Photography by Gaz Williams

Assignment 2 Tutor Feedback

Generally David seemed happy with my second assignment where I presented my draft proposal for my exhibition He felt that an exhibition would be a suitable medium for presenting my BoW work and it’s probably not necessary to produce a book I parallel as this might dilute my efforts. He did, however, suggest that the site, format and content of the exhibition should be determined by the direction I see my work going after the course.

In my budgeting I need to include my time and costs even if it’s “free” since it is good practice should I need to attempt to secure funding or, more precisely, reciprocal funding at some point in the future. One way of looking at it is “I’m donating my time so there is a monetary value associated with it.”

I discussed with David whether foam board or Foamex was a suitable medium for the exhibition since I wanted to avoid glass due to the inconsistent lighting in the venue. He suggested that it would be suitable and allayed my concerns that it might appear to “amateurish”. As he said, it all comes down to how I want to show my work and he suggested that a chat with Genesis might be advantageous. He also agreed that glass could be a risk in poor lighting conditions. David also suggested using aluminium instead of Foamex but, again, I’m worried about the lighting conditions. David also recommended the book Exhibiting Photographs by Shirley Read which I’ve subsequently read and it’s incredibly useful. I wish that I’d read it at the start of this module.

Another really useful point that David raised was that whenever something goes on an exhibition wall it looks smaller than you expect. As a result, I’ll increase the size of the images that I intend to take down to check the lighting and positioning before I get them printed in their final form. I’ve been down to look at the Old Court’s current exhibition again and David is right. The images on display are in frames that are just smaller than A2 and the images themselves are no more than A3. I’ve now decided that my border-less prints will need to be the size of the frames or even larger if they are not to be lost on the wall.

I should not get too hung up about the quality of the final print (within reason obviously). David used the example of camera phone images that have been over-enlarged. On a gallery wall most views are from a distance where the pixelation is not apparent. At that distance the image is all, dependant on the work and the audience. When I think back to some of the exhibitions that I’ve attended, both amateur and professional, it makes total sense.

A useful comment from David for any specialist photographer – “More people will hate your work than will love it” which is useful to remember. In other words – develop a thick skin! It’s an interesting comment because I used to address IT conferences all over Europe and the USA. When doing this my views and lectures might conflict with the established practice of the companies or organisations whose employees were attending. It was something that I learnt, that I had to be able to defend my comments, either at the conference or subsequently. Here, there