PetaPixel

Eyeballs and Fine Art: Tyler Shields’ Take on Standing Out as a Photographer

Tyler Shields has led a very successful career — both as a photographer and previously as a skater — and in his talk at Luminance 2012 he spent some time explaining how he differentiates himself in an increasingly photographed world.

Specifically, he spends time explaining that there is photography that gets you “eyeballs” (viewers and attention for your work) and photography that gets you paid. (Warning: The video includes some strong language and a few potentially offensive PG-13 photos.)

For him, the photos that fall into the “eyeballs” category all seem to be controversial in nature: Glee starlet Heather Morris with a black eye, or actors dressed up as police officers being sprayed with real pepper spray. These photos don’t sell to collectors, they garner attention. It’s that attention that then pays off when he creates a fine art print he means to sell.

The photos in the second category are fine art that you would want to hang on your wall, and he’s made quite a successful living as a photographer selling many of those prints. His argument is that you don’t get the sales if you don’t first have the eyeballs — it doesn’t matter how good your work is.

His opinions are interesting if not a bit controversial, which has led to a career full of both fans and ardent detractors, many of whom are photographers. But if you want to get Tyler Shields’ take on making it as a Fine Art photographer (or any type of photographer for that matter), and you happen to have 23 minutes to kill, click play and enjoy.


 
  • Bob

    Must be great to be a rich kid & have mates like Lyndsey Lohan! Cutting a $100 000 bag in half, wow really controversial & the point is? As soon as a so called photographer says ‘Yeah I never look at other peoples work’ liar….nothing new in his work…..next!

  • loveeeeeeee

    Whats funny bob if you knew anything about him he grew up dirt poor his father is handicapped and he started with nothing… So better luck next time!

  • loveeeeeeee

    Way to comment without knowing anything you moron!!!!!!!!!! : )

  • james

    Tyler Shields is the best photographer of all time!

  • james

    GENIUS!

  • h8

    He is the best! HATERS GONNA HATE!

  • yes

    I agree

  • http://www.facebook.com/duke.shin1 Duke Shin

    For yall who are hating and flaming about Shields:

    He’s had exhibitions, he’s got great pictures, and he got an article on Petapixel.

    Complain when you have all three.

  • AW

    Good on him for finding a way to make a living, but his work does nothing for me. A model licking some meat? A mouth vomiting diamonds? Hmm. He has creativity, but I didn’t see much attractiveness or anything technically impressive in his work. It’s like the Lady Gaga of photography. Just try to shock or express weird creativity. Then call it “pushing the boundaries” and that gives it some credibility? Is there anything of positive value or benefit from just pushing boundaries or trying to shock people? Still, I guess it’s art, and it must be liked by some people I guess since they are buying his images.

    Wait a minute, I just had a burst of creativity.. get a cat, stick on some plaster tape, and photograph it jumping in the air to get it off. Wow, I just love pushing the boundaries, it’s such a valuable thing to do. If you aren’t making shocking images like my one of that cat, well you just aren’t going to get eyeballs on your work, now, are you? So that makes you kind of worthless, doesn’t it. Whereas the world is now a better place since it has my model licking meat, sorry, I mean my plaster jumping cat photo.

  • Flexi

    Just do the plaster jumping cat pic then, and share it here.

  • AW

    Why? I don’t want to make that kind of “art”, particularly not for the purpose of trying to sell other photos. What I didn’t like about his presentation was that it could basically be summed up in a couple of sentences: “Yo! Photographers, not selling enough of your work? Here’s my solution – take a bunch of shocking photos, preferably gruesome or racy (p.s. use celebrities if you can), call it a serious body of work since it “pushes the boundaries”, and from that you’ll get notoriety and more exposure so your other photos will sell better. Simple. Just keep a thick skin because some people are gonna hate you, and also, tell yourself you are awesome.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neoracer-Xox/1037144278 Neoracer Xox

    He has the white t-shirt and skinny black jeans thing going on, tortured artist!;))

  • Dave

    Every single statistic he mentioned has been exaggerated. Pure ego.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mjones41 matt jones

    Some of his images are interesting, but he just comes across as such a pompous wanker, I think it’s because he is so defensive. Anyway each to his own.

  • Dave

    So, he can only use actual pepper spray because of his artistic integrity that forces him to make sure everything in the image is real…..but he uses actors as cops being sprayed? He is a phony that is full of himself. And his images are all knocked off from ’70s photographers that pioneered the same look decades ago. He is in the act of trying to illustrate his comments about marketing images, nothing more. At one point he claims 25,000 death threats over on image (RIGHT!, We believe you). A minute later it jumps to 30,000. Is he is counting each one? And then his images are getting 80 MILLION views? Sure Tyler…..sure. You weren’t breastfed as a child, we get it.

