Hi everyone, something a little bit different for the biz column today. Osheen Harruthoonyan is an incredible Canadian-based photographer, who produces all his black and white photos with painstaking traditional film techniques. He’s an artist first (rather than a retailer) but of course any creative needs to wrap their head around the business stuff too, which is an ongoing learning process for all of us.
As well as sharing his stunning photos with us, Osheen has lots of helpful advice about how to turn your passion into a living. I hope you all love his artwork as much as I do! However much I enjoy digital, instagram and snapping away on my iPhone, it’s wonderful to be reminded of true old school techniques, and to see what a real artist can do with photography.
What led you to start your own business?
I have a very specific aesthetic and process, and I wanted to be able to work for myself in order to keep doing what I love.
Working for other people not only took away time from focusing on my artistic endeavours, but encroached on my creative space as well. At one point it just made sense to dedicate myself full time to photographic work. With the right project, I still collaborate with other companies and organizations, but I now have a certain amount of creative control in all my projects.
I love what I do! Every day I am discovering something new, and it fuels my excitement to continue. Being a self-employed artist, I have the freedom to explore, and I am constantly feeding my curiosity by feasting on new information, art, and ideas.
What has been most difficult?
The most difficult aspect has been educating people about how I work, and my photographic processes. I have to let my customers, designers and art collectors know exactly what they’re buying in terms of medium and quality.
I work exclusively with large format black and white film and print in a traditional wet darkroom. All of my photographs are hand manipulated, and some of the chemicals have to be custom made.
From photography, processing, manipulation, printing, toning, and finally finishing and framing, a single image can take months to make! But I think these standards are so important, as a properly split toned silver print will last over a hundred years.
How do you get your work seen by customers or retailers?
I make sure my work is show in exhibitions at galleries and museums. But blogs, press, word of mouth and particularly social media have all been important too.
Any tips/advice to people starting out?
Have fun doing it, follow your instinct, and embrace those happy accidents! My most successful projects have always been when I went with instinct.
Also work to streamline the administrative part of running a business. This can take up a lot of your time, so it’s important to stay on track and be organized as well, in order to free up time to produce your best creative work.
What has been most successful about the business?
The long-term relationships I’ve been able to build with customers, art collectors and designers, some of whom are good friends now.
I’m also very proud of the fact that customers look at my work as a long-term art investment. My prints have a reputation for being of a certain quality. I print on silver gelatin, to really high standards, to make sure what you have hanging on your wall will last a long time. And since all pieces are hand processed in the darkroom, they are each varied and one of a kind.
My clients know they have unique pieces that can be kept and passed down to future generations. I would consider that a really important success.