#410. Building a brand as a photographer

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Oct 05

Look carefully. Would you buy a print of this photograph ?

A painter completes a portrait in the streets of Marseilles. SOny A7rII & Zeiss OTUS 85

Armed to life

Some readers will love it, others will hate it. As a whole, though, I expect some uninvolved mental “Yes” to be going on.

“Would you pay 300€ for a 20″ piezzo print?” is getting more concrete and, with a bit of marketing, would maybe happen. (leave a comment, if interested, I’ll contact you privately)

Would you pay 5,000€ for it? Anyone? As surprised and honoured as I’d be, don’t! That sort of money changes your emotional purchase into an investment. You’re no longer buying a visually pleasing object, you’re buying a brand and betting money on a financial outcome somewhere in the future (or starting a collection the wrong way: this is the correct way).

Look up resale values for work by Pascal Jappy on auction websites. There are none. Pascal Jappy isn’t a photography brand, Pascal Jappy isn’t building a brand as a photographer. Although, he is speaking about himself at the third person, which is a great start. Next, he will install his most provocative work in public spaces and wait for vandalism to invite tv coverage (any resemblance to actual events …). Then you can buy that photograph for 5,000€, or any other of dog poop on the street, whether you find it appealing or not.

Cynicism aside, one thing you can strive for to build your own brand as a photographer is consistency.


Antonioni was here

Consistency of style and consistency of meaning.

Style first. Check out my previous post in the streets of Le Panier, in Marseilles. Colour, black & white, high contrast, low contrast. It’s the same on this page. Here are more photographs from that afternoon in Marseilles. And whereas the first draws on a sellable mix of Elliot Erwitt and Dario Moriyama, the second is vaguely consistent, the third maybe and it’s all “downhill” from there on.


BAC Mono

DearSusan is all about sharing a passion and showing the various types of photographs possible in a specific place. We try to be exhaustive and, since even that goes through our own selective filters, there are several of us writing, with different gear, different interests …

If we wanted to build brands as photographers we’d need to be a lot more selective and show only the stuff that contributes to the desired image rather than share all that can be helpful to others. The top 3 are the closest to my personal preference and all my articles should only show that sort of work.


Sleepwalking octopod

Not all subjects lend themselves to the high-contrast B&W treatment. Artists with strong visual signatures simply do not photograph (ar, at least, share) subjects that do not match their look.

Which dovetails nicely into meaning.


Bye Bye

Famous artists work on long-term subjects. Think Cindy Sherman’s clowns, Erwitt’s ironic eye, Salgado’s social and, more recently, environmental involvement …

Over here on DS, we do try to keep a modicum of a common thread to our posts and photographs. It’s all about showing what a location feels like and although these streets in Marseilles have little in common with those in Holbrook, the idea in both posts is very similar.

Four Corners

Four Corners

That doesn’t make us artists. Not in the collectible sense, anyway. There is no agenda behind our work, no revelation, no testimony, little interpretation …


Baby grows, computer shrinks (thank you Philippe)

This doesn’t mean there isn’t an artist lurking beneath the surface, but that’s not what DS is meant to be all about.

However, I do encourage every photographer to try and understand the hidden meaning that drives her/him. Styles are easy to find. So easy, in fact, that they can come and go as quickly as Instagram releases new settings. The beauty of digital photographs is that they are so easy to reinterpret later if a change of style has befallen us.

Finding meaning, on the other hand, requires introspection. It’s hard work and frustrating. We don’t always like what we find. But it is the gate to becoming a true artist. One that can bend styles and techniques to serve the deeper meaning. One that can let the judgement of others trickle down the surface like rainwater on Teflon.



This, in itself, is not enough to create a brand. As co-author Philippe explains, a brand is created when a personal style meets a public. Van Gogh has strong style and vision but no public. He became a brand (and one of the most expensive ones) only after his death. Finding and building loyalty with your public has more to do with professional marketing but even as an amateur photographer, the first two steps are highly recommended exercises.

Plenty more about all this very soon …


Post scriptum: the header image is my tongue-in-cheek nod to Uta Barth, one of the very few conceptual artists I truly admire, and her Draw with Light series. So is this final shot (he said, In Passing). Do I hear 12 grand?


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