Jun 2014

[( 6 )] : Getting the word out there

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...


[( 6 )] : Other considerations

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

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...


[( 6 )] : The blurb

As I've produced each body of work, I've written statements for them, so these acted as the starting points for the blurb that will be used in the exhibition. I've also used the bio from my main website as the starting point too - little tweaks have been made, which have sometime been fed into the other works. It's all too easy to keep on refining things over and over, with the danger that the original thoughts become muddied. Hopefully this hasn't happened here though.

With the bio and statement largely in hand, thoughts turned to publicity. I'm really grateful to Dewald for pulling together the website but before we could do that, we had to decide on a name. E-mails were pinging back and forth with various names on - I favoured something abstract like "Show" (which also, rather selfishly, fitted in with my current habit of naming everything after songs, or in this case an album), whilst others wanted something more descriptive. We finally settled on 6 : Personal Explorations in Photography as there was 6 of us, and all the projects are quite personal to us... As for a logo, I asked the graphics guys for help, but none was forthcoming (maybe because I asked for a freebie), so I did the basics myself and came up with [( 6 )], with the textual elements intending to represent a camera. Whether people pick up on that, I've no idea, but it's what I see.

[( 6 )] website uses the weebly engine, and is pretty straightforward, but clean and to the point. I like it. We opted for three images each as any more might actually mean that there's not really any point in seeing the exhibition, it would all have been seen already (although, to be fair, if you know us, you've seen them anyway). Dewald also pulled together the header image that's being used in the marketing.



[( 6 )] : The space

With the space provisionally booked, we set about working out the details of who could go where, what would be exhibited and such. Now, there are 5 rooms at BSA, and 6 of us exhibiting so someone was going to have to share. Sharing the biggest room would have been the obvious solution, but the obvious is not always the best solution and there was some thought as to what would visually work.

Knowing the available space also helps in defining the works to be shown. Three of the artists are urban landscape, so it makes sense to keep them together. I was exhibiting a (loosely) landscape piece and a documentary one, there was some more social documentary and some portraiture. Dewald was initially looking at showing video, so would need a darkened room which precluded sharing with someone with prints, which meant that the logical choice would be for Tanya and Nigel to share a room. By putting Dewald, Tanya and Nigel in the "left wing" of the gallery, this meant that my two pieces could take the central room and act as a transition from the landscape to the left, and the soc-doc and portraiture to the right. Well, it makes sense in my mind although I'm not too sure how well I'm visualising how it will ultimately look. Time will tell!

With the rooms agreed, I set about working out which, how and where my prints would be displayed. I toyed with more prints from A Forest; maybe 8 or 9 might have worked but in the end I decided on a bit more space around them and have had 7 printed. I also toyed with the idea of printing Speak My Language up as a series of 6x4s, pinning them loosely to the wall, but opted to stick with a large mosaic print, similar to the A0 foldout map version that I'd produced previously, but going bigger... It wasn't until Keith pointed out that shorter people like him might have problems seeing it all that I had to have a slight rethink. Whilst it will be a large print overall, the individual elements won't be so I've changed the layout now, and hopefully it will be more accessible to all.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 19.29.57


[( 6 )] : The gallery

So, as I said, first thing to sort out is the space. I say first thing, but there's lots of other stuff going on at the same time but whilst there's uncertainty about the space, you can't sort out everything else. The amount of space is one thing, how much is cost is another and who will be there a third. Obviously there are other things too, but hopefully these will get wrapped up as I go along.

Whilst not officially a "graduate" show, the fact is that the people who'd expressed an interest are all graduates or almost-graduates due to the flexible nature of the OCA assessment events. With this in mind, one of the first ports of call was the London based Free Range exhibition space. I spent a good 30 minutes or so talking with Tamsin O’Hanlon whilst she was in South Africa, and she outlined the various opportunities that they had available during the Photography period (they apparently do different weeks for different arts). The cheapest they had going was circa £2500+VAT for the week, that was for what sounded like a reasonable sized space, probably a little too large for the half dozen of us interested though, and certainly it would've ended up far too expensive at circa £500 just for the space. The space is unmanned too, so this would need to be factored in meaning time off work (unpaid), hotel bills for a week (or whatever I attended for) and then time for putting up and taking down. Together with printing, any promo stuff and odds and ends, I was looking at the thicker end of about £5-6k. It was never going to happen...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that a London show is not value for money. If I was at the beginning of a photography career, was sharing the venue with a few more people, didn't have to forego a week's income or pay for a London hotel and associated travel expenses (I'm too old and set in my ways to slum it anymore), then the added footfall and media attention that something like Free Range would attract would be invaluable, and a good show could be the start of a good career. The fact is, I don't ever really see photography as completely replacing my day job, well, not until I slip into semi-retirement or something and then maybe do a bit of lecturing (not sure I have the right mentality) or maybe sell a few prints (are they desirable?). So, for me at the current time, it seems a lot to spend for dubious benefit.

So where else? Well, bearing in mind the locations of those that stated an interest, Bank Street Arts in Sheffield came to mind. It's not on anyone's doorstep, but it is probably roughly equidistant between us - halfway between Suzhou and NYC! Well, there's 2 of us in the NW of England, and 2 in the south anyway. It also helped that I knew of BSA, and more to the point I like the place. It's not precious, it's not somewhere to fill me with awe, but it feels accessible and that's pretty important for me in what will be my first "major" show, well a show with my name in lights above the door (well, not really but you know what I mean) and more than one or two images installed anyway.

Initial enquiries revealed the costs (much cheaper than London at £550 for 2 weeks for the whole ground floor) and the submission procedure. This procedure was basically to provide some practical information (who, what, how many, how long, etc.) and also a written
submission proposal with brief artist bios and the like. I let the others write something in this respects, then sought to homogenise them into something cohesive. I'm not sure how rigorous the selection process is - was it space available and you're in? But there was space available a week before our proposed dates, so we were in! We had a space for July.

Kicking things off with [( 6 )]

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?!?