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Peppa Martin Landscape

Patience and Perseverance: An Interview with Peppa Martin, Director and Curator of Truth and Beauty Gallery & Studio

Peppa Martin founded Truth and Beauty Gallery & Studio in Vancouver in 2006, which combines a  commercial photography gallery and professional portrait studio. She is the Director and Curator of the gallery and lead photographer in the studio.

Dedicated to the exhibition and appreciation of the photographic form, Truth and Beauty represents the work of 60 international artists, and hosts exhibitions and public programs such as talks, book launches and workshops. The gallery also features a digital portal for online exhibitions and print sales.

Peppa advises on print acquisitions and sourcing, career development, corporate and private commissions, and conducts portfolio reviews.

As a professional photographer, gallerist, curator, art consultant, and independent writer, Peppa’s commentaries on art and culture have been published internationally. A Board Member of the Association of Women Art Dealers (AWAD) and Chair of AWAD’s Global Chapter, Peppa is also on the Advisory Board of Photolucida (Portland) and a member of the Canadian Media Guild.

Stephanie Yeap spoke with Peppa via video call between London and Vancouver…

1. Describe your business in 5 words:

Inclusive, welcoming, curious, current, and adaptable.

2. What inspired you to pursue this career? 

Well, I started off with a B.Sc in Journalism, with a concentration in advertising, so I worked in the advertising industry for a number of years, and then I went out on my own and started a home-based business while I was raising my four children, and I had a little photography studio literally in a shed in the alley behind my house. You could touch both walls if you stretched your arms out. It was tiny!

I started taking photographs in high school when I was only fifteen and once I had a camera in my hands, that was it. I always kept a hand in my photography because when I was in university I was taking pictures as part of my photojournalism studies so that just continued on.  I segued into a different career, of course, but then returned to photography – my first love.

The gallery has been a lifelong dream, and it came to fruition after an absolutely savage period of misfortune. So it really was the silver lining to a very crummy perfect storm. But here we are, 13 years later, since I first opened and it’s been going great, so I couldn’t be more pleased.

3. What’s the most wonderful thing about the profession? 

Oh, I believe that’s absolutely being a part of a wave of humanity that is in constant artistic motion. It’s wonderful that every day is a creative day, and being engaged in the industry all over the world exposes me to all kinds of wonderful and imaginative people and I just enjoy that so much.

4. And let’s get real… What’s the most challenging aspect of the profession? 

I would say it’s really wearing every task-hat in the day-to-day operation. As a sole proprietor, every decision lands on my desk, as it should. I do enjoy and appreciate that, but sometimes it can get hectic. The other thing would also be I really don’t like having to turn away prospects, but not all work makes the cut. I still like to be encouraging as much as I can, and not close doors, but some work just isn’t ready yet. Sometimes, artists are just on the cusp of developing a great project, and they just need time.

5. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given

Oh, without a doubt, it is (verbatim quote), ‘play in your own sandbox,’ which means do your own thing. Don’t follow the herd and trust your instincts. It’s much better to be an individual in a crowded field than to be a lookalike.

6. What do you now say to someone who is just starting out? (Maybe it’s that one thing you wish someone had told you!) 

You know, there are so many things! There are so many considerations in this industry because it’s been so heavily disrupted over the last few years. I wouldn’t just discourage anyone from going into it and trying, but I would seriously recommend to just work like the dickens.

There are two sides: the business side and then the artist or photographer’s side. For them, my advice would be to focus on output, not stardom. I very often have conversations with up-and-coming, emerging artists and they’re so keen to make a name for themselves and be known, and it’s kind of putting the cart before the horse. You really need to focus on output and everything else will follow. Producing high-quality work takes time, and if you don’t hit it big for a while, be patient.

7. What challenge is the industry facing that art dealers need to address?

What I sense, and what I feel at this juncture in time, is adapting to the disruption to the traditional retail storefront model. Gallerists are lamenting the fact that there’s less foot traffic, fewer bodies in the gallery, things like that. So we need to look closely at how to define engagement, how we would want to connect to people in the community and the field.

8. If you had to be one work of art, what would you be – and why?

‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat

Image from:

This a great question, and I have to say while this is not my all-time favourite work of art,  this is what I would be if I were a work of art. It’s called ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat, because who wouldn’t want to spend eternity lounging on the grass, in the sunshine on the banks of the Seine? To be in that painting, you’d be joyful for all eternity.

9. What do you personally believe are the best advantages of being part of an association like AWAD, and how have you benefited?

Primarily, the advantages of being part of an association of like-minded people are the connections and collegiality. The collegiality of the group has been the most rewarding, it’s mutually supportive and having like-minded occupations provides a great resource.

The idea that we’re all women, first of all, facing the same challenges, I think we get a great sense of relief knowing that we’re not alone in this. And, that we have shared successes and horror stories and all; there’s a great benefit in that.

10. How can you make the most out of being a member of a professional network?

Oh, get involved, absolutely! Participate, volunteer to help, and also stay up-to-date with the activities of the organisation, just to see if something comes along that you’d like to jump in with. It’s a great way to meet your fellow members and to really get feedback and see how you’re doing, see how other people are doing, and see how you stack up, business-wise.

I think there’s a lot to be said for the idea that the network provides all the resources that you need. We often see posts on Facebook, with people asking for a recommendation or a suggestion for a supplier or something, and that kind of information is so useful, so make use of it.

11. Do you have anything else to add?

Oh, I’d just like to say to anyone one out there who’s considering joining: become a member, become a friend of AWAD, and be a part of it!
Instagram @pepstagrams // Facebook: truth and beauty studio & gallery // Twitter @4truthandbeauty

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