As a “vendor” at art fairs, I often have a chance to meet a variety of people and discuss a lot of topics outside of the photos I exhibit. I have reflected back on the past few shows and crafted this fun list of typical people that visit.
The “Skipping Stone”
They wander in to your tent with a distracted, glassy look in their eyes, passing quickly through, saying nothing. Their eyes quickly scan the walls and then they dash out of the tent much like a rock skipping off the surface of a pond. If you say “Hello”, they sometimes react with a bug-eyed look as if an unwritten “I’m browsing, don’t bother me” rule has been violated.
The “Social Hour”
They like to look at art work but they like to converse even more. You’ll be treated to stories ranging from a recent medical procedure, a complete family history or reminiscing about past travels or vehicles owned. These people are important to the art fair scene since they make your day go by so much faster. Sometimes you need to pull them outside the tent so others can look while they talk. Make sure your art is tied down well. They sometimes use big hand and arm gestures while talking.
The “Real Photographer”
You do photography, but they really do photography. They’ll tell you about everything they do, how they do it and what equipment they do it with. If they went to college to be a Photographer, they’ll make sure you know it. Somewhere in the conversation, they’ll almost always say “A lot of people think they are photographers these days...” which always comes off as pretentious since when they say this, their nose gets slightly elevated. Characteristically, they aren’t even exhibiting their work at the show.
The “Rack Rifler”
These are your potential print purchasers, because they are taking the time to look. The longer they look, the more apt they are to purchase. Sometimes, it pays to walk away from “Mr. Social Hour” so that you can offer some background on a print. When “Rack Rifler” becomes “Print Holder”, it’s generally a very good sign.
The “Print Holder”
They find something in the rack they like and they walk around your tent holding the print, which is basically a physical form of “dibs”. You try to give them space, because you don’t want to spook them. They are like a thoroughbred racing horse, move too fast and they will dash away. You instead opt to look around the outside of the tent and hope that “Impatient Partner” is nowhere near.
The “Impatient Partner”
They typically have a scowl on their face and don’t want to come into your tent. Sometimes they are adorned with a baby stroller and a couple of equally impatient children. They are waiting for their partner to stop “browsing”. “Print Holder” can easily get demotivated by “Impatient Partner” when a print being considered is shown to them. They don’t care; they don’t want to be there! “Can we go now?” The Impatient Partner is often successful in converting a “Rack Rifler” to a “Skipping Stone”
The “Quiet Critic”
This is an alternate “passive” mode of “Real Photographer”. Quiet Critics usually show up in pairs. They initially act like “Rack Riflers”, but their body language is different. They’ll see a print in your rack and they will turn their heads backwards and downwards, to say something quietly between themselves, not wanting you to hear. If you say “Hello” to them, they may either become a “Skipping Stone” or turn into full-fledged “Real Photographer”. Snarky is often the operative description in this case.
The “Price is Not Right”
They like art. They also like Wal-Mart pricing too. They’ll tell you that they can get prints cheaper elsewhere. You let them. Never the twain shall meet.
They aren’t likely to be a buyer but they really want to learn about your work and how you make it. They are always respectful, courteous and inquisitive, hungry for information on how to do better. This is your opportunity to be a positive influence on another artist. These people are great to talk with, especially if “Social Hour” has been in the tent for awhile and its time to change the subject.
He’s the guy exhibiting four tents down who is also selling photographs. They show up at your tent when the show is quiet and say “how’s it going”? You fib about results, they fib too. Nobody ever divulges their numbers, but both know you could always do better. One, or both, is hoping art fair attendees aren’t comparison shopping. Both of you think you should try to do what the other is doing…stealing ideas after all, is the sincerest form of flattery (or so they say). He has a print you like and you have one he likes. Neither of you have the guts to admit it.
One shows up at every exhibit. They live on a different plane of existence…TWA or United perhaps. They stand in the booth and stare at you for really uncomfortably long times without speaking, then shove a smartphone in your face and say “I take pictures too!!!” This is your opportunity to be a kind spirit. You let them show you the pictures and appreciate that they feel it right to share their work with you. They often disappear without notice the way they came.
Seriously, art fairs are great places to meet with others and share a passion for art. Its the variety of people that you meet that makes exhibiting in a show fun.