Source Photos

Is it a good idea to share source photos behind your artwork, or is it better to keep them secreted away?

There’s a good case for showing them with works in progress.  A reference photo is part of your process; if you’re sharing your process, then reference photos are one piece of what you’re trying to share.  For finished works, the reference photo serves up a sort of  before-and-after comparison:  “Look!  Here’s what I started with and here’s where I took it.”  It gives the viewer something else to relate to, another level on which to understand your art and your intentions.  People are often curious about where and how the artist finds inspiration.

On the other hand, the risk in showing a source photo is that it invites comparisons that might not be pleasant.  For instance, when attempting a portrait you might create a very pleasing painting that looks nothing like the model.  No one will ever know unless you show them the reference photo, but once you do it invites comparison.  Even if you weren’t trying to recreate an exact likeness (perhaps your style is abstract) that’s all some people will comment on.  We won’t even discuss comments that indicate they don’t think your work is as good as the photo.

So it’s a risk — worth it or not?  What do you think?

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