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Why exhibit?

Three of the [(6)] photographers talk about why they chose to exhibit and what they learned along the way.

Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka

32 thoughts on “Why exhibit?

  • Very well produced video…thanks Gareth and team… I’ll leave it to others to comment on the performance of the ‘actors’…. Seriously though it has been a fantastic learning experience….sadly tomorrow we embark on the final step…to take the exhibition down.

  • Excellent video and good to see photographs as a background as well. Brought it back to me all over again and I’m so pleased I managed to get up to Sheffield to see the Exhibition. As for the ‘actors’…….. pretty impressive!

    • Oooh Catherine… you say the sweetest things.
      And yeah, I guess tomorrow will be a bit of a low moment, packing things back into boxes… Still, onwards and upwards to the next one (nothing planned yet)

  • Thank you for the video, I really wish I could have come. Having experienced the exhibition until now only through the catalog and the website, I find it really interesting to get a sense of the place, of the exhibition in term of installation. As other student have said, it is really inspiring for all of us and it gives a lot to think about the potential strength of the student community in a distance-learning university. (I fear I formulated it in a very weird way but I am sure you’ll get the idea! We can make great things if working together…).

  • Yes, many thanks to Mark for the great editing (must have taken some doing with my “acting”) and also to Gareth for his guidance and prompts. Finished product looks great!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this. I also would have liked to attend, so it’s just great to have a little peek at what the exhibition actually looked like. And also lovely to hear the artists speak in front of their art. I hope that you’ll all share more images of how the work was presented on your various blogs 🙂

    • Hi Selena – on the website Dewald has put together for the exhibition, there’s a small number of the images used in the show, some installation pics and some from the opening night. There’s also a link to the blurb catalogue if anyone wants a copy (it’s on the contact page) – The catalogue has all the images exhibited.

  • Thanks for the video and the exhibition, all splendid. The comments so far have been in a similar vein – but this is a learning forum, so I am going to add some tangential thoughts and questions.
    Firstly, and for me most importantly, I was surprised at the implication that exhibitions are in some way the end-point or goal. Is that really why we do photography?
    Secondly, if we are trying to reach a wider audience, then surely an on-line presence is more effective.
    Thirdly, the video presented some reflections on the mechanisms by which photographers can work together to create an exhibition, but I’d like to know more about the learning, in artistic terms, that makes this worthwhile doing.
    Thank you again for the prompts to reflect, and the work itself.

    • Jim
      You raise a number of interesting issues that I am hoping many others will give their perspectives on. From my point of view I make photographs, and other sorts of visual imagery, to try to understand what I am all about; where I fit in the world, why do I feel this way, what interests my about what I am doing and so on. It is a process of posing questions rather than answering them and the reason for showing them to others is to enter into some sort of discourse, some sort of debate or conversation, with the images made by those others (all a bit airy-fairy when you put it in words which is another reason fro making images and not writing literature!).
      So then it is a question of what is meant by an exhibition here; again personally, I might well use that word as a generic term for any more or less public display of my work, whether that be on the walls of a gallery, in a book on the internet or whatever…what does anyone else say for this? (actually most of my colleagues tend to talk about a ‘show’ rather than an ‘exhibition’ I wonder why that might be?)
      You talk about “a wider audience” and other people’s ideas of what that might imply would be instructive. I have a rather ambivalent feeling about how wide an audience I am actually really interested in, at least as far as a reaction is concerned; (confession time now!) I am not sure how much I really care about what the general public make of the work, I want them to see it, I would like them to think about it but the people whose opinions matter to me are my peers, particularly those whose work I admire and respect; they are the ones I want to engage with the work, I want them to be positive about the work, but I want a reaction more. I am not sure if you can know whether something has worked without that reaction. Is that a general view?
      I am not quite sure what you are really getting at in your last paragraph, I have some ideas but I would rather you were more specific on this as I think it can lead to a very fruitful discussion with the readers of this blog and not just photographers. These Issues apply to all media I think.
      Interesting post Jim, let’s see what others have to say.

    • Hi Jim
      One thing that needs to be remembered is that the video is an edited version of what we all said, all of which was said in isolation. Now, I’m not saying that because I think that anything I said has been perverted in any way, but certainly, the context of the comments before and after may have been lost – much as is the case when taking a photograph, and those seconds before and after that “decisive moment” are cast under the wheels of fading memory. It’s a version of the truth.
      Anyway, an exhibition (or show if you prefer Peter) is one of a number of possible outcomes for the work. I’m a big fan of photobooks, so that’s another, but I am interested in exhibiting my work and having it be interacted with by others. A personal choice, and one not shared by everyone. That’s fair enough. I personally believe the finished work deserves to be seen though, in one way or another. What’s the point otherwise? (some people do have their alternative reasons… I’m interested in knowing what your drivers for clicking the button are)
      And yes, it’s true to state that there are different options when exhibiting the work. I have a website with my photographs on it, I’ve done that and I have the proof. Do people look at it? Judging by the stats that I get in my inbox every day, no they don’t. By producing prints though… yeah, all that stuff about the physical objects and auras and whatnot comes to the fore. It really does depend on what you want. Again, a personal choice.
      As for your final point… I’m not sure what you mean. There are artistic choices to be made – do I hang the porno magazine, or the blue string? Do I print my images at A2, or A1? How much space do they need? Which order do I hang them in? All things that have to be considered. All things that feed into the particular message that is being put forward to be viewed, interpreted and commented upon, to be responded to.
      In terms of my development as an artist, it was worthwhile, hugely so. In terms of financial gain, most certainly not. In terms of learning the processes of exhibiting… Well, I know one way it can be done now, the next time might be very different – I’ll learn something each time I do it I guess.

    • Not sure why you would assume that an exhibition/show would denote and end-point, in many respects it is still a work in progress and can be, often a real benefit of exhibiting, ‘moved-on’ by the process of revelation in a space that is designated a gallery for the purpose. I have seen ‘works’ by artists – most recently Sophy Rickett’s “Objects in A Field” in three different spaces (one of which is virtual) and the experience was different each time. So the act of exhibiting is part of the artwork, surely? Books, I would tend to agree, do tend to ‘close the edition’ on a work.
      As for the last paragraph, it provides a space where the artist can enter into a discourse about their own work, either with visitors, or with themselves about the work. And if you’ve never had a visitor asking you why you made this particular image, then you have missed an opportunity for self reflection that you were perhaps not expecting 🙂
      A wider audience, if that is what is being sought, may be gained by showing your image on Flickr (as an exemplar) and adding it to several hundred groups – just watch those exhortations roll in.

      • I hear what you’re saying, but in some respects the exhibition is an “end-point” – maybe not the final resting place, but certainly something to mark the maturation of a project. Yes, it can be exhibited different way, yes it can grow afterwards, the images can be repurposed and presented in a different way but at the point of exhibition, there must be something cohesive to say, otherwise why are you dong it…? We’re probably agreeing on something here, just saying it in different ways.

        • Thanks for answering my questions everyone. I’ve not been clear in the final one though. What I’m struggling to understand is why photographers would want to co-present a project, or projects. What do you learn from each other? To exaggerate the point in the interests of clarity, only one of you would be looking through the viewfinder when the shots were made – so isn’t photography essentially a solo endeavour? Better leading to solo exhibitions?

        • I see what you mean Jim. But I have to say that photography isn’t a solo endeavour – the act of framing and hitting the button might be, but there’s so much more to be considered in the discourse between the photographer and the viewer, and whether the viewer sees things on a wall, as prints in the hand, images on the screen or pages of a book. It’s a communication, affected by many factors.
          Yes, putting that aside, each of us could have put on a solo exhibition, and to be fair, we sort of did in that (Tanya and Nigel aside) we had a room each for our images – I had two series up in gallery 1, Dewald had gallery 2, etc. Nigel came to the party a little later, and as there are only 5 galleries on the ground floor, he shared with Tanya as they felt to be the most connected in terms of colour space (not exactly, but…)
          What the group show afforded us was being able to pool some of the resource. Tanya and Dewald wouldn’t have exhibited in the UK at this time, Pete would find things difficult in physical terms and maybe we all used each other to add impetus to actually getting things done. This is the first show I’ve actually organised and hung, and there’s a world of difference from just pinging some jpgs off to some open call or putting things online. There’s a lot of stuff we didn’t really cover too, as we didn’t do our own press release (Elizabeth from OCA ran with this side of things), so there will be more to learn about being an exhibiting artist going forward too – whether that exhibiting is done on a wall or on a screen.

  • I’ll paraphrase Michael Kenna when he said in interviews “the photograph is a conversation between the photographer and the subject”, no matter whether the subject is animate or not, so it isn’t a solo endevour even from the beginning and it isn’t either in the ultimate stage, which is also a progressive stage, of showing.
    I think it would be logical for students graduating at/around the same time to show/exhibit together not only because it’s part of the learning process but it will carry the strength and the confidence on to a solo exhibition. As far as I know, most if not all of the big names in photography have started exhibiting in a group.
    That aside, and I know I’ve said it before; well done to you all who have made this big step in your practices. Again, sorry for not having being able to make it. Thanks to Gareth and Mark for this great vid giving us as much food for thought and a wee experience of it albeit virtual.

  • Interesting questions Jim.
    I’ll add to Yiannitsa’s quote and say that there is another conversation; between the artwork and the viewer. This is what I wanted to explore with ‘untitled’ at Bank Street Arts. Having explored my project online in two forums, I wanted to put it into a real space to get a more immediate reaction and push the project a little further.
    Jim, may I ask for what purpose you take photographs? In the past I have taken photographs to sell things, promote things, document things and to share my life.
    Some of these work in exhibitions, some don’t, so for me an exhibition is not always the final consideration.
    Who do you consider your audience to be, how do you attract them to your work and what do you want from them? I am dubious about anyone finding me online or in exhibitions. I think it is always down to networking! Having said that doing this exhibition as a group has increased my contacts by 5 times (ie adding the other photographer’s contacts!). Had you been aware of our work previously? It was all available online before but the focus on the exhibition has given it a new audience.
    Having done solo and group exhibitions, I found this group show to be very different.
    It wasn’t one curated group of images, it was 10 distinct projects that had a push and pull between them. This generated additional conversation on the overarching themes and I think gave the viewer a deeper insight into each project by offering multiple viewpoints, photographic and personal overall. I believe this is what made this ‘show’ much more special than if it had been a solo exhibition and hence a major reason why I participated.

  • Hi Tanya, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Your final paragraph really tackles the issue that I’ve been trying to express – the benefits of the group dynamic.
    You’ve asked me some questions – scary – I thought asking questions was my role 🙂
    My purposes in photography are different from most, I guess, partly because I’ve only taken it up seriously since retiring from other, very different work. My main purpose is to document my own life to remind me of events, places and things in my life, as my memory is quite poor. My secondary purpose is to produce images for others through voluntary work, such as not-for-profit organisations and NGO’s. Hence my audience is largely myself, immediate family, and those organisations.
    So, I have not exhibited, and I have not worked artistically with other photographers – but I am interested to learn more about such practices, hence my questions.

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