Artist Statement and Bios
for Kathy Harms Photography
Not every photographer I work with is a wedding photographer! Kathy Harms is a New Westminster based artist who photographs beautiful landscapes, nature-inspired images and calming street scenes in her local neighbourhood. And she does it all with quietness and serenity. Her photographs are really quite breathtaking. Kathy first got in touch with me because she was looking for a solid artist statement and bios that she could use on multiple platforms and for any exhibits or competitions she was taking part in.
For the last few years I have been struggling to find the words to describe my photography, and what I can offer through photography. Perhaps a bit of imposter syndrome at play.
When Kathy first emailed me, she mentioned a tag line that she was using: ‘Seeing the world more slowly’. I quickly came to learn that this really did summarise how Kathy worked, how she saw the world and how she wanted to convey that in her photographs.
I always find it interesting when people say they struggle to write about themselves and yet, through questioning and discussion, it turns out they already have the basis of their words or a sense of what they want to say. It’s just that sometimes they need an outside perspective to pick up on it and hone it a little more for them.
Falling Back on Qualifications
A common worry of my clients is that the words they have written before come across as sounding a bit cheesy or too salesy and icky. Believe me when I say that’s a totally natural feeling.
Kathy certainly felt this when sharing her existing bios with me. She worried that anything she said about herself would sound cheesy and, because of that, she’d gone down the route many people go down when they’re afraid of talking about themselves. She listed off her achievements, awards and qualifications instead.
I see this a lot. It’s incredibly hard to talk ourselves without sounds arrogant or boastful and so, instead, it becomes easier to rattle off some facts and figures.
Now, I’m all for listing your achievements. But that shouldn’t be the whole story. Because, as you know, I believe people want to get to know the person behind those achievements. They don’t just want to know what you got, they want to know why you do what you do and how you do it too.
“Seeing the world more slowly”
That’s Where I Come In
Honestly, when writing about yourself feels kinda gross, the best thing you can do is fall back on getting someone else to write for you. For one thing, they’ll say all the things about you that you struggle to say yourself.
And a professional will know just how to structure your words so that you don’t sound completely big-headed and stuck up your own bottom!
Writing bios about someone I don’t really know becomes a process of getting to the know person. So I sent a list of questions to Kathy in the first instance, for her to spend some time thinking about and answering.
Kathy did a wonderful job of taking the time to think over the questions I gave her. Then, when she sent me her responses, I moved to the next stage of the process, which was to organise a meeting with her.
The Deep Dive
That first meeting I have with my clients is the project kick-off point. It’s typically around an hour, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how thoroughly my clients fill out their questionnaires. Meetings usually happen over Zoom. I’m a true millennial and really hate the phone, friends! But there’s something much more palatable to me about a video chat. Yes, even as an introvert!
The thing is, it’s nice to be able to see your face when I’m asking some more probing and personal questions about you. And for you to see a friendly face when you’re being asked those questions. Not because the questions I ask are typically scary, I should add. But I find if people can see me, they trust me more which means they open up to me more. And that’s normally when they share some wonderful little tidbits with me that immediately get me thinking about the words I’m going to write for them. Some of those tidbits may even appear in their copy!
I really enjoyed the exploratory conversation. That was as beneficial for me as it was for you to unearth the information you needed to write the copy. It was a very valuable experience.
Art Is Personal
When it came to writing Kathy’s artist statement and bios, I really felt it was important to dig beneath the service and bring a personal element to her words. Art is, ultimately, personal. We put pieces of ourselves into the art we create and this really shone through in Kathy’s work, but not so much her words.
I chose to include some personal elements in the introduction of her artist statement so that people could get to know the artist behind the work.
I then went on to share more of Kathy’s WHY as I feel this is an important element in understanding what someone’s art is all about:
The Final Project
After the deep dive meeting, which was a lovely afternoon at Harrison Hot Springs when face-to-face meetings were still possible, I created a full artist statement, along with three mini-bios for Kathy. The bios included a shorter, formal piece, another short piece that was written informally, and a final short bio suitable for use on social media.
Being able to get to know Kathy, as both an artist and a person, I can safely say every word I wrote about her I completely meant. And I think it’s this which helps the words she now shares about herself to feel easy to put out there and certainly less cheesy!
A final word from Kathy:
I thought I just needed a nice summary of my photography to add to my “About” page on various platforms. Through the insightful and probing questions Sarah put to me as she worked to discover what she needed to write those words, I made discoveries about my work and my motivations that both surprised and motivated me. I highly recommend working with Sarah if you are struggling to find just the right words to describe your business, your purpose, and what you bring to the world!