Presentation Strategy ‘Lifting the Curtain’

Posted on January 2, 2015


I am in the process of documenting my ideas for presenting ‘Lifting the Curtain’. My aim is to present my proposals to my tutor as Assignment Five for the Your Own Portfolio course. My submission for the assignment will be a document, structured as follows:

  • Overview
  • Strategy for Presentation
  • Exhibition Format
  • Book Format
  • Promotion

In this post I will deal with my overall strategy for presenting the work.

I was very taken by this observation by Angela Kelly in her essay Book, Exhibition, Lecture, Website – Revisiting Catharsis: Images of Post-Conflict Belfast (1) which I read recently:

The photographer in the digital age no longer needs to work towards a single material form
or end point. Work may gain new traction long after it was first conceived or developed.
Each new context can suggest a new audience or can lead to a new interpretation of the work…

This got me thinking about the eventual end-point for Lifting the Curtain in terms of presentation. As Kelly suggests this need not be restricted to a single form. Indeed, the best way forward may be to use two or more forms in parallel. As Kelly suggests I should also be open to reconsidering the form of presentation over time should new opportunities and venues for showing the work emerge. So my strategy as presented in this post should be viewed as a starting point. Other opportunities may arise in the future.

It perhaps goes without saying but it is vitally important that the form of presentation selected should ‘fit’ with the concept/strategy for the work and enhance its overall impact.

Lifting the Curtain links Charles Booth’s 1889 socio-cultural survey to the modern day East London. One way I can strengthen this link further is by ‘echoing’ Booth’s approach to presentation. He published his work in three forms:

  • A published book – in 1902-3 the final version of his work covering the whole of London was published in seventeen volumes.
  • A display of his Descriptive Map of London Poverty, 1889 – this was a huge display some 16 feet across. The map was exhibited at both Toynbee Hall and Oxford House in East London (both were philanthropic organisations helping the poor).
  • A lecture format – Booth gave a series of lectures about his work.

This would suggest that the book format, displays of prints and a lecture format are the most appropriate forms for me to deploy. All three would also offer the potential for a design that encourages the the type of interaction between the viewer/reader and the work I am hoping for. They allow juxtaposition of image and text  to encourage the viewer/reader to connect them; image and text can be displayed so that they are perceived as having equal standing; and the reader/viewer can decide how much time to spend viewing the work and is able to move backwards and forwards between each image and it associated text. These design elements encourage the active and thoughtful engagement of the viewer/reader in interpreting the work.

I have therefore decided to focus my attention on an exhibition of prints, and a book. The lecture format I will put to one side at the moment. (I see this something that might  follow on on from successful publication of the book, as in Booth’s case).

Whilst an exhibition and a book are the forms of presentation I plan to use, an effective strategy for presentation of my work must go beyond the ‘theoretical’  form of presentation and also tackle the much more difficult challenge of how to create an audience for my work.

Booth’s work deals with social conditions in East London. Throughout his survey in the late 1800s, Charles Booth used Toynbee Hall Settlement as his headquarters. Several of Booth’s ‘secretaries’ were from the settlement. Toynbee Hall is still going strong today and its vision remains ‘To eradicate all forms of poverty’. I believe that linking the presentation of my work with Toynbee Hall offers a unique opportunity for me both to create an audience for my work and at the same time to do something to help the fight against poverty in East London.

My idea is to stage an exhibition as a fundraiser for Toynbee Hall with the aim of selling prints and launching the book. I would pay for the printing and book production and any funds raised would go to the Toynbee Hall charitable foundation. I would hope to stage the exhibition at a venue close to Toynbee Hall in Spitalfields.

My plan would be to launch the exhibition as part of the East London International Photography Festival, PhotoMonth 2015. This would enable me to ‘piggy-back’ on the publicity for the festival and potentially reach out to a larger audience than would be possible if i were to go it alone. I will need to define the scope of the exhibition (number, size, framing of prints and so on) and find a venue by the end of July 2015 for my exhibition to be included in the festival.

In the meantime I will look for opportunities for presenting my work in open exhibitions. By so doing I would hope to raise the profile of my work, which I believe will help persuade gallery owners to show my work. So far some of my work has been shown at the East London International Photograph Festival PhotoMonth Open 2014 and has been published in edition 10 of HashtagPhotography Magazine. It is also going to be included in an Open College of the Arts sponsored exhibition on May 2015.