Have you ever thought about having your photos in a photo gallery? I have, and it’s bloody nerve-wrecking. Whether your work is displayed for sale in a pub, for the sake of art in a gallery, or whether you just printed off a picture and your mum stuck it on the fridge with a magnet, it opens it up to a whole different type of scrutiny than if you post your images, say, on DeviantArt.
Why? Because this time, it’s real, flesh-and-blood people who look at your photos, not strangers with a broadband connection and a dinky laptop.
Having your photos on display for real strips away all the excuses. It can no longer be their monitor. It will no longer be that they are looking at things out of context… It’s all you.
I’m a passionate believer in the idea that you should display your photos – and so is my good friend Bobby Friske, who shares his first experience of a gallery showing, and the lessons he learned in the process…
Take it away, Bobby…
My back-story in two sentences: I started off in audio, and then moved to video/film. I’ve done 3 short films and been an amateur photographer all along. I’d been photographing the urban jungle for awhile and thought I was finally getting some shots that were good enough to be put in front of other people. Pompous? Maybe. Completely clueless? Yeah, that’s more accurate.
Armed with a portfolio of about 40 photos I’d picked out of my collection I casually mentioned to my girlfriend I was ready to attempt to get into a gallery showing. Call it fate, dumb luck, or the photo gods in my corner… my girlfriend found a local gallery accepting submissions. Look in your local entertainment paper if you have one, it’s a great place to start.
Getting ready for exhibition
Two emails later I’m sitting in a local gallery in front of the woman who looks at your work and tells you “yep” or “nope”. Next thing I know she’s asking me how I plan to mount the photos, what I plan to charge, etc. This is where you can learn from my mistakes. First off, in situations like this I generally nod my head and BS my way through things, so there was no reason to start a new trend. I told her my made up plans on mounting, asked her what she thought I should charge and went with it.
It’s an exciting and scary thing to know you’re about to have your work on display with a gallery. I’ve done film work where I talked in front of 200 people, but that was a collaborative effort. People were going to see these photographs I had taken and like them, or dislike them, plain and simple! Needless to say it’s a little intimidating.
I’m lucky enough to have a photographer mentor, i.e. she makes her living as a photographer. So, of course I solicited her help. Some things she taught me:
- Have a beginning, middle and end to your photographs on display. This was key and a no-brainer in hindsight. Learn about triptychs, basically the beauty of 3′s.
- Have multiple sizes of your photographs available. (More on this later).
- Be ready to “talk artistic” with people who want to know more than you may have ever thought about the picture in front of you. What was your inspiration? Why did you shoot that? What camera, settings, lenses, lighting, etc did you use?
Next is framing. Yes, I had to provide my own frames and that seems to be commonplace. I had quite a few 8″x10″, and some 13″x19″ photographs I’d printed up. Framing can be costly, but I chose to do it on the cheap. I chose Hobby Lobby for the 8×10. I bought the $2 plastic frames with glass front. What I did to make the look “artsy” was turn the backing around. It has more of a corrugated board look that worked well for my city shots.
For the 13×19 I had to spend a little extra, but not much. I got deep black foam core for $2, cut glass from Home Depot for $10 each and mounted everything with heavy duty clips from my local office supply store, around $5 for all of them. To hang them I used thin steel wire from Home depot with wire clamps. For each large frame it cost me about $15. The other plus to the cheap cost was they looked like the belonged with the photos.
Now, the big night. It’s a cliché but true that it all went by very fast, but here’s some things I noticed. You get all kinds at a showing. Friends, co-workers, email buddies and the gallery regulars that are usually on the studios email list. You basically are there to mingle and talk about your work. It runs the gamut from the person who says “I like, or hate” this” to the deep intellectual that wants to know every facet of how the photo before the two of you came to be.
Prices you ask? I’ll tell you. For the 8″x10″ photos I charged $35.00, for the 13″x19″, $85.00. Now here’s where the mentors advice came in handy. She said have 2-3 reprints of each photo in 4″x6″ format, sell them for $10 each. Let me tell you, that’s the ones people bought. Yeah, I sold a few at $35 and a couple at $85, but I sold a LOT of $10 pics.
It’s quite a wild feeling to have someone actually pay you for a picture you’ve taken. It’s even further gratifying when they send you a picture of your photograph hanging in their house.
It may sound corny, but it’s true: Just do it. You’ll learn a lot about how others view your work, more than a photography group, more than online chat.
People that make an effort to come to a show want to see something visually appealing and if they don’t like something, they’ll tell you. I learned to have multiple copies of small photographs. I also learned people will show up if there’s food, even if it’s snacky stuff.
All in all it was a great experience and I look forward to my next showing…
Images © Bobby Friske
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