"Morgan! You're lurking in the corner again."
Yeah I know. That's because I don't want to be here.
"Come ooooonnn. Get out there and mingle."
That would be the gallery owner. He's hosting this thing.
The doors just opened. Three hours to go. It's going to be a long night of wondering what to do with myself.
I really do want to be there. I've worked hard to be there. Now that I'm there, I have no idea what to do, how to act. I certainly don't have the salesmanship the gallery owner is looking for to pop on a straw hat and peddle my photographs like a carnival sideshow barker.
First timer? Opening night nerves? Oh no. This is dead in the middle of my previous Real Florida Photo "career move". My second, third gallery show? They all blend together as making a different version of the same mistake over and over.
But I learned from it. Give me success stories all you want. Truth is, there is no better teacher than humiliating public failure.
Schooled by the best.
So, if you're trying to become a fine art photographer, have an upcoming gallery show and are nervous about what to do, or simply want to know how to turn a quarter of a million likes, shares, re-tweets and Pins into just one sale of one print, this blog's for you.
It all started with social media exploding and everyone with internet access thinking that likes, hits, retweets, shares, clicks on a heart-shaped icon, and blog stats were the direct path to success in any endeavor.
For an aspiring photographer, this meant I needed a portfolio website. After extensive research, I went with SmugMug. I would go out on the weekends, take photographs of Central Florida, and post them on my website, Tweet them, Facebook them, Tumblr them, and Flickr them.
How many likes, re-tweets, pins, shares, and follows before you are Henri Cartier-Bresson?
To a point, a big point, it worked. My SmugMug site facilitated my photos being seen worldwide, climb the search engine ranks of Google, and made me known among many local vendors and prominent members of my community.
This all led to a few sales. Particularly around the holiday season. Somewhere, somehow, it got in to my head that I needed to create a major project to put myself on the map. Something to set myself apart. This was instigated by the emergence of a company called Blurb. They allow you to create a world-class coffee table book right from your desktop. I made one from highlights of my current portfolio immediately.
This photograph is the book cover.
Paying homage to my years in theatre, I wanted to express how much effort went in to mounting a live performance production. It was a catharsis and sentimental look back on my years working backstage and behind the scenes.
I wanted the viewer to feel like they were there. Immersed from the very beginning of the rehearsal process to the excitement as opening night drew close when the costumes first arrived in the studio.
Studio Dress Rehearsal 3 I grabbed three 1970's era cameras off eBay, bought mountains of film (enough for about 5,000 photographs), and went every weekend to document rehearsals and backstage during the run of the show for the Central Florida Ballet's yearly production of The Nutcracker.
I did not think about it at the time, but it would take me over a year of any free time I could get just to scan the negatives into the computer. The following holiday season, I found out about the Orlando Museum of Art's First Thursdays event. They had one called "Christmas for under $200". Something like that. I was encouraged to submit entries for the show. I chose three that kind of tied in together because they all depicted a ballet dancer in the wings of the theatre during a performance.
I did not know at the time, but I was supposed to bring my photographs professionally framed with that fancy brown paper backing and industrial strength wire hangar. Instead, I submitted three photographs with frames from Target.
My first thought as I entered the large stone and marble building that is the Orlando Museum of Art was, wow, say what you will about the U.S. government, they really make some beautiful public buildings.
After the glow of having sold something wore off, I stood around and felt awkward for a while. Talked to some fun people who were friends of friends and regular patrons of the museum. I walked around the gallery and appreciated other artist's contributions to the event. Gloated over the sold sticker on my photograph. Then, I stood around and felt awkward some more.
Then a lady came up to me, talked to me a little bit about my work, and revealed she was the reason for the sold sticker on the photo. She was several months pregnant and had purchased the photograph for her yet to be born child's bedroom. Seriously classy! She had to wait until the event ended to take her photograph off the wall and home so we stood around and felt awkward together for a while until the end of the event.
I know the sentimental feelings of a childhood room. To this day, I think one of the coolest things about being a photographer is that out there somewhere is a young kid I will never meet who will have the lifelong memory of one of my photographs from childhood long after I'm gone. How cool is that?
It is a highlight of my career so I'll leave off here. Next week I'll talk about where I went wrong, what I learned from it, and how to now be awesome. Right here on the Real Florida Photo Blog.