Social Documentary Photographer John Sevigny spent almost a decade working as a journalist, including stints with the Associated Press Mexico City office, and the Miami bureau of EFE News, the official information agency of the Government of Spain. He has also worked as a human rights activist.
Sevigny spoke to the Professional Practices in Photography class last Thursday, October 8th and gave the students some valuable advice on how to succeed in today’s market.
He told them that the most important thing to do is to develop an online presence.” Show that you are savvy with technology,” he said. He advised students to “start a blog and learn to use good key words so that your work will be found by search engines.”
He says that he has gotten exhibitions through contacts he has made on Twitter, through his blog: http://www.gonecity.blogspot.com/ as well as his newsletter. “I get a lot of hits on my blog, and I send out a newsletter to tell people what’s on my blog.”
Sevigny has shown his fine art photography in Monterrey, Saltillo and Zacatecas in Mexico; in Florida, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Louisiana and Colorado in the United States, and in Lisbon, Portugal. His work is collected throughout the United States, including the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies and several private collections.
Sevigny has also curated art exhibitions in Mexico and is interested in promoting international relationships between young artists. He recently founded Galeria Sevigne at La Casa Tyihui in Saltillo, whose mission is to bring together artists whose work deals with social commentary and reform.
He said that students should contribute art to websites like the Center for Fine Art Photography’s website http://www.c4fap.org/ because it is non-profit and has good themes.
He recommended http://www.socialdocumentary.net/ where “For as little as 99 cents per image you can put up an decent online portfolio”. He also recommended http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/home/ to reach fine art collectors.
He said the two keys to success in photography are to “distinguish yourself from the competition” and to “be completely dedicated to photography. Let it take you toward exactly what you will be doing. Work at whatever you can within photography full-time.”
“If you want to be a photojournalist, learn to write and you will be twice as marketable,” he advised. He also said that learning a second language may also lead to work. “Another marketable skill is teaching,” he said.
“The worst mistake you can make is to under price yourself” he said. ”Charge enough. Price yourself in a way that leaves you a cushion.”
“While you work you need to be very stingy with your money. Economize! You are a small business – bookkeeper, secretary, janitor and photographer. Places like Costco can make beautiful prints for very little. You won’t make money if
you go to premium labs and don’t charge enough.”
Sevigny, who has had numerous exhibitions, advised photographers geared toward a fine art career to “start by doing juried exhibitions” like artshow.com.
“Make contacts and more contacts.” “Organize your own show in a local venue and see where it leads. Look at paintings to get ideas for photo themes.”
He recommends a simple artists’ statement that says ‘here is what I do and why.’ “Be honest about the work. Be clear and concise. Don’t think that flowery writing can make up for weakness in your photos.”
Another tip he gave was “look for mentors outside of school. Ask established photographers to mentor you. You will form relationships that will help you in the future.”
Sevigny has kindly offered to critique COD students’ artist statements. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.