Speak My Language, one of my bodies of work, is being exhibited at the Athens Photo Festival (APhF:15), alongside work by noted names such as Anna Fox (I believe – I’ve not seen a definitive list) in the Photobook section and Cristina de Middel and Christian Patterson in the main exhibition.
© Madalina (@Madutzasan on Twitter)
The Photobook Show describes itself as :
“A tribute to the form of photobook
In recognition of the increasing importance of the photo book in contemporary photographic practices, the Festival is introducing a new specific exhibition section dedicated to the form of book, featuring a curated selection of photobooks from artists and individual publishers worldwide.”
Details of the exhibition, which runs from June 3 – July 26, can be found at http://www.photofestival.gr.
I'm trying to work out what my practice is so that I can write my P3. At the moment, I'm not sure... I've not really achieved a huge amount in the great scheme of things, I don't see my art becoming my only source of income either. I suppose the question I'm really putting off answering is why am I doing the MA at all? Is there a purpose to it, other than self-improvement?
OK, so to write my artists CV, what would be on there? A small handful of exhibitions, a few self-published books. Anything else? Well, no. Not really. So, putting it all out there, this is what it amounts to:
Papergirl Blackburn [St John's Centre, Blackburn. 2014] - the community arts project featured 10 prints from Speak My Language before they were given away at random on the streets of Blackburn.
[( 6 )] [Banks Street Arts, Sheffield. 2014] - a group exhibition that I lead in terms of organisation, etc. 6 photographers, all recent or impending graduates from the OCA BA in Photography. It ran for a month in July, and it's the subject of the first few blog posts on here.
Sheffield International Book Prize [Banks Street Arts, Sheffield. 2013] - another show at Bank Street, this time featuring all of the artists books entered into that years book prize. I didn't win, although the book is now part of their permanent collection.
In Search of Space [Carlisle Photo Festival, Carlisle. 2013] - my work was on display during the festival, a bitter-sweet experience due to the poor quality of reproduction from the festival printer.
Inspired [Steward's Gallery, Clitheroe. 2011] - an mixed media exhibition featuring the work of local artists from the Ribble Valley.
I've also got work on pretty much permanent display at the OCA head office and that of another local firm. Does that count?
I've self-produced half a dozen or so publications, ranging from newspapers, Blurb books and catalogues to hand-crafted leporello format ones, each from one of my series, including Speak my Language, A forest and Into the Valley.
My work has shown up in a number of places, it was featured in #Photography magazine, the Big Issue and a few other places. It's been used commercially, although nothing recently... Perhaps my more recent work would struggle to find a commercial use, and I don't create it for that purpose anyway.
How do I build on this? Do I actually want to build on this? To answer the second question first, yes I do. So what is it I want to build on then?
I suppose it's got to be the exposure side of things. Famous for 15 minutes, and all that. Lauded in magazines, the shows the talk of the town... Ok, seriously. It would be good to get into a few more exhibitions, and I keep on submitting to the festivals and what have you, but it's a familiar story to be knocked back. I also need to dig into the local possibilities for a solo show, although "local" can be a bit of a solitary experience I guess. I'm not too sure there's much of a local scene... OK, there will be when you get to the cities (Manchester, Liverpool), but I'm not very familiar with them, beyond the headline galleries. So yeah, local - I need to start somewhere...
I need to keep hitting the magazines too, both the mainstream and independent ones (like #Photography, which ran some of A Forest).
I need to get into the networking thing too. I need to do a lot of things, including make some new work. And do the day job. Oh, and the MA... Actually, I need to get organised. Maybe then I will work out what my practice might be...
About a week ago I received an e-mail from ACE Nelson about a community mixed arts project in my area called Papergirl Blackburn, part of the Blackburn is Open initiative. The idea has come over from Germany where there was some legislation introduced about displaying arts in the streets so an idea was born to hand the art to people instead. I don’t know the nitty-gritty of the back story, but basically the art is distributed free of charge, loosely rolled like a newspaper might be. Or something like that. I kind of like the idea, although of course it will never make an artist rich (or even afford the beans to go on the toast) to give work away, but there is always the possibility people will see the work that might not otherwise see it, and who know where that might go?
