Last week I was awarded a grant to produce Street Ink, my book of Southwestern street art photographs. (Pause here for a big thank you to my online employer, Demand Studios, for selecting my project in their December grant cycle.)
I've also been studying SEO and keyword strategies. Keyword research shows what terms people use most frequently in web searches; optimizing your site and your products for these keywords improves the chances you'll be found. I've been exploring the keywords related to digital photography. Most frequent searches, according to Google's keyword tools, pertain to digital photography how to, creative photography and photography courses. My searches for terms related to street photography, urban photography of various kinds (landscape, dereliction, exploration), documentary photography and photo essays returned almost nothing. Pretty dismal news for those of us dedicated to "visual writing" as photographer Mick Buston calls it, or photo stories.
In an email the other day, Mick observed that not everybody "gets it" about the power of photographs to tell stories. He's talked for a while about what it means to be "nicheless," doing work that doesn't seem to fit the usual categories. His self-directed photo story projects are dedicated to creating a niche for himself. I'm trying to become "niched" myself, with photography that's part street art, part documentary, and part urban decay.
Creative people are always pioneers, and of course that's how niches are born -- someone does a particular kind of work, others cluster to it, and a new genre comes forth -- a new way to categorize artists and the art they make. But the conundrum remains: in an era of niche marketing, how to get innovative work noticed, when it doesn't fit the usual categories? How to guide searchers to those new photographic visions?
Maybe one way is to create new communities, new ways to share and showcase the photographs and the stories they tell. Many sites, like Flickr, have groups and galleries for specific types of photography and there are a number of sites dedicated to a single photographic genre, such as Urban Art. But the visual writers? Perhaps it's time for a new niche --at least one that's easily searchable.