Photographic artists are notorious for not wanting to or being able to write about their art, they often refer to the fact that they are visual artists, to avoid writing about their work. I personally think that this is lazy thinking on their part and I to have been guilty of this myself. In the past I have been heard to say I don’t have the words for that, or I can’t explain that, and it is why I am a photographer. I am now of the conclusion that this is artistic laziness. I aim to change this. I have recently been attempting to write an artist statement for an application to something and in doing my research on how to create an artist statement remembered that not so long ago (two years maybe) I got a book on writing “How to Write about Contemporary Art” by Gilda Williams.
This line struck a cord with me, “Ideally, writing is not just a chore, churned out to satisfy other people, but can help you track and develop your thinking.” (pg 219). I think it is a good point to reflect on, thinking about your work can only be helpful and having to write in a clear no nonsense way can be equally liberating and difficult at the same time. In part because one should really be reflecting on what one is doing. I think is can only help a project or artwork, as it enables you to be clear about your intensions. Currently, I am in the process of editing two different projects and clear thinking is important, so I think that writing two different artist statements might be of benefit in helping me to get my thinking clear and also with the editing process.
A word I want to avoid is Explore, The word is so over used, e.g. ‘The artist… is exploring the spacial relationships of the urban context between the protagonists, within their work’. just don’t do it, you are not exploring anything, you are making or creating something artistic, we as photographers are not explorers, so why use the word in an artist statement. This is the one word that I am just plain going to avoid in any writing on my own art/photography. For example I could have said about my work that I am “Exploring the city with my camera, photographing the chance events in the encounters I have, as I document the City of London, using street photography as my approach to making work.” but this does not work, I am still working on how I want to talk about my work.
ArtQuest also have a handy page on their website on Artist Statements with some general things to include and to avoid: www.artquest.org.uk/how-to-articles/artist-statement
Getting Your Sh•t Together has a nice page on artists statements that is also worth having a quick read of: www.gyst-ink.com/artist-statement-guidelines
Williams, G (2014), How to Write about Contemporary Art. Thames & Hudson: London