Interview with Damian Siqueiros, photographer and visual artist
Making Montreal his home now, Mexico-born Damian Siqueiros splashed onto the scene not less than five years ago. Fine and decorative arts, photography, and painting figured prominently in his early training and informs and shapes his work as he continues to create new artworks. His artistic sensibility has also translated into his commercial work, the latest of which are the posters for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens displayed throughout Montreal billboards and metro system.
Winning several grants and prizes such as the Public’s choice Scotia Bank Prize 2010 in Montreal’s Art Souterrain he has exhibited his stunning images in museums and galleries in Mexico, Spain, Paris, New York (The Gabarron Foundation), Washington D.C. (Art Museum of the Americas), and Canada.
I had the occasion to sit down with this creative force and have a conversation about art, photography and the business of setting up his business in Montreal. It was a lovely sunny afternoon when I knocked on his door and he invited me up to his private studio.
One of the first questions I asked was how he established himself in Montreal as a photographer. He tells me how he hit the pavement, approaching Ad agencies and showing his portfolio everywhere. Eventually he got his start doing political portraits. He also submitted artwork to Montreal’s Art Souterrain festival and received public recognition. He continuously works on his art. “The artistic work, that’s my calling. I like to create images that speak to people and in some way challenge their view of the world.” Having just returned from Los Angeles, he did just that with his exposition at the annual photography fair, Photo Independent.
What was becoming apparent was the two worlds in which Damian Siqueiros is driving his career. Our conversation turned toward the different perspective that photography as art has versus photography for commercial clients. “You’d be surprised at how differently they work; in terms of the perception of the work, how you get clients, what the clients need or want.” He summed it up like this, “If you’re working in commercial work, clients need versatility whereas, in artistic work people look for coherence and a recognizable look”.
The approach is different too. With art you can allow yourself to explore the subject as the work is an artistic expression. “Being an artist is exercise in patience.” he says. Artists make their mark later in life with their life experience, their exhibitions and body of work building in value. As with other industries in this internet age, there seems to be a shift in the way art is sold. Artists are able to connect directly with their clients in many ways. As such, “Artists need to be more proactive selling their work to clients.”
With commercial photography you earn money right away. Having budgets, commercial clients need assurance of what the final image will look like. As a photographer you must present a complete concept, with sketches and reference material that the client can approve, then you produce the expected results. Working as a commercial photographer is about offering a service to the client. At times you may work with difficult people and you have to find a way to work together professionally and get the job done. Some jobs may not be glamorous, therefore it’s up to you to make it interesting by approaching each job as a creative challenge.
In getting new clients it helps to have an agent. Damian met his agent in a series of coincidences and the story confirms that somehow certain people come into our lives just when we need them. Nevertheless marketing still takes up a good part of each day whether connecting with new or existing clients.
As always, my final question is, ” What three most important things would you say to a new photographer starting their business?”
1) Don’t wait until your studies are finished to start to promote yourself. It’ll be a smoother transition by starting in some small way to get your name out there.
2) Select your best images for your portfolio, create a website, a photostream or somewhere where people can see your images. It’s important to have your promotional material (portfolio, website, business cards) ready so people can see your work.
3) Be true to yourself, maintain your integrity and act with kindness. Success is not a measure given by others or even what you think your life should look like. This ego driven idea of self is actually a constraint on your happiness. “Once you define yourself, you are putting yourself between your evolution and your goals and what you think you are. If you let go of that you have much more space to grow in different ways.”
His ongoing show is in Hollywood. Just a hop-skip-and-plane-ride away.
To find out more or connect with Damian Siqueiros