A question I am constantly asking myself (besides “Why don’t I keep a nail file at the gallery?” and “Where do all the pacifiers go?”) is this – as a gallery, do I dig deep and work to get into the life pulse of the local, Atlanta art scene? Or do I build my brand online and work for sales from the greater photographic community on the web?
The obvious answer is to do both, but there is a conflict there and a feeling that going for one is a slight to the other. As an Atlantan who cares about the arts and the arts community, I opened the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery to contribute something I felt was missing – a photography gallery that focuses on emerging talent, that educates an up-and-coming collector base, and that is warm, open and vibrant. But to really be impactful, the gallery needs to have a voice that is heard. And to have a voice, it seems there are an inordinate number of ways you have to prove yourself, people you have to meet, press you have to court. I do not feel bitter about this, it is just the way it is. But it can seem like a lot of tap dancing. If we are consistently showing solid work, interesting work, the community should embrace it, no?
This isn’t to say we have not had local support. We have enthusiastic patrons. But there are many photography lovers who have not stepped foot in the gallery these past two years. Boo. Photography collectors should, in my opinion, do their part to cultivate Atlanta’s photographic community – buy local. Or at the very least view local, support local.
Then we have the online photographic community. They are enthusiastic, voracious even. It is wonderfully exciting to add to the wealth of photographic talent online. And it is easy to look at photography online and feel comfortable enough to make a purchasing decision. There are also endless collectors out there to reach, whereas locally it feels like everyone is fishing out of the same pond. But is courting an online collector base taking away my focus from my local community? Or is there room for everyone?
I’m not sure there is a clear-cut answer. And I don’t know if this is a situation unique to Atlanta. We had an amazing opening on Saturday night. The gallery was absolutely packed from start to finish. People were excited, interested, impressed. It was a wonderful way to start the year, and I hope the enthusiasm continues. But if the bodies aren’t there for the next show, at least the online eyes will be.