PhotoMonth Open – private view

Posted on November 7, 2014



Photomonth Open Private View-6

PhotoMonth Open, East London International Photography Festival — my work under scrutiny

Last night was the opening of the PhotoMonth Open. I spent a couple of hours their, looking at the work and looking and talking with people looking at my work.

The image/text panels were all printed by the organisers. This was the same for everyone and created a level playing field for all exhibitors. It helped make the exhibition cohesive and worked well in that respect. The print quality was ok. On the plus side plenty of detail in the shadows and highlights were controlled. On the negative side the images were a bit flat — colours were a bit desaturated and contrast a bit low. All the work was mounted on 10mm foam core and attached to the wall I think with velcro. Small labels stuck to the wall were used for titles and for information about the work.

My prints were submitted as square but were printed and mounted in portrait mode. This left a little too much empty space at the top and bottom of the frame. The lesson for next time is that I should try to speak to those handling the printing at a show like this. When I have been lucky enough to exhibit in the past I have always produced my own prints. I had submitted the work square so just assumed that’s how they would be printed. The other slight disappointment was that the images were too small. I have come to realise that they will work best if printed large – plenty of space for the viewer to become emersed into. On this occasion the sizing was dictated by the curators and so there was little I could do, but in future I will work with the curators to create the best result I can within their constraints.

The label giving information about the series was a little too small. This is pretty important for my work as for the viewer/reader to understand the work they need to be aware of the underlying concept. I think a number of people did not see/read the information label and as a result didn’t get what the work was about. That said I had attributed the texts to Charles Booth and dated them which made it pretty clear what their origin was. This turned out to be the right strategy and something to bear in mind if similar opportunities arise in the future.

I spent a lot of time watching people interacting with my work. It was encouraging that many people spent quite a lot of time looking and reading. Some people returned several times. All had to look closely at the text — another lesson here I think. The text would have been better had it been a little larger. Part of my difficulty was that the size of the prints was determined by the organisers. I also mingled with the crowds (and there were crowds) and listened in on the conversations. Some people clearly understood what the work was about and discussed their own views on the changes taking place in East London. Others did not get the work. It is a salutatory but inevitable experience to hear negative comments about one’s work. When I asked people what they thought they were nice about it — this is not the right approach I think.

Photomonth Open Private View-5

PhotoMonth Open, East London International Photography Festival — it got very crowded

Most of the other work at the exhibition was much more people oriented. Some of it street photography, some portraiture. There were a few other works that pictured ‘Edge-land’ type landscapes and more abstract work. My work was the only work that featured image and text. From this perspective my work must have been more difficult for the viewers to comprehend. I was therefore pleased that many people took the time to look at the work closely. There were several well known East London photographers exhibiting — Steve Lewis, Phil Maxwell and David Hoffman have all been photographing East London people for many years. Quite a few of the images on show were old dating back to the sixties. Much of the work is in black and white. A number of photographers were exhibiting portraits that were very well done….

Photomonth Open Private View-4

Portrait and Subject. – Image by Dougie Wallace

Photomonth Open Private View-2

Portrait by Blanka Sadilkova

Photomonth Open Private View-3

Portrait by Julian Smith

The Venue, Rich Mix, is a nice gallery space. It is on an upper floor and overlooks a stage area with a screen. Image from the exhibition were projected onto the screen throughout. This was a nice touch but the images were all elongated and distorted….still it did create a good atmosphere. I took this shot which shows the installation before it got too crowded. The lighting was harsh! Spotlights in a dark room!! I plan to go back again in daylight to make some better images of the installation and my work. The chap in the centre is reading the label with my statement explaining what the work is about.

Photomonth Open 2014 - Installation view

Photomonth Open 2014 – Installation view

So quite a few lessons learned:

  • In open exhibitions I need to be aware that conceptual work could be the exception. I need to ensure that I provide the best information I can to the viewer to assist in their understanding of the idea behind the work,
  • Composite image/text panels are probably the way to go for Open Exhibitions as it ensures that the text and image are shown as I would wish it to be. Relying on text panels designed by a curator may not lead to the desired result,
  •  Make sure I work with curators/printers in future to get the best possible outcome with regards prints whilst still operating within their parameters,
  • Make the text bigger on the panels and keep the references to the source of the texts. Both will help the viewer to interact with the work.

All in all though an excellent experience and my thanks to the organisers Alternative Arts for a job well done!

PhotoMonth Open 2014 -  projection of all photographs on large screen

PhotoMonth Open 2014 – projection of all photographs on large screen