  • allie

    So following his method, if I want people to appreciate the art I create, I should also work on creating images that are potentially offensive and demeaning to women (among others), for no other reason that to get more attention for myself?

    It’s okay to sexualize violence against women, as long as it gets me more attention, right?

  • lidocaineus

    No no no. PLEASE stop saying someone can only critique someone’s work after they’ve had any of the same experiences, accolades, or scathing criticisms as the person in question. That doesn’t mean you’ll get some exceedingly idiotic comments, but just because I haven’t had a show at the MOMA doesn’t mean I can’t discuss what I do or do not like.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neoracer-Xox/1037144278 Neoracer Xox

    He’s got a point though, its a NUMBER games. The more people see your work the more chances you have of some wanting to buy. It doesn’t matter if your a Picasso or not

  • johnny

    dont hate the player…

  • Elizabeth

    Bob, Tyler was not a rich kid nor were we poor! He was an only child, very smart and so interested in the whole word. His first camera was a Fisher Price camera when he was 3. Even at that time, I loved to see what he saw. We would ride around for hours in the car for fun, talking about everything. I would always tell him that people look but they do not really see everything going on around them. I have to say he really took that one to heart. He has worked very hard and did not have famous friends when he first started to help him out. They ended up coming to him. That kid, has managed to walk into a town that eats people up, and make a name and career for himself. Do not assume that he is lying about not looking at other people work. He does not unless it is a close friend! He is always and always has been going 90miles and hour, haha, he doesn’t have much free time. But what I can tell you is he really loves what he does and maybe one day everyone will know what was really going on his head when he did and why some things. The real reasons are amazing! So. I ask you Bob now to look at his work in a different way, don’t judge him as a person. Just enjoy him as a photographer! thank you. I am sorry to go on but I just think you assumed something that a lot of people do. You couldn’t be more wrong. Promise!

  • Elizabeth

    So, you are running your mouth that dirt poor people or handicapped people are funny???? First off, Loveeeeeeeeeee, he did not grow up poor and his father had a massive stroke when Tyler was 15. He isn’t sitting on his bum, talking trash, he is out working. And I mean literally out working, instead of complaining on a computer. Shame on you loveeeeeee, You win for the trashiest remark yet. Better luck next time? he is doing just fine this time!

  • Dave

    Is ‘james’ your screen name Tyler?

  • Dave

    Nice comment Mrs. Taylor, you’re a good Mom.

  • Elizabeth

    Dave who is Mrs Taylor or where you talking about a comment! Tyler wouldn’t comment on anything about himself unless he put his name on it? I like your comment though, most people really do not get what he does!

  • Dave

    I do. He lies. He lied in this video.

  • Oskar?

    The guy is a complete idiot. Why do we have to pay attention to him?

  • Oskar?

    What’s so special in that he loves his work? If he is true in that he is not looking to other people look it means he has a lack of visual culture and that is visible in his “work”. Most of his images are no art but kitsch. Selling kitsch is very easy. He might get eight million(!!!) view for an image today, but tomorrow nobody will watch his images and ever know his name.

  • Elizabeth

    Apparently went right over your head! Maybe you need to have your mom teach you about jealousy, you do not wear it well. If it is so easy were is your work? Who are you? You just like so many like to hate!!!!

  • Dave?

    Dave has a serious problem holy smokes! Tyler makes his art and people buy it if you don not like it dont look at or buy it but don’t be jealous of the guy because people care about him and not you…

  • Dave?

    Wow so many mad people in here it’s amazing!

  • Dave?

    Dave I looked at some of you’re comments, Are you okay? Do you need help?

  • Paul

    What a try hard loser. Eyeballs? No wonder you need to shock people to get to look your work – This work is so cheap looking, poorly composed, badly lit, all the people look awkward and stiff. It’s just amateurish junk of the worst kind. Good work doesn’t need to shock to get noticed.

  • jkantor267

    He should try taking a picture while jumping off a ten-story building. That would get him eyeballs. And the splat at the bottom would be his most artistic work yet.

  • jkantor267

    God**m he’s cool! He wears a T-shirt to give a presentation! (And a cheap, wrinkled T-shirt at that.)

  • Paul

    Some people take cheap photos to get eyeballs. Artists make art because they are artists and could car less about eyeballs or assholes.