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When you’re trying to break onto the scene as an up a coming photographer it can be difficult and frustrating to get a gallery to show your work. You may not know what steps to take to increase your chances of a gallery owner taking your portfolio seriously, and, often times more importantly, what shouldn’t you do.

Most photographers in Chicago will send their carefully prepared portfolios to many different galleries and simply hope for the best. You may get lucky and find a gallery to show your art but for most, it doesn’t work well.

Bucktown Gallery’s Top Tips on What Not to do

We receive between half a dozen and a dozen portfolios each week, and keep in mind we’re a boutique gallery. Imagine how many portfolios some of the larger galleries receive each week. We don’t always have time to look at portfolios and sometimes several weeks worth will pile up before there is an opportunity to look them through. The busier we are the less time we can dedicate to looking through each portfolio. We’d love to give each artist’s portfolio our full attentive, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

We’re all taught that part of being professional is following up, but we wouldn’t recommend calling more than once. Your best bet is to wait a week or so from the day you mail your portfolio out and call simply to confirm we received it. It’s important you don’t come across as pushy or it may negatively affect things when your portfolio gets looked at.

Tips to Get a Gallery to Look at Your Portfolio

Your best bet to get a gallery to thoroughly and quickly view your portfolio is for you to have someone the gallery respects and works with to refer your work. A strong referral will give you the inside track to getting your portfolio viewed. Generally, when an artist we show or a client who buys art from us refer an artist, we look at that portfolio right when it comes in.

So what does this mean for you the struggling artist? Figure out what art galleries in Chicago you have an inside track for and cultivate those relationships. Ask your friend if they’ll drop your name, introduce you during their show, or help you show off your portfolio in some other way.

Before you even ask your friend to refer you to a gallery you’ll need to do your due diligence. Make sure the gallery shows your medium and style of art, is reputable, and the art they show matches your level of skill. There simply is no point in sending your portfolio to a gallery that doesn’t show photography, no matter how much of an inside track you have.

Now, if the gallery your friend referred you to declines to show your work, ask them if they know of any galleries they’d recommend for your work.

Submit Your Portfolio to Bucktown Gallery

If you don’t have an inside track on any galleries, you can still try sending in unsolicited portfolios, especially to us at Bucktown Gallery. We do our best to look at each and every portfolio thoroughly and love working with both newcomers and up and coming artists.