Writing a Photographer's Bio

Shooting from the dunes of Sossusvlei

I wrote my first biography/artistic statement about a year after taking up photography. It was for my first exhibited work. Anyone who has a website, photography published or exhibited will likely have had to pen one of these. It was a real struggle the first time I wrote mine. Should it be in first or third person? Do I list everything I’ve ever had published or been awarded? Or is that tooting my own horn too loudly? Some people avoid talking about personal achievement altogether, preferring to discuss their inspiration, what moves them or key events that lead them into the world of photography – the words of Patrick di Fruscia and Michael Anderson come to mind.

Why is this on my mind? I’ve had to do three bios over the last couple of months, and I can’t say that it’s my favourite pastime. Just today I’ve uploaded the latest incarnation onto the new Timecatcher blog. My approach is rather vanilla flavoured : a brief statement about how I got into photography, what inspires me and a selected listing of some achievements. I prefer to avoid making flowery descriptions of my own work and style as that should be left to the viewer. Chest-beating biographies also leave me with a negative impression. One of the best examples I’ve seen is : “He is often described as the most important landscape photographer alive—a distinction the artist sidesteps earnestly, detached from such conventions.”

The best thing about getting all this practice, tiptoeing the tightrope between modesty and shameless self-aggrandizing, is that it becomes easier each time. Perhaps that may have something to do with the shrinking length of my biography every time it is re-written. I think Darwin Wiggett has perfected the art of the compact bio to a T. Something that I have observed is that the more accomplished the photographer, the less they say about themselves. Perhaps the ultimate goal would be to be able to leave a bio blank, similar to those movie stars who have uncredited cameos.

“I could give you a giant bio and artist statement but who really cares? The short version is this : I love to take photos and have been doing so for nearly 25 years – it is a great job and a wonderful lifestyle. So far it is the best work I have come across for my personality (unless I figure out how to get paid to eat pizza and drink beer). Cheers, Darwin.”

If you have any suggestions for writing the perfect bio, I would love to hear it. Feel free to drop your ideas along the way.

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18 Responses to Writing a Photographer's Bio

  1. Chris Gin says:

    Wow, that quote from XX’s bio is pretty OTT! I don’t think I’ve seen that type of praise before. I’ve seen people described at the “best” in their field maybe, but “most important alive”??? Maybe his mum wrote that, who knows.

    Anyway good luck with the bio, wish I had some advice…

  2. jackvjohnson says:

    I thought you were quoting my bio, but then I discovered that PL uses the same line! What a small world!
    ;^D

    Good luck with your bio!

    Humbly yours,

    – Jack

  3. I like to keep my bio short & sweet. I credit my wife, daughters, & dog in 1/2 of it. I think that my images speak for themselves.

  4. Greg Russell says:

    Here’s one of my favorites, from one of my favorite photographers:

    http://tonykuyper.wordpress.com/about/

    Short, sweet, to the point.

    I do need to rewrite my own, but like you, I dread it. Thanks for the insight, Kah Kit.

    Cheers,
    Greg

  5. André says:

    Kah Kit, I recently had to write one for an exhibition that I currently have on. I found these documents from the Emily Carr Universite of Art + Design useful:

    http://blogs.eciad.ca/wc/handouts/writing-an-artists-statement/
    http://blogs.eciad.ca/wc/all-posts/examples-of-artists-statements/

  6. Sylvia says:

    Writing my bio actually delayed the launch of my website by months! I struggled with it more than I did writing cover letters for 9-5 jobs. It still doesn’t really say anything; we’ll see how long it takes before either inspiration or frustration strikes.

  7. Jim Cochrane says:

    Where is Darwin Wiggett? I looked forward to his photos on here.

    • kahkityoong says:

      Jim, Darwin’s photos will be on the Timecatcher website. It’s only just been launched so the team members are just getting themselves set up.

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  10. Excellent cet article ! Merci bcp ^^
    J’aime tomber sur ce type blog ! Je vous ajoutes à mes Favoris!

    Bonne continuation et à bientot !

    Facebook : http://goo.gl/Makbv
    My website: steeveaukingso.fr

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  12. SMGallman says:

    I cheated. I used a q & a for my “bio” on my website because I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about myself. Now I have to write one for my first exhibition and I need short and sweet. Thanks for the tips.

  13. Tiffany says:

    Thank you for the advice. Im not writting a bio for anything special like most of you but I have to write one for my Problem Solving class. It’s due in two weeks!!! blah. Any more advice or references would be great! Oh and I have to some how spin it into why photography is limited in the graphic design world. HELP

    Thank you very much

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