Mary Virginia SwansonThe Long Term Personal Project: From Concept to Audience with Mary Virginia Swanson

August 8 - 12, 2021 Go back
View of a group of people on a room looking at a photography collection

This retreat will lead participants through the essential steps of thorough research and wise decision-making to create photographic work that is authentic in both its creation and presentation with the strongest possibility of sponsorship, exhibition and publication.

Terms & Conditions
  • Class description
  • Bio
  • Supply List
  • gallery

Class description

When an idea for a project becomes clear and the passion to produce new work overtakes us, artists begin a journey unlike any other. Understanding your desired audience and the impact of your project are critical to achieving the expectations and results you desire.

In this 4 day retreat-style workshop, through a series of visual presentations and classroom discussions, Mary Virginia Swanson will lead participants through the essential steps of thorough research and wise decision-making to create work that is authentic in both its creation and presentation with the strongest possibility of sponsorship, exhibition and publication.

Swanson will bring relevant examples from her personal research library to share with participants, and all participants will be provided a custom-produced booklet of current resources relevant to this topic.


  • Developing project concept and deFining audience.
  • Identifying / establishing relationships with sponsors, collaborators and venues.
  • Researching / testing production materials appropriate to desired audience.
  • Defining marketing strategies to share work in production with industry professionals.
  • Expand presence to print, web and social media platforms through which to share the project content.

Swanson will discuss each of these touch points in detail during her daily lectures, providing a broader understanding of appropriate collaborators, audience, venues and publishers for their work.

She will discuss participant’s current projects in individualized sessions.

Project discussions and related dialogue on the photography industry, changing markets and more will extend into meal times during this immersive educational experience.

Photographers who are at the beginning, middle or nearing completion of a photography project that they hope to share with a larger audience in fine print, exhibition or publication format.

Course enrollment is limited to 9 students, allowing for more focused time with the instructor.


Mary Virginia Swanson is an educator, author, advisor and entrepreneur who guides and assists artists to find the strengths in their work, identify appropriate audiences, and present their work in a professional, informed manner. Her public lectures and workshops on marketing opportunities have proven to aid photographers in moving their careers to the next level.

A native of Minnesota, Ms. Swanson interned then then served as Research Assistant in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Department of Photography, working with founding curator Carroll T. “Ted” Hartwell while completing her MFA at Arizona State University. Upon graduation, she embarked on a career that began in the NY gallery scene. She moved west to Ansel Adams and the Friends of Photography before returning east to head Special Projects for Magnum Photo and later managed licensing rights for fine art photographers. Her experiences in the fine art, editorial, commercial and licensing arenas bring a unique knowledge and range of perspectives on making and marketing art.

Ms. Swanson coauthored with Darius Himes Publish Your Photography Book (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011, updated and revised 2014). Her forthcoming title Finding Your Audience: An Introduction to Marketing Your Photographs is in the final phases of research and nearing completion (anticipated 2020).

Swanson has contributed articles in numerous publications, including Photo District News, British Journal of Photography and the compilation The Education of a Photographer. She frequently serves as a Judge on contemporary photography and photobook competitions, visits academic programs to work with emerging artists and offers continuing educational opportunities for those deep in their creative practice. Ms. Swanson counts among her consulting clients internationally known artists and respected arts organizations. She is based in Tucson, Arizona and New York City.

Contact: Website: Follow: Instagram

Supply List

$45 supply fee due to instructor upon arrival

Participants should bring with them a selection of images from their project for review in small scale (commercially printed, 'drugstore' prints are fine for editing purposes). Should you wish to bring a small selection of fine prints, Ms. Swanson is happy to look at those as well but does not encourage investing in printing, or shipping large prints to WRR - neither are requirements for participation.

While you are encouraged to bring your cameras to this beautiful location, know that there will not be shooting assignments during this workshop.