How to build a career?

I read the article ‘How to build a career’ featuring insight from, Alec Soth, Poulomi Basu, Justine Kurland and Jess T. Dugan, and written by Gem Fletcher. (

It began by acknowledging that the gap between emerging talent and world-renowned artists is often unspoken about, which, as of recent I have found true. It mentioned how daunting it can feel for a graduating or early career artist once institutional support is no longer there. When Dugan graduated they did a lot of freelance and part time work, trying to ‘meet everyone and learn everything.’ Working in museums and commercial galleries gave them insight into the kind of work these institutions were looking for. They noted that building a career is a long game and success in the arts is a hard thing to measure because financial and artistic success are often very different.

Poulomi Basu said ‘Success is not about talent. It’s really about putting yourself out there.’ She said her deep self-belief and powerful vision was critical to her survival against institutionalised racism and gender bias. She had to constantly break out of being put in boxes for the type of artist and work she made.

Alex Sloth said the internet was an important platform for getting his work out there, especially as a shyer person. Like Dugan he also found solace in working in museums as opposed to assisting commercial photographers, which he feared would kill his passion. He faced a lot of rejection as an emerging, no-name artist but advised not to take it personally because lots of factors are at play.

The article spoke about how an artist is not successful because they are a singular genius, but because the arts community lifts them up, and we all participate in that. This was illustrated in the example of student tuition fees, which fund the wages of mid-career artists. We are all participating in the proliferation of photography in the world.

The article concluded itself with Basu talking about choosing an art life, a life that navigates vulnerabilities, motivations, happenstance, systemic inequalities, privilege and mental health, it’s not about a profession, it’s about a creative path.

I found this article very informative and reassuring. It’s helping to reframe misconceptions I have about what a successful photographic career looks like. I feel like the idea of success may not be so applicable to a creative career, so much as the words challenging, stimulating and self-satisfying. I think what Basu said may be true, that it’s about choosing an art life, which isn’t a safe or easy life, but the journey could be fulfilling in its own way. Being intimidated by a career in the arts is very rational, it’s my choice now to either persevere through the instability or seek something more stable, perhaps there are moments in my working life for both.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *