by Carolyn Edlund
Photography sales are a challenge these days. Not only does everyone with a cell phone believe they are a photographer, but there is a massive amount of competition out there, and many offer similar work.
How do you define yourself in the marketplace, creating a distinctive style that brands what you do and helps you stand out in the masses? Allan Teger has an answer. A former psychology professor, he came up with a concept back in the 1970’s that still produces results for him.
Teger photographs nudes – but that’s just the beginning. His black and white shots imagine the body as landscape (hence the business name Bodyscapes®) with a whimsical twist by using tiny figures and props that build out an entire small world only limited by his imagination.
Typical reactions vary. Some people don’t recognize the body in the photos at first. But as the human landscape dawns on them, it compels them to look further at his work. Others get the inside joke immediately; smiles and laughter are frequent responses. This “secret” element in each of his Bodyscapes® is a draw which means that most people want to see more. And that’s an excellent start.
Secondly, Teger builds on this initial connection to the viewer through a secondary draw, which is themes. His Bodyscapes® sometimes feature golfers – or skiers, surfers, boaters, mountain climbers, etc. Sports lovers have a compelling reason to buy those images that most relate to them. Other photographs offer surreal themes, exotic locations, animals or other elements to delight the customer.
This unique spin on photography that uses the nude human body, whimsy and themes is a strong pull for the customer, and has served Allan Teger well for over 40 years. To date, no one has really copied his style, he says, because it is so recognizable as his own.
Although he experimented with color photography, he has decided that black and white best suits his work. And he has been very deliberate about what he does, and the “look” of his portfolio. Using nudes in photos has caused him to walk a narrow line. His photographs are not acceptable for sale in many “family oriented” retail outlets. They have been featured in Playboy, but don’t fall into the category of indecency. Teger’s work has been described as “fun, beautiful and sensual, but always in good taste.”
“I shot with film and printed in the darkroom until a few years ago. Although I use digital capture and printing now, I still do the work in the same way as before – as a single shot, rather than by making a Photoshop composite,” he explains.
With a smart concept and unique look, Teger had lots of options. He retails his work at art festivals and fairs, sells through his website and also wholesales to galleries and shops.
His work is sold as limited editions and in various sizes. The smallest prints retail for $70 and are produced in editions of 500. Larger prints are in editions of 100. He has held his prices steady for many years, preferring to sell more prints at lower prices so that as many people as possible can enjoy them.
Developing this signature style was serendipitous. He says “I had never expected to photograph nudes. I was interested in showing that our perceptions are subjective, and that multiple interpretations and multiple realities can co-exist. I use bodies to show this, but my work isn’t really about the body – it’s about perception and reality. My best work is where the viewer feels the sensuality without knowing, at first, where that feeling is coming from.”
“I want the image to stand on its own as a piece of art,” Teger says, “even before the viewer knows that there is a body in the photograph.”