Artist statements induce more headaches, loathing and procrastination than just about anything else on a photographer’s to-do list. But it is possible to tame a lot of that misery with a change of perspective, and a straightforward approach to the task.
In our story “Conquering the Dreaded Artist Statement: Expert Advice for Writing about Art Photography,” photographer Ron Jude, who teaches at University of Oregon, explains that writing is “an important part of the art-making process.” He urges his students to think of the statement not as homework, but as “something that has a useful purpose in the world.” Statements help artists “have a hand” in how people talk and think about their work. Also, Jude adds, “When I’m in the middle of a project, I tend to try to sit down and write something about it, because it actually helps me clarify my own ideas about what it is and that helps me move forward with the project.” Jude says writing about his work also prepares him speak about it in interviews. “The last thing you want to do is sound like an idiot” in an interview that will live on the internet for the foreseeable future, Jude says.
“The emphasis should be on the basics of communicating something about the work,” Jude adds. “I know people who have written things that are more poetic and more like a piece that maybe echoes the spirit of the work. I think that’s ultimately a nice way of avoiding really saying something about your work.” Jude believes artists are afraid that by writing too literally, they risk “pinning down the meaning of the work.” It’s a fear he understands. “You don’t want the artist statement to say, ‘This is what the work is and this is how you should see it.’ An artist statement shouldn’t contain directives for the reader. It should just provide some context and a basic framework for looking at the work.”
See the full story with other advice writing artist statements, with some sample statements, from Jude, Endia Beal, Clare Benson and John Pilson.
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