Ten things I have learned…. by Aline Smithson

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Black and white picture of a bucket full of trophies

Aline Smithson is a visual artist, educator, and editor based in Los Angeles, California.  Best known for her conceptual portraiture and a practice that uses humor and pathos to explore the performative potential of photography.

Aline will be at Wild Rice Retreat teaching Intentional Photography: Creating Personal Projects from Places You Know Best, May 16-20, 2021. You can learn more about Aline by visiting her website or following her on Instagram at @alinesmithson


1. The way to get your work out into the world is through personal connections and those connections are often made at portfolio reviews.

2. Big important venues are looking for big important work….work that takes effort and time and has something to say. Work that makes us think about the world a little differently.

3. Creating quality work is only part of the key to success. ALL that surrounds your work: how you articulate your work, the promotional materials you use to showcase your work, your attitude, your ability to be professional all matter.

4. You have to keep moving forward, whether you feel like it or not. Those who do ONE thing a day to move their work further along, make things happen. Take a class, learn how to be a better printer, work on your statement, apply to something, read, go to a museum, take a photograph. Live a photographic life.

5. Reach out to other photographers. Make friends. Compliment their work. Celebrate this community. It’s filled with amazing people. More has come to me from connections to other photographers than from anywhere else.

6. Cohesive bodies of work and consistent branding reflect a dedication to the craft. Remember it’s your PRINT that is for sale, so make stellar prints. And don’t forget this is a business.

7. There is no “they” in this world. Understand that art is subjective and an individual might not resonate to your kind of work. It doesn’t mean that everyone feels that way. There are LOTS of doors to open that might not say “Photo” on the front of it.

8. See the big picture. Understand what an individual, gallery, or organization is looking for, understand where your work fits in the photographic dialogue.

9. You and your world, the way you think, and the things that interest you are the most unique subjects you can bring to the photography dialogue. Often times, the most powerful work can be created by simply telling your story.

10. Thank everyone you can think of. Know that it’s not all about you. Be grateful and generous. Goodwill counts for a lot.