Artist Statements for photography

An artist statement should address or include the following:

  • A poetic interpretation of your work, supporting the conceptual and visual connections in your work.
  • Self awareness of how other artists or sources have inspired or influenced you to make your work.
  • A brief discussion about why you are making the work

Avoid writing a statement that simply describes how the work has been made or offers a written explanation of the visual strategies employed in making the work.  If you are not sure whether you are being too literal in your statement, consider the following guide;

  • If a viewer can see it in the image, don’t describe it in your statement

A poetic interpretation of your work

This is an important part of any statement as it supports the ideas and concepts in the work.  Sometimes you may feel the need to explain why certain aspects of your work is important to you, or why you choose a particular theme, or you may want to articulate something about the background of your ideas.

For me, the American West is the place where things fall apart.  When I was a boy, I got to know it via films, Westerns and adventure stories by German writer Karl May.  Whenever I imagined the West, I saw incredible country that had only just been conquered, in a fairly recent past, the 19th century.  When I went there, I thought that because I had been present when the West was won, so it speak, civilization must be established there.  But it wasn’t at all: civilization simply passed through…
Wenders, W. (1987) Written in the West. Schirmer Art Books, pg. 11.

A poetic interpretation can also consider how you want to support the way people experience your work.

Self awareness and inspiration

An artist statement submitted for assessment should also articulate and provide evidence of your influences and sources, and how they have helped shape or inform the ideas in your work.  Simply adding a quote, or including a long list of books in a bibliography is not enough.  If you quote another source, you must form a discussion around the content of the quote.


Perhaps the easiest way to address an artist statement is to start with why.  Why are you making this work, why are you choosing, above all other things, to photograph the thing you are photographing?  Answering this question in the statement will begin to help you formulate ideas for the statement.

Some examples and links

Sample Statements from Photography Speaks: 150 Photographers on their art
Johnson, B. (2004) Photography Speaks: 150 Photographers on their art. Norfolk, Va. Aperture Foundation / The Chrysler Museum.