TYB : A mind dump of thoughts from the #LeLoupExpo experience

Lunch time, the second day of the LeLoupExpo set up, with most of the photographs dispersed and some chasing up done, I'm sitting (with my wife) in a little creperie in Carhaix. After lunch, it's off to the local newspaper offices opposite the mairie in Carhaix for a photoshoot to go with the article they're running in the Wednesday edition. Now though, having placed our crepe order, there's a mind dumping session - lessons learned so far, what seems to have gone well, what hasn't, etc.

So here it is, elaborated a little from that scrawled onto a sheet of paper in a creperie - it will form a basis for what goes into the reflective report on the experience.

Plan for change. Also, people don't always deliver on the first opportunity. There's a need, in some instances, to push a bit more... A day seemed to be ample in my own mind for distributing images, and it pretty much has been, but I also expected to have the images up on the board, the photograph of it in situ taken, together with a snap of the maire (or whoever). This certainly isn't the case, with only three photographs up on the first day, and only one photograph of someone from the Mairie taken. I'd also hoped to visit the tourist information offices, but this hadn't happened at the time of eating our lunch either.

Explain. It's necessary to re-explain things even though it was explained in the submission e-mails and over the phone. Doing so seems to get the message across. More clarity is required for some things though. Some people thought it was a painting exhibition (awkward silence) of animals (awkward silence - le loup, le renard et la belette is the wolf, the fox and the weasel). Not that paintings of animals was ever suggested in the sample image I sent physically, via e-mail or can be seen anywhere on the weekly site...

Recognition. I've made sure that I've tried to recognise the various mairies as collaborators, I've made sure they know I'm grateful, but also included the names of the villages in all communications with the press and the radio, etc. I've tried to get a photograph with someone from the mairie's office (not all have been happy about this), so that I might include them in a further development. If I was having an after show party, they'd all get an invite, so it will have to wait for that development to (hopefully) materialise.

On the subject of recognition, another facet of this is using a more personal touch. Some mairies asked if we were going to drop the photographs in the post , but we decided to visit them in person. We've treated the peopled we've dealt with as people, not just as being "the Mairie" or "the press". Some have even gotten around to calling us now, rather than waiting to be chased (not all though...)

The A3 posters I had printed have been well received (even if there is an auto-correct spelling mistake in there - lesson learned is check and check again, especially the French!!) They were less than a couple of pounds each from Staples, less than it would have cost to print them on my inkjet with ink the price of liquid gold... Well worth it, and worth doing it again for future. (Posters left with the mairies, tourist information offices, the local press, etc.) In hindsight though, a little more information on there might have been useful.

Photographs selected.. Always a tricky one. My vision is perhaps a little bleaker than some of the mairies might want to show, so in allowing the mairies to choose which image they displayed from a small selection printed it was the more colourful, dramatic or "pretty" that were snapped up first. My personal favourites are generally unchosen. Go figure. This would then lead to some hard curatorial choices - should I have chosen the more picturesque and cater for the audience more, or stick with my own vision, my own preferences? Sell out, or sell nothing? (Not that anything is for sale this time). Allowing the maire (or secretariat, adjoint culturel, etc) to choose certainly seems to have been a positive in terms of making them feel included - a form of psychological empowerment I guess.

To get the viewers (and for them to participate) I need to get the news out there. Time will tell if I've managed to do this with the use of (limited French) social media, the radio (my wife's interview on RMN FM) and the newspapers (Le Poher and Le Courrier already to press, with Le Telegramme and Ouest-France yet to commit). There's the posters too... I've even started using Facebook, but I've not yet got a great reach. The weebly exhibition site has been getting more viewers than my own website though, although there has been a sudden spike today (50-odd viewers compared to single figures seen normally). Sitting in the creperie I'm surrounded by posters and flyers from other exhibitions, I should've targeted some of these too...

The card. I chose early on to present a photograph at A4 size, together with an A5 information card. Some mairies expressed a desire for a larger photograph, but not all could accommodate this, so I opted to keep them the same (no favouritism!) The card was intended to have a bit of an artists statement on it, together with an URL for the weebly site, but as things evolved, and Facebook strongly advised for online regional interaction (by Aude from RMN FM), there was then 3 URLs, and therefore less room on an A5 card, so it really became a signpost pointing to the website. More information would've been good at the "point of sale" to get people to visit. It might still come to pass - we'll see...

Whilst on the subject of the card, one of the mairies (so far) neglected to pin it to their board. This has been rectified, but it raised the question of whether it might have been better to print differently and include the information from the card on the same sheet. This is not something I would normally consider, but it's a case of adapting to the environment. With the card separate, there is nothing other than proximity to tie the two together. Will the audience understand?

One things that has only really occurred to me now I've seen things installed is how the context I envisaged changes with the surroundings, both in terms of being in the open in village centres or even almost rural surroundings, and what else is on the board. A fellow photographer friend (Dewald, one of the photographers shooting with me and Tanya for [( 6 )] Oxford) also noticed this, commenting on Twitter. Seeing things in a gallery context gives a certain expectation - it's in a gallery therefore it si art. Here it's on a community information boardtherefore is it something for the community? In a way, it is, and I've been pushing for community collaboration by offering to include their images on the website...

Also, and a really important point - the research is never over! Well, not until the project is finally put to bed, and even then... There's the research in terms of the project itself (e.g. Local history, additional communities - I'm still shooting, and whatnot) and in terms of getting it out there. Whilst in the Carhaix office I was asked if we'd been in touch with their communications department, which we didn't know existed. We also found out whilst talking to people that there are several of the mairies that do community newsletters - further details have been sent for inclusion in these.

It's also been HARD. Not being on site has brought its own difficulties that should be obvious. There's also the language barrier - my wife has been utterly awesome as there is no way I could have navigated all the things that have happened without her. I can get by, but it's more of a "not getting hungry" getting by than an "organising an exhibition" getting by. So hats off to her, I acknowledge I would've bitten off far more than I could chew without her...

That's it, the crepe (trois fromage, a local speciality I gather) has arrived and the pen and paper put away. It was time to chew on something else.
blog comments powered by Disqus