up the image if it sells unless I have a copy already.
Big prints for a show are going to set you back, but this is where a lab may want to sponsor a show and do the prints at a reduced price or even free providing they get noticed and you get all the edition printed with them.

4. Galleries should pay for the framing of your work, with most galleries having a regular framer and some even having the service in house. A lot of galleries tend to get a bit cheap here and it is imperative that you keep them in check. I once had a gallery selling work for thousands of dollars in fifty dollar frames (I was not there to see it). You have paid for the prints, make sure they don't go cheap. (I have always found this baffling when galleries do this!). You wouldn't stick an Edward Weston in a clip frame would you?

5. Every gallery will try to represent you exclusively. This is something you must think about carefully. Exclusive does not mean you cannot place work in other galleries, but you do need to liaise with the gallery that has signed you and they will want a cut of what you sell. For example, you may be exclusive with The Doyle Gallery and have a consignment (more on this in a moment) with The Marcus Gallery. If the Marcus Gallery sell a print they may take 50 percent but the Doyle gallery may take 10. 15 or even 20 percent leaving you with as little as 30 percent of the sale. Sometimes a second gallery will only take 40 percent but you can be sure that the main gallery will take a percentage and you will, at the most come away with 40 percent of the sale.. The key here is to Consign work to the gallery and avoid exclusivity. This does not mean you are not represented by the gallery but it usually means that you agree to hold work with the gallery that you don't have paced anywhere else. For example, my North Shores work is exclusive to the Getty gallery and is available no where else.
If you do a show at a said gallery it usually means it will be exclusive at that gallery for a set time and then eventually moved on when it becomes an archive.
I have different bodies of work at different galleries but tend to spread my archive across a few galleries so that I have work available to all, ie, in the States and Europe.

Remember, every gallery wants you for themselves, they are greedy. But you need to make a living and if the gallery want you, they will go with it. That is not to say a gallery may work really hard for you and make a killing. In this case why go anywhere else. It does happen, but its rare. I spent four years with a gallery and they did just that. Then they took on another twenty photographers and I was lucky if I made twenty pence a month.

6. If a gallery like your work (and think they can sell it) they will take you on. Thats it, there's no magic method. Afteral its just one or two peoples opinion. If they dont like it try somewhere else and dont be offended. A lot of the time galleries dont have a clue how you made an image and know little about photography, they just know what they like..

7. Make sure the gallery understand about different print types and have high archival standards with regards to printing, mounting and framing. If they dont know about this they should not even be trading.

8. Its the galleries job to sell the work not yours. You have done your bit. Make sure they earn that stinking 50 percent.
Guess lists here are a big factor. Do not give a gallery your best contacts, instead invite them to your show yourself. Never hand over their contact details. Do you think the gallery will just invite them to your show? (remember they are a business). A gallery will always be after your contacts, especially if they are good buyers or a little famous. I find it quite an insult when a gallery ask me if I can invite a few 'well to do' people to someone elses show. It will never benefit you and you may in fact loose out in the long run.

9. Make sure the gallery are financially secure enough to be able to pay you upon receipt of payment. You would be amazed how many galleries get paid from the buyer and then use your money to pay their bills instead of paying you. This is especially important with smaller galleries and its worth checking that they are insured and members of AIPAD or a similar organization. Be particularly aware of this if you make a big sale. If the gallery gets in trouble you will get nothing..

10. Make sure the gallery keeps on top of you editions, pricing and number of prints they hold. Again its their job not yours. This is imperative early on when some galleries can be a bit flippant, especially about inventories of work. The last thing you want are prints getting lost only to be rediscovered years later and sold without your knowing (does happen).

Well there you are, if I think of anything else I will post it here. I have been as honest as possible and should a gallery owner read this they would probably sit in a white corner and weep.
I should point out I am very happy with my galleries at the moment, but thats not to say they are perfect, but neither am I...

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