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Nailing the dreaded artist statements; aka the "materials and techniques" for newbies and veterans alike

Actually the "artist statement" is the "description of materials and techniques" and the little devils are a giant pain, but they're becoming more and more critical. An artist statement is a different beast altogether and seldom asked for. Larry Berman has suggested that three versions should be written and saved; with the three as 100, 200, and 300 character statements.

The one hundred character statement is probably the hardest, and is more like a mini-tweet ;-) The suggestion was made over on one of the booth shot forum posts that a new thread be started where we could share some examples. I'll start off with mine below, and if someone feels there's a better way to say it, speak right up.

Hopefully we can get a dialog going like we have for the booth shots for newbies post.

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On the photo side the judges don't care what the camera, lens, or printer is. The paper doesn't matter unless it's something unusual. One good boilerplate phrase was "printed, matted, and framed by artist using archival materials" which covered the entire gamut. Everyone once in a while I hear someone cite the ink they use, but that's more for the lengthier pieces.

The jeweler's "hand crafted" is the one AmyRenee had up here earlier, and was a question we had, so it sounds like that is a definite keeper and not one that can be assumed to be a given. I wonder if the judges read any semantics into the difference between "hand crafted" versus "hand fabricated"?

It would make life a lot easier if the ZAPP default length on these statements were 200 instead of 100 characters. 

The paper never matters because your being juried on images, not output. And you don't show the output in the jury image, only the image.

hand made vs. hand crafted or hand fabricated uses fewer characters and says the same thing.

The default on ZAPP is 200 characters. Shows have to go out of their way to choose 100.

Larry Berman

That's disgruntling to hear they deliberately choose the short block :-(

I guess I shouldn't be surprised then. 

If I were still a photographer processing in the darkroom, I'd state in my 100 or less word description that my medium/process is "gelatin-silver" print. That implies something about the paper and process since its sensitized photographic instead of digital push the button and watch it come out the other end.


If I were a "BrassAss" photog, I'd state that my images were done with a pinhole camera since that is pertinent info for my description.


If paper or camera matter in the description, then by all means state it. In both of these cases I think they do matter and I would put the info in my description. By all means, state what matters most in the space allowed.

Again, if I shot a pinhole camera, I'd tell 'em about it. And if I made the cameras, I'd figure out how to include that as well by saying "homemade" or something.

I have been struggling with an update to our statement. Below is the current revisions (suggestions welcome). Do I remove the "materials used" and add in more info stating landscape and wildlife photography?

300 character

Before an image is captured, each location is researched and scouted. We revisit the location until the desired weather and lighting conditions occur. After capture, images are processed and printed on fine art rag paper, canvas, metal or photo paper and are presented in a frame that complements it.

200 character

After researching & scouting, we revisit a location until the desired weather & light conditions occur. Images are processed & printed on various substrates then placed in a frame that complements it.

100 character (this one still needs more cleaning)

Images made after location research/scouting & waiting for desired weather & light conditions.

Previous idea was: Father & son team creating presentations that are self printed and framed to complement the image.

Locations revisited until light is perfect. Images printed on rag paper, canvas or metal.

89 characters 

Larry Berman

Nigh perfect, Larry ;)

The framing is not part of the "sell" to the jury in photography. Maybe in no category. Do you know the work of Michael Cole? He has interesting imagery and then adds all kinds of unusual frames. Yet his statement does not talk about the framing. Look here:

The framing is shown in your booth picture. Like Connie said, don't waste characters on it.

Larry Berman

Connie, you've directed us to see Micheal Cole's Artist Statement, not his 100 character or less Description of Materials & Techniques. How do you know he doesn't mention the frames in his description he uses for jurying? The answer could be that he doesn't mention frames in his 100 character DoM&T. But we've yet to see it.


This is exactly what I've been talking about with how this thread confuses the terms.


And I think it's interesting what you say about picture frames not being part of the "sell" in Micheal's category and then state that maybe they do not need to be part of the "sell" in any category. I have been mentioning mine for years and have even stated that here in this thread and forum quite a lot. If they are an integral part of the presentation, then a person who doesn't mention them might reconsider how they could be mentioned. Micheal's frames are apparently important to his presentation and they are what else separates him from plenty others in this field. My handcrafte picture frames are certainly what else separates my wife and me from plenty others in this field. So I'll always mention them.

Mr. Cole also mentions in his Artist Statement the type of film he shoots which relates to the type of camera he shoots. It's a 4 x 5. That's another detail that you and Robert Walllis thought didn't matter to a jury. But again, this info is in his Artist Statement and might not be in his description of materials & techniques since we've not seen it (but I bet it is.)

If something is out of the ordinary, then it's mentioned; wet darkroom work is not the norm, so it's a point of distinction. Large format film work is even less the norm, so again it's a point of distinction to mention. Silver gelatin papers are in a minority position, so again it's a point of differentiation.

We're applying some common sense on what it takes to pique the juror's interest as they go through the mind numbing process of selecting images. Using some generic boilerplate like, unless the images "I use a Canon 1Ds MarkIII with my 28-105L lens, print on an Epson 9900 using archival inks to create stunning landscapes" isn't going to wake up the judges from their visual overload. Given two entries of similar high quality, my money is on the one that has some personality in the M&T statement.

Taking the semantic butchering of the Artist statement format and the Materials and Techniques statement out of the equation here, help clarify where the confusion is. We've already made it clear, or least I thought it was, what the intent of the ZAPP block is and how the industry practice views it and what needs to go in there. From what Larry has said, the 100 character block is being chosen by many shows instead of the default 200.

I have been working on mine for sometime and it is not an easy task. Any feedback would be very much appreciated!

100 character statement

Original oil paintings that develop distinct character with multiple layers of transparent paint

300 character Statement

My story starts with a blank canvas and an ending not yet determined. I begin with one coat of oil paint and will place another forty transparent layers of paint before the story is completed over a two-month period. Each layer takes the painting in a new direction and the story begins to unfold in front of me as it is being painted. 


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