As Speak My Language was originally printed as a (roughly) A3 newsprint book, and A3 is the size of the work requested it seemed to be an obvious choice to submit. Unfortunately the newspaper was snagging in my printer this time, so it’s now on a thicker inkjet paper stock. A compromise, but this wasn’t a project I was willing to sacrifice hundreds of pounds worth of printer for...
The prints are ready now, packaged up ready for posting before the deadline, so that’s a done deal.
The work will be exhibited in November for 10 days prior to distribution at the St John’s Centre in Blackburn, I’ll try and get in to see what’s on show, but there’s no guarantee with that.
Just a quick post to state that I had been wanting to submit Some Unholy War into Format for next year, but it’s not ready yet. I don’t have a favoured edit of photographs, I don’t know what size they should be, I don’t even know if I’m done with the creation of the images I have at the moment. I certainly haven’t written my artists statement about the series yet. Tonight’s deadline will therefore come and go without Some Unholy War being registered in it. Perhaps a good thing to avoid it being launched onto the circuit half-cocked. There will be other opportunities, for Format and for elsewhere.
This video was produced by Mark Lomas of the OCA on the evening of the Private View for the exhibition, [( 6 )] - the filming was absolutely the worst thing about the night, as my mouth went dry and my mind went blank... Mark’s done a pretty good job at making me seem quite “normal”, probably by using more of the footage of Keith and Nigel...
The video can be found online here, together with the many other videos produced by OCA.
Ok, so on the 12th and 19th of July I headed over to Bank Street Arts in Sheffield to man the exhibition, to talk to anyone visiting if they were in the mood for talking about it. The 12th of July was pretty much a waste of time as there weren’t any visitors, well not really. My sister came with me to look around as she had been unable to make it to the PV (she then went into Sheffield centre), and a friend who gran still lives in Sheffield popped in on his way to see her. Other than that, there was an architect who as an office in the building... I was quite demoralised, but to be fair it was a scorching day and visiting galleries would be fairly low on my list of priorities too - we don’t get that many of them, so why waste it indoors?
The 19th was better. It was raining!! Actually, when I arrived, there were a group from OCA looking at Pete’s work (he’d also made the journey), and the group then proceeded to wander around the rest of the gallery too (Gareth unfortunately had to leave early). There was some good discussion going on, questions to Pete about his work, to me about mine and then some commentary and suppositions on the work of the others. Later, there were even other people coming into the gallery to look around - not just people from the OCA! Fantastic!! These people all seemed appreciative, willing to discuss their thoughts. It’s fair to say that not everybody liked everything, and indeed that would be impossible - we’re 6 quite different photographers, covering different genres and whatnot. I’d like to think that everyone got something from part of it though.
There has been quite a bit of feedback, with 99.9% of it being overwhelmingly positive - with comments such as:
I’ve seen a few shows at Bank Street and this is one of the best presented. Not overloaded with work and beautifully produced. Congratulations to all of you. (B Eccleshall)
It was great to see those images on the wall! Well-done all of you. What role models! (C Banks)
I can't express how proud I think you should be of your show at Bank Street Arts. If I could visualise what I thought success looked like when I joined the OCA in 2008 it would be this exhibition. You have shown other students what can be achieved. (G Dent)
Next it will be packing it all away at the beginning of August. Hopefully, I’ll receive some more feedback then, from the gallery, from wherever. And then it’s onwards to the next one - this has been quite a learning curve, but I do like to think we got it well and truly in the bag. it’s just a shame Dewald and Tanya haven’t managed to get over...
So, Saturday 5th July was the day of the hang. However, in the run up to that there was a lot of prep work to be done, not least of all ensuring everything was printed. Now, the other prep to be done will vary depending on the hanging method and the gallery, etc. but for mine, Dewald’s and Tanya’s work I was planning to use battens and velcro to attach the photographs to the wall - you can’t use velcro alone as it damages the walls. Keith used a dibond material, which is heavier so his are on sub-frames. Anyway, back to the prep - all of the battens had to be cut to length, pre-drilled (to avoid splitting the wood) and velcro attached to save time. I also gathered all the bits and bobs I thought I would need - saw, drill, screwdriver, tape measure, knife, rule, spare battens, spare velcro, screws, white cotton gloves... all sorts of stuff.
Bank Street Arts opened a little earlier than their normal 11:00 start to allow us to have a fighting chance at getting 6 photographers work up in the 5 gallery spaces. Tom from Bank Street was on hand at first to give some guidance to getting started, including the useful nugget of info that the accepted norm is that the centre of the photograph should be at a height of 157cm. Obviously, like any rules this one is made for being broken, but for the most part we stuck with it.
Anyway, there were 3 of us (plus 2 wives) there for the hanging. I started with A Forest in Gallery 1, Keith started with Ironman Family in Gallery 5 and Nigel with Shattered Coast in Gallery 3. After sorting out the hanging order, the first photograph seemed to take an age to hang, but no, not really. As I was using prints mounted on forex (a kind of plastic foam board), velcro’ed onto battens which were screwed on to the walls (no idea what the wall was made of, but it didn’t need drilling and plugging), the process was really straight forward, made even more so because I had a laser level to hand that projected a perfectly square cross onto the walls, the centre of which was aligned variously to the centre height, the edge of the print or whatever. Because of this, hopefully everything I hung should be level, and all done quicker than if I’d used the string and spirit levels the others were using.
With hindsight, I probably could’ve taken a couple more prints from A Forest, the space would have accepted them without feeling too crowded - another 2 would probably have been fine. However, I do think they need a bit of space to be seen in isolation - too close and there might have been a bit of a danger that the adjacent prints would have interfered with the narrative of the one being looked at.
Speak My Language was a little more problematic to hang because the walls were not completely flat - this image is made up of two parts, and I wanted them butted up to make a single panel. With the wall being uneven, the corners of the right hand panel stood proud of the left. Taking it down and adding another batten with more velcro along the joining edge seems to have resolved it (a bit of cork or similar might be added next time I see it...)
After that, it was Dewald’s and Tanya’s work (Nigel hung some of Tanya’s), more battens and velcro and more of the same activities - measuring, marking, drilling, squaring up, fastening to the wall...
The gallery informed us they’d be tidying up the walls afterwards, rearranging the lighting, etc. so that was something we didn’t have to consider, good job really, because we kept them from closing for 10 minutes as we were finishing off. Still, job done, and I think it looked alright!
Note: in hindsight, we should have left some notes for the gallery staff as they changed some parts of the gallery between the hanging and the PV - I positioned two prints above some glass shelves that were fastened to the wall, rather than measuring where they should be. The shelves were taken down, and whilst they may well have been correctly spaced, I was sort of relying on them still being there, otherwise I would have done some more measuring. Maybe not a big problem, but there is a shadow of a doubt. Also, Pete’s work was hung deliberately 20cm lower than everyone else’s, but the gallery staff thought a mistake had been made and moved them up to the normal height - they were quite sorry when they realised why Keith had done what he had done... So yeah, post-its or a sheet of instructions would’ve been useful.
Without an audience to communicate with, the exhibition is just an exercise in spending money. In terms of telling that audience about the show, most of what I have done has been via Twitter, although with just a few characters to use with each tweet, there needs to be something to back it up. I’ve also been using Tumblr for longer posts, which auto-tweet anyway, and my normal blog on robtm.co.uk. I’m not a Facebook user, so that’s out of the question, but I know some of the others are, so hopefully they’ve been using it.
I also have a mailing list which I use to let people know about things that are happening, the last couple of these have been about the exhibition. It’s not got a huge distribution list at the moment, but it does get to a few people in the industry. Whether they read it or not is another matter...
Add to this an exhibition website that Dewald has created, then there’s a certain amount out there. He also created a flyer, which I will print up and put in the gallery window.
Elizabeth Underwood, from Underwood Works and OCA has been helping in terms of the Private View, gathering lists of invitees and co-ordinating the press-release and a handout (which we had to provide the material for). The PV has been handled via Eventbrite, which I suppose in many ways is similar to Mailchimp that I use for my mailing list.
There’s probably more I should be doing, but I’m lacking the physical capacity at the moment...
There are many considerations to take account of: for the work itself, supplementary material, promotions... there are bound to be things we didn’t think of, but here are some of things that I have:
Sponsorship - is it possible to get some money towards the show? Well, the other 5 didn’t seem to bothered about this as the costs weren’t astronomical, however I did manage to get some discounted printing from Paul Graham Image Specialists, and the OCA agreed to fund the PV. I also got something via the company I help run, but this is much like paying for it myself... If the show was to be bigger, and everyone was in agreement, then sponsorship would be more of a consideration to take onboard.
Presentation of the prints - My prints are going to be full bleed and on forex. Using forex means that a frame is unnecessary, and the prints come across as more “immediate”, to me at least. Also, not having glass means that there will be far fewer reflections - what there is will likely be a sheen, rather than a mirror like one as seen in these installation shots of Simone Lueck’s The Once and Future Queens.
That’s me in the left hand image - not the woman, the reflection!
How to hang the prints - mirror plates, strap hangers, “D” hooks... there’s many options here. I’ve opted for wooden battens to which I can attach velcro, then to the back of the forex. I suppose traditional battens would be the split kind, but then how are they attached to the forex print? Velcro seems much more versatile, and forgiving which is maybe more important - if we don’t get the batten 100% level, the velcro will allow it to be corrected. This is my first time you know...
Should I use captions - my immediate answer to this is “no”. I’m not a huge fan of individual captions, although it does of course depend on the photographs and the style of captions. Sometimes they’re really important, other times less so, especially if there is a good artists statement available. So, no captions for me, although having said that there is a small sheet with the credits for the various lyrics on it for Speak My Language.
Postcards - should I create postcards or some other promo items? Many of us have, myself included - I used Moo, a fairly cheap and flexible option, giving reasonable quality results on a rigid card stock (some offering are on slightly thicker than normal paper - very poor). I opted for two different styles of postcard for A Forest - one featuring the “official” juxtaposition, the correct images if you like, and another that just has half the image pairing so that they can be combined with another half to make a different object/forest juxtaposition when placed together. Obviously, these won’t be where the item was found, but I thought it might be nice to be a little playful... I’ve also got some postcards of Speak My Language from a while ago, so will be using those.
A catalogue - we originally decided not to have a catalogue, but in the end I wanted something for my own gratification which is developing into a full-on catalogue. Maybe I’ll make it available...
(note: the catalogue has indeed materialised with a nice introduction from Sharon Boothroyd. The catalogue is available from Blurb.)
Displaying A Forest book with the exhibition - there’s more images in the book than the exhibition, so should I also include the book with the exhibition? I’ve decided to do this, but only whilst I’m there in person (for the PV, and if I make it to the gallery any other time). I could also ask for the Gallery copy of Speak My Language to be wheeled out, but it was looking a little damp/tired last time I saw it.
Sales - do I sell my work, and if so at what sort of price? Obviously, I’d be very happy to seek my work there, but I’ve no idea about pricing. It’s a headache just thinking about it...
I know, I know. I’ve not formally started the MA yet but here I am banging some notes down in a blog. Well, I figured that doing so would be relevant and beneficial in this case, because it’s all to do with putting on an exhibition.
Earlier this year, I put out a call to see if anyone was interested in putting something on the Source website and grabbing some exhibition space to show our wares to the public. Five others rallied to the exhibition call (well, 4 at first, one came later and another one to Source), and so the six of us had to sort out an exhibition, this entry will merely set the scene, and the following posts will cover off some of the things I’ve been up to in order to pull it all off (others have done stuff too, don’t get me wrong on that - I’m just really blogging about what I’ve done).
So, a bunch of people, some photographs and where do we go from there?
Well, I suppose the first thing is the space, and from there we can decide how many, which and whatnot. A big space means big costs, both in terms of hiring it and filling it with prints.
There’s also the artist bios and the statements, which are needed up front as you often need to provide a proposal (I suppose this isn’t necessary for everywhere)
Publicity is a beast all by itself, where and how to promote. Private views to arrange and all that stuff.
Printing and then installing....
Stressing the PV, people are going to want to talk about the work! Actually, it will be worse if people DON’T want to talk about the work, but still, talking about the work is a big thing.
Oh, what am I thinking?!?