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The Booth Monster Rears its Ugly Head Again

This was sent to me today from an artist who participated in the jury review this morning at the St Louis Art Fair. I did a twenty minute interview with the artist which will go up on my web site when I have time to transcribe it.

"I just viewed my first webinar with the St Louis Art Fair. They had a streaming video with jurors reviewing slides submitted by 190 artists. Most of us need better booth shots. It was interesting to see the competition. A few, and only a few, get the whole package of images and booth shots right. Some of us need work still. I did pick up that the jurors do not like grid walls in the booth, they would rather see them covered. They like an open airy space with color to bring the "eye" into the space. They do not like seeing a booth full of inventory, mirrors, chairs, or floor mats that might distract from the work. It's hard to balance that with the reality of being in the booth at a show."

It was the same at Cherry Creek jury review in November:

 I'll speculate that these two directors might have been at the NAIA conference last May where the directors all agreed that the booth picture can be taken at a show. Maybe it's more about the instructions that they give or not give the jurors prior to jurying.

Larry Berman

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Your second picture is certainly "improved". After that open jury thing, I can tell you they would have said to 1) crop out the ceiling 2) get rid of the white covered table completely 3) replace metal shelves with podiums of different heights 4) remove at least half of the art 5) get rid of the yellow basket 6) change floor covering to something solid or less distracting 7) line back wall with podiums of different heights

That's not me talking. That's what I took away from the judges.

Robin Ragsdale

Thanks Robin, that's about what I get too.  But that's my point.  This is pretty close to what my booth looked like in real life.  I can mock up something that meets their criteria, but it's not what I will present at the show.  So - why are we being judged on our ability to create a one time image that fits their guidelines - if it's ok to have something else in real life?  Especially  "remove half the art", I may have a little too much clutter, but I would never at a show remove more than about 20% of what is shown here.  I love the rug, people actually come in to tell me how "welcoming and comfortable" my booth looks and many point out the rug.  Many of them stay and buy.  So again, I could remove it from the picture but then the show is getting a sort of bait and switch due to their own rules!

On a more personal note,  I am dropping the baskets and table for next year, but that is not for my booth shot, it is because I am evolving my booth.  I am replacing the metal shelves because I wanted ones that looked more like furniture.  I am losing the baskets because they didn't work as I had hoped.  Here is the mock up of what I have planned (google sketchup rocks!).  Shelves are "natural" wood.  Chairs behind the displays so non display stuff is hidden, wall pieces hanging on right and left walls, banner in back.  Thoughts are welcome but I am not trying to hijack the thread.  I'm more curious if in a realistic world it wouldn't make more sense to use this as a jury image.


I how wrong you can be. I had no start up bank roll, other than what I made of it.  I've been a photographer for 30 years. I was actually broke, out of work, had a heart transplant in 08, house in foreclosure, and came up with less than $10,000 to buy a dbl booth, and a printer, to make my work. I had a computer. I have a family, a 10 yr. old in school, a 19 yr old that is going as well, and need to support them. My wife is not working.  Why must you be condescending, I am explaining what is possible. I've managed to expand from 10 shows in the first year to nearly 30.  The only way I can pay for the booth fees, create more work and work 14 hour days, 7 days a week, is by  having my my studio set up to handle the production. It's my equipment, my framing equipment, I do not farm out the work to labs, but am here. It was all on a shoe string.. but it worked since I took it seriously. I have a helper that prints and frames in my studio 2-3 days week.. when it's busy.

The reality of it is, at least in my medium, do it right, if you want it to work. This is what a photographer can do. Sorry to think that another artist would classify photography as an overpriced medium. Maybe you should go to some galleries in NYC and see what's up!

Yep, just push a button and it's all done for you. What a fallacy. Good on you, Mark, for getting ahead of the curve. And your work is unique.


BTW, I personally know Mark.  He is one of the hardest workers out there.  He also gets in the very best shows in the country, consistently wins awards against heady competition at these shows, and most importantly, sells like a SOB.  His booth looks awesome, it takes time , but the payoff is mammoth.  He is certainly no button-pusher.  Attaboy Mark!  BTW this is my booth shot--which incidentely got me in the St. Louis Art Fair last year.

Mark, your booth presentation and your work looks unique and awesome, saw it in St James a couple years back- clearly stood out.   30 shows with a double? whew! good on you that you are making it work.

I REALLY need a better booth photo. I only attend shows in Iowa, Southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Western Illinois areas. Can anyone give me a contact that might be able to help me out with this in my area?

Hi Lori,

Shoot your own booth picture using the instructions on my web site:

Larry Berman

  I attended the workshop in person, although I was only there for the first two hours while they did ceramics then I had to leave. I think it was a great opportunity to see what judges are looking for in a submission. I am glad that They put it on and I was able to go.

  I have been thinking a lot about what was said, and now about peoples responses on here. Here are my thoughts.

-You should not attack or diminish the jurors that were there for what they said. Even if you don't agree with or like it, they were simply reflecting the reality of the situation for shows at that level. Yes, at times they did not agree with each other, but I don't think anything they said you would not here from someone else, and the Jury pool is far from homogeneous.

-On not having the jury look at booth shots, but instead just the promoter. I think this can create just as many problems. Would the promoter simply have veto power if a booth was not up to par, or would they score it as well? This would partially negate blind jurying as the promoter is going to recognize many peoples booths. A booth shot can and should be used in the decision to accept someone. If you have a really amateur looking booth a high end show is not going to want you.

  You can make the argument that the booth should be judged differently by the jury. Perhaps not included in the score of the artwork but rather pass/fail, or maybe used to pic when scores on artwork are close. Yes the artwork is the most important thing, but presentation is important too.

-I think the jurors at the event were just trying to be as honest and helpful as possible. I am sure that if you clean up your booth shot and make it more visually appealing that it will have a better impact on judges, you cannot argue with that.

-I also think however that perhaps there should be a culture change in the area of jurying booth shots. It seemed as though the jurying for booth shots had become so insular that the image was more important than the booth itself. I understood the points that the jurors were making when they said to leave out things like plants, tables and signage. and to think about your booth shot compositionally. Yes those things make your image look better. But is that the point of the whole process? Isn't the point to see what your booth "actually" looks like at a show. And what is more important, how a booth looks in a slide, or how it looks to a person inside it. A customer at a fair for the most part is not going to see a wide angle unobscured view of your booth. They are not going to come into your booth because you work is arranged in a way that keeps you eye moving around the booth, they are going to come in if they like your work.

  So maybe the jury should focus more on if the booth is well put together, professional looking, and meets the standards of the show they are jurying for,and approaching it more as pass/fail. Instead of comparing and rating it against other booth images (as what inherently happens when you score a booth shot).

  Maybe there should be a new standard that your booth shot should look exactly like it is when it is set up, tables and all, so that there is an honest representation of what it will look like for the show. Maybe the requirement should be you need to include a booth shot from an actual show to prove that you are representing yourself honestly. I know the head of the STL Art fair said they have had issues with booth images not looking like what actually happens on show day.

I don't have time to stage and reshoot my booth right now, so I just did some photo clean up on my old one. I know I need to get rid of the chair and shelves on the left and at least half of the clutter. This will have to suffice until I can do it over. *sigh*

Robin Ragsdale

Nice clean up!


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