Just my two cents, from the other side, in a way. Since we have lots of unused space at the office, we run an art gallery (http://www.datarescue.com/gallery/ambiance/
) on the lower floor, mostly temporary exhibits when I am in the mood. What I have learned... Photography is very, very tough. Unless you are very well known, people will buy your pictures either because they have a special interest in what you shot, because they love their aesthetic qualities (but you have a lot of competition from other sources) or, because they want to help you. The average price for a nicely framed print is around $200-$250 USD, or less if the gallerist hasn't done its job. The average price of art glassware is $500-$600. The average price for a 60x90 painting is around $3000-$4000. The average price for a decent bronze is $5000-$6000. That's for artists I'd describe as well established, but with not a single chance of being remembered 50 years from now. These average prices tell you a lot about the economics of the game because, the wealthy visitors who visit the galleries aren't going to buy twenty prints for the single reason that they cost 20 times less than a sculpture. They'll get - at most - a couple of pieces of what interest them. About the only positive factor for the photographer is the fact that the guy who just spent $10K on a sculpture might pick a couple of prints as dessert... while the opposite almost never happens ;-) From the gallery owner point of view, selling twenty prints in a month doesn't cover the expenses, selling a couple of large sculptures, four medium ones and five paintings make a decent monthly turnover. You'll tell me I am talking about a somewhat generic art gallery, one that doesn't specialize in photography. True, but that type of gallery can survive for long period of times, whereas pure photographic galleries can't generally stand on their own and often have to rely on corporate or governmental sponsorship. You might want to read Michael's piece on setting up/running a photographic art gallery (or was it only in the LLVJ?) for another angle on the issue.
Back to my two cents, tidbits...
- $300 per month? Come on! How can you hope to interest any third party if your stated goal is $300 per month? Aim higher, much higher. Don't get me wrong: it's perfectly OK to be happy with $300, but then you are totally on your own because you aren't going to get anyone on your boat. In fact, if you can't aim higher, at first, having a $0 goal might be a better strategy (more about this later).
- network, network, socialize: during our last exhibition, a very talented, but commercially unsuccessful, photographer -he as published four books, all of them sponsored by some EU or provincial fund- came to the vernissage and chatted with me. We went up to my office where he was clever enough to flatter my ego with some nice, but not overly so, comments about my own pictures (cough, cough, cough, I am not even proud of them). The result? I offered him the free use of our rooms for special events between exhibits and introduced him to a gallerist who was planning an exhibition of carnival masks and was looking for some spice (he'll display pictures of masks). Again, don't go begging around for space, time: just be yourself and talk about your work to everyone, but don't be obnoxious. If you're a genuinely nice guy, it will pay off. And don't despair if you are a snobbish idiot, I am sure they have an audience as well ;-)
- persistence: that's especially important for painters, a bit less for sculptors if they work noble stuff such as marble or bronze and that also plays a role for photographers. People will definitely buy stuff from people they feel will still be around after a few years and more. Why is that so? The art buyers are just standard people and they want two things: 1) money 2) to be right, clever, etc... If a budding thirty something artist survives, as an artist, for half a century, you can be sure his works will see their market value increase. The heartless investor will be happy. He who focuses on ROI wants you to survive and will only be convinced you have a chance if you have been around for a while already. (Note: dying young in spectacular fashion is also an option, but make sure you have a deserving family before walking that path). But the same is valid for the disinterested noble, art buyers. They don't want money. They want to be the among the first to recognize your talent. You wouldn't be helping them - in fact, you would be hurting them, if you folded right after they bought stuff from you. That's why they will also wait a while before showing their support.
- piggyback: jump on every opportunity to show and promote your work. Furniture shops (I have bought art stuff there), deco stores, restaurants, web sites, painting/sculpture exhibitions. Do it for free (the $0 goal strategy I talked about above) - it will pay back after a while if you have talent. Don't spam though. It isn't well received...
- "international recognition": almost always pays. Say you are a garden dwarfs photographer. Find out about events dedicated to garden dwarfs anywhere in the world (although Paris, London, New York still have the edge... but they are big and have suburbs.). Send free prints for exhibition at the event. In return, ask someone to send you pictures of your work being exhibited. You are now an "internationally respected" photographer. Add the line to your resume. No one will really bother to check the _significance_ of your achievement: they have lives too.
- training: you certainly know more about photography than your lawyer, doctor, local rotary or lions' club president. Train them. For free at first, or for "exhibition rights" on their premises. Now, you aren't only internationally recognized (see above), but you have suddenly become an internationally recognized educator ;-)
- the net: if you have the technical skills, a virtually free gallery with an unlimited audience. If you don't have the skills, still a relatively cheap option compared to a brick and mortar gallery. Best choice at this point if you can only do one thing imho.
and, above all,
- aim for perfection: almost every artist, photographer, painter, sculptor... that I have met aimed for technical perfection in the framework of his vision . It's a very long topic, and I have been outrageously long already. Good luck!