Instant Connections: A Conversation with Jason Landry
Panopticon is one of Boston’s oldest and most-respected fine art photography galleries. Established in 1971, it was taken over in early 2010 by a sales and marketing businessman turned photo collector and eventually curator, Jason Landry. Thanks to Landry’s belief in fostering connections within the photography community, the gallery is well-known for featuring work from not only established artists but up-and-comers as well.
Landry recently agreed to meet with me to discuss his experiences in the art world as well as his new book, Instant Connections. After years of working in the business world, Landry began to feel disconnected from his work and decided to re-submerge himself in the world of photography as a non-traditional student in his thirties. While Landry had his business degree and working experience at his disposal, he quickly realized that many of the younger students were not as lucky and were headed for some unexpected trouble upon graduation. Like many photography programs, their classes taught how to take and print a photo but hardly touched on the topics of business: selling and marketing your work, social media, etc. Landry saw an opportunity to fill this gap. Through realizing his dream of running his own gallery, he could also help mentor and support new artists.
Building Your Network
According to Landry, there is so much more to being a photographer than the photography itself. Succeeding in the photography industry is about networking and pushing yourself to become even better. “If you want to be a successful fine art photographer, you need to work hard at it every day. You need to make photographs, you need to show people your work, you need to get people talking about your work. You need to then go out and create another series…. There’s a lot of stuff to do.”
In his book Instant Connections, Landry underscores the importance of in-person networking. “Social media is great for some things,” he says, “but it’s not necessarily going to help you when you need to meet so-and-so across the street who runs a gallery.” His book includes quite a few stories about making meaningful connections. While you may have five hundred friends on Facebook, these aren’t necessarily ones that will guarantee your success. Landry continues, “A real, true social network is built when you have someone physically introduce you, where you can form a handshake or have a brief conversation.”
In Landry’s experience, photography events are an ideal place to form lasting connections with both buyers and curators. “A lot of times collectors, when they come to the openings, they somehow build a bond or feel a connection with the artist when they meet them, and that prompts them to want to buy a piece of their art and support their career. I have that happen a lot.” Landry describes good art as something that you just have to feel. He stresses that face-to-face interaction strongly improves your chances of forming that type of emotional bond.
In Instant Connections, Landry explains his idea of creating an “art family.” Finding and creating a dedicated network of mentors will help encourage and motivate you and also help connect you to others. Meeting just one person could make your network branch out to many different people who will become part of your personal photography community.
Building Your Brand
Landry also believes in the importance of building your brand. He recognizes that many beginning photographers have to juggle multiple jobs at once to make it in the photography world, including taking on gigs outside of fine art photography. Landry does recommend, however, that it can be beneficial to distinguish between your fine art photography (or whatever genre is your specialty) and the work you’re doing for money. For example, if you shoot weddings but your real passion is fine art photography, Landry encourages you to have separate websites for each, with the wedding work not listed under your name, but rather as something more generic, such as “LuxuriousWeddings.com.” That way, when someone looks up your name, your fine art work comes up first and is differentiated from your wedding work that pays the bills.
- Don’t rely on social media alone to network. In-person connections are more meaningful and longer lasting.
- Develop your core “Top 5” mentors. These mentors will broaden your network, connecting you to even more people.
- Be strategic about your branding. If you want to be seen as a fine art photographer, don’t confuse your brand with your commercial work.
Full of stories, insight, and ideas, Instant Connections was written to help budding artists accelerate their careers and navigate the world of fine art photography. Landry’s anecdotal, easy-to-read writing will encourage the next generation of photographers to understand the basics of building a successful photography career. Covering everything from portfolio review events, art fairs, and auctions to the how-to and value of networking, this book is a must-read for aspiring artists.
Instant Connections is available on Amazon.com
Jason Landry is a writer, photography collector, and owner of Panopticon Gallery in Boston, MA. Landry earned his BFA in Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MFA in Visual Arts from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. He is the Director of the MFA in Photography program at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and blogs for the Huffington Post.
Follow Jason Landry on Twitter @lanrod