Is Landscape Photography a Viable Genre in the Fine Art World?

Is landscape photography a genre which the fine art world accepts? If it is a viable genre what are the first steps you’d recommend to break into this world? How can a relative newcomer find an audience for his or her work?

These are questions I am often asked by aspiring professional photographers/artists and they are rather difficult questions to answer. Every artist travels a different path. There is no ‘standard’ one-size-fits-all approach. The first thing to come to terms with is whether you seek artistic and creative success or economic success.

It must be immediately pronounced: It has likely never been more difficult to make an income with photography. The competition is greater than ever and the demand for wall art and professionally-sourced photography seems to be slipping in the DIY era (even Costco now offers metal, acrylic, and canvas prints).

In the “fine art world”, landscape photography might be the most maligned of genres: it is beautiful for beauty’s sake and rarely rooted in fantasy or the “human condition” (commodities for galleries); it is passé, and it doesn’t push artistic boundaries (some would suggest). Unless you possess a rather unique and distinctive style, process, or message, you will be competing for eyes with thousands if not millions of other photographers working in the same genre. Your website may never be found by Google (it takes time, effort, and strategy to rise to the top of searches) and you may never make a single online sale regardless of how beautiful your website is or how enabled your shopping cart system may be. These are realities.

I don’t mean to discourage you from the attempt. Know that you will have to work hard (forget about 40-hour work weeks), be tenacious, and be stubborn to find success – this is not a great avenue for quitters. It might only take ten or twenty years for you to become an “overnight success”. Or it may never arrive (again, define your own success). If you plan to chase a big income or fame or compete stylistically with other landscape photographers, you are likely to burn out and will almost surely fail.

But know that there is a market for everyone and everything. The supreme challenge is finding your market for your particular brand and style of work. No one can tell you how to do this or offer guidance; it’s your path of discovery to walk. By all means, contact art galleries who you believe might be interested in seeing your work but realistically expect no replies or success in this market. The Great Recession killed many galleries and those whose doors remain open are generally not seeking new artists to represent.

Consider this your artistic journey. “Fine art” is unlike any other business or business venture. You can’t hatch a standard business plan, find funding, and be assured of success – it just doesn’t work that way. The journey involves lifelong learning and growth processes which may continuously evolve and unfold into perhaps unimaginable and even beautiful paths. I will say this: it is the most rewarding experience and career for those that can find personal success. Making a sustainable income is the hard part. The latter might not be a huge concern if you do what you love.

Although upset by the 2020 Coronavirus, another viable option for your consideration is in-person Art Festivals, where the artist can bypass galleries and take their art directly to the public. Please read Art Festivals: Alternative Exhibition Opportunities for the [Fine Art] Photographer for more details.

The following books have all been helpful on my artistic journey. I wish you the very best on yours! Thank you for reading.

You are visiting the blog of landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his website or follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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