Putting On a Film Photography Exhibition: What I Learned
By Paul McKay
Today we talk to Rhys Davies - a documentary photography student at the University of South Wales - about his experience with exhibiting. We know that this is a topic and an idea that many film photographers find intimidating, so here he will help lift the lid on the process as well as pass on some tips and tricks!
Background to Photography
My photographic journey started when I took photos at family weddings with my father’s old bridge camera when I was a young child, I never seriously experimented with photography until college. I was keen on studying veterinary however I could not follow that passion because I was too young to complete work experience, I decided to study photography at college for a year until I was old enough to complete the work experience required for veterinary. After completing my first year of photography I had found a medium that helped me express myself and document / tell the social concerns I was worried and passionate about.
After being awarded best exhibition at Weston College Art Show I decided to complete the second year of the course which enabled me to concentrate on my documentary style specialising in portraiture. My documentation of homelessness within my town were published in the local papers as well as being the key focus on my second exhibition at the Weston College Art Show. After receiving my diploma my next stage of my journey was studying Documentary Photography at the University Of South Wales. I am currently finishing second year and have exhibited work in two separate exhibitions, Guernsey Photo Festival and Fit For Heroes?
Fit for Heroes?
Fit for heroes was a collaborative exhibition put on by myself and 6 other students, I exhibited my work ‘Ely’s Tony.’ Ely’s Tony is a project shot in Ely Cardiff, which is known to be Cardiff’s most deprived suburb. I wanted to test the stereotypes and whilst researching the area I came into conversation with a gentleman named Tony, Tony is retired and now collects stamps with his wife every day. The project is shot on 120 Portra 400 on a Mamiya RZ67 II.
The Exhibition Process
Within the timeframe that we had, 12 weeks, we had to organise a space to exhibit, think about the different methods and processes of exhibiting whilst exploring different methods of printing and framing. I started the search by contacting the local council which lead me to a meeting with an arts councillor. I negotiated the use of a large youth centre with no cost as it would bring people into the area. Myself and the other students then spent the following weeks exploring different methods of framing, printing and planning a layout for the exhibition. Advertisement of the exhibition was a large consumption of our time, working with professional graphic designers, social media accounts, leaflets and being promoted by other artists.
What Have I Learnt?
For me, the key point to putting on an exhibition is the planning and organisation of the layout. You can have a great venue and location however if your work is not presented correctly nor does it flow correctly then your audience will not truly engage with your work nor will they remember your exhibition for being perfectly planned.
The networking that comes with putting on an exhibition is highly rewarding and career boosting, you will be surrounded by artists and specifically artists that have an interest in your work. Engage and interact with these artists and explore the opportunities of collaborations and advice that they may give you.
It is not necessary to exhibit your entire project, whether your work is displayed elsewhere through another medium such as a book or on a website the exhibition should be a taster of the project.
The Location of the exhibition is important in relation to the work that is shown whether that be in the location that the work was shot, or if there’s a specific reason or meaning to the location that ties into the work made. Depending on how large the space is available the organisation is key, work should not be cramped nor should there be too much space between bodies of work. By building a plan you will be able to follow it easily and not rush the installation of the exhibition. Negotiating on a price for the location and the duration is worth considering when looking at what exposure do you gain, will you profit in any way and what networking will be happening.
Having an interactive piece within your exhibition will engage your viewers whether that be a different medium that the public can use, watch, listen and interactive with personally will turn your exhibition into a collaborative piece with the public.
On an ending note to this piece, what I gained most from exhibiting work is that it is highly rewarding to see your work in an exhibition whilst networking with other artists. It is highly achievable to put on your own exhibition, concentrate on a body of work you are proud and passionate about, contact your local council and youth centres about exhibiting work and plan everything well in advance.
Follow Rhys on Instagram here to see more of his work and his journey through his university course.
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