The switch from artist to photographer – Getting your work seen

by Simon Isaac on 23rd June 2023

If you’re an aspiring artist or commercial photographer, getting your work noticed can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help you achieve your goals. With more than three decades of marketing experience, I’ve learned a thing or two about promoting creative work. As an agency owner and exhibitor, I’m eager to share my top tips and secrets with you. By putting these techniques into practice, you’ll be well on your way to getting your work seen by the right people.


Do your research 


“why here, why now?” Venues receive all sorts of proposals and already have a planned map for the future, so explaining why the venue is perfect for your proposal and vice versa is essential! The timing is also crucial as they need to feel that it is important to show that body of work at that time. Galleries often focus on key social trends or significant change points in society or the world. Sometimes, you have to wait for your moment and your concept. Try and whittle down to a few galleries you can focus on, who you think would resonate with your work, instead of a blanket approach that can often be fruitless and disheartening.


Make it about them 


Look at the galleries’ previous shows and connect that to your proposal. So often, I started a conversation or proposal by mentioning a previous exhibition that touched on similar topics or “mindset”. 


It’s super important to have a gallery proposal. You can start with a generic proposal about your concept, but I always tailor it to the gallery and often refer to recurring themes in their work. Just writing a letter to a gallery will not work; they get so many letters daily, and you must stand out. It’s also super important to have a website dedicated to your project; this shows commitment and dedication to your art and concept.


Have a concept 


I’ve always exhibited my work with a concept and story underpinning my work. My first body of work, ‘Silent Sentinels’ focused on a theme of isolation and bunkers from the second world war. My current body of work, ‘David Come Home’, has themes of migration, isolation and my own experiences in the military. 


I started with an idea that was storyboarded with illustrations and narrative derived from my mind that articulated and almost staged each shot from the story as it unfolded. I created a comic to convey this story in the very early days. 


Be flexible


Venue directors and curators often want to contribute (even if a little), so show that the show is flexible. That great room you envisioned holding a big piece might be under works or reserved for the next few years. Flexibility is critical to adapting to what you don’t know and displays openness with the venue organisers. This is all about building dialogue and a relationship with the people, which can take years of work.


Also, think of other ways to display your work. I’ve exhibited with other artists as part of a curator’s concept, which has opened more doors for me to exhibit my work than anything else. You can find out more about these on my website It’s often hard to get gallery space as it is in high demand, and galleries are often booked years in advance.


Some alternative routes to getting exhibited include:


Funded projects, which include art as a part of the project. You can keep an eye out for these on social media, council websites and other public organisations’ websites.


My recent exhibition at The Silver Building London was in a funded exhibition space as part of a regeneration project. I approached the owners when attending another event and built a relationship with the team there which meant I was able to propose my show to them, and the work fitted the space well, with the narrative appealing to the owners too.


Curated projects, as part of a collective, often go on tour nationally and internationally – this is the type of project I referred to earlier.


Set up your own collective – set up your own or keep an eye out for opportunities for like-minded projects, themes or artists that resonate with your work or practice.


Using community or other spaces can often be free and an excellent way to get your work exhibited – I’ve done quite a bit of exhibiting like this, and it’s a good way to get your work out there. Even cafes, bars and restaurants will consider your work.


Also, don’t ignore that online exhibitions, videos and collaborations with other artists are a good way to get your work out there. I recently did a collab with the graffiti artist Keith Hopewell which was very well received at its launch in London in May this year.


Be organised


“Being Organised” doesn’t make it to the news, but even the most “crazy” artists like Mauricio Catalan, Damien Hirst or Tracy Emin work with clear schedules, presentations, planning, etc. Get help with a budget, and create a presentation and gallery proposal. Being ready, professional and knowing your numbers and dates will help you more.

I’ve used my business intuition to help drive this side of my artistic practice, which has paid off. 


In the world of art and photography, getting your work noticed requires a strategic approach and dedication. By implementing the strategies outlined in this blog post, you can increase your chances of getting your work seen by the right people. Start by thoroughly researching venues and timing, ensuring your proposal aligns with their vision. Tailor your proposals to each gallery, referencing their previous shows and recurring themes. Developing a strong concept and story behind your work will captivate audiences and differentiate you from the competition. Remain flexible and open to alternative exhibition routes, such as curated projects, community spaces, online exhibitions, and collaborations. Building relationships with venue directors and curators is crucial for long-term success. Lastly, stay organised by creating clear schedules, presentations, and gallery proposals, demonstrating your professionalism and commitment. With persistence and a strategic mindset, you can make a lasting impact in the art and photography world. Embrace these strategies and let your creative work shine.


Simon Isaac

Written by Simon Isaac

Simon has over 30 years marketing experience, a diploma in marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has owned and run Capsule (formerly Zero Above) for over 10 years. As a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he delivers strategic capabilities to every client project, having worked with leading organisations across the globe. Outside Capsule, Simon loves gravel riding and yoga and is a passionate EV advocate. He’s also a Board Trustee for Green Light Trust, a Suffolk based charity for mental health and wellbeing.

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