Thoughts At The End Of An Exhibition
I was at a photodiscussion a little while ago where a chap said that he always felt a bit depressed at the end of an exhibition of his work. If so, maybe there are ways to counter that.
Disappointment tends to be the result of over-expectation so what you have to accept right from the start is that the wider world is going to remain largely unmoved by your show. You can drench social media if you like – and as my collective did for the first two. We produced postcards and pamphlets and posters and leaflets, too. We still have many in storage. For my solo one the gallery produced a poster for shop windows and so on – which was ample, I thought.
None of the three cost me anything. The first two relied on Arts Council funding and at the latest one the gallery kindly paid for the prints. That is pretty rare these days by all accounts. Generally, though, the enthusiast exhibitor will end up out of pocket. Why do it, then?
For me the two main advantages were that it is hugely interesting to go through the whole process – particularly with the help as I had most recently of a professional curator. Who does what, who decides what, how you put a press release together, how you go about hanging and so on. The second is that you see your photographs in a completely different way when they are hanging in that impersonal space for the public to see. Your darlings are on their own now! You learn a lot from that.
You have to balance that against the costs of printing and mounting and any framing plus publicity, ancillary expenditure and your own time. You’ll also need somewhere to store all the prints when they come down. Even with professional support it takes a lot of effort and so it’s not for the faint of heart.
It probably isn’t really a question of either exhibiting or doing nothing. These days there are several alternatives: you have photobooks, digital galleries, websites, innumerable competitions and calls for work. All of these, whatever their merits, present the opportunity for showing your work. But the gallery is the real world with real photos, of course and maybe therefore an important counterflow to the digital tide.
I wouldn’t say I felt any anti-climax at the end of any of these exhibitions but certainly I had a clearer sense of my place in the photographic universe. That was actually pretty helpful – as a dose of reality usually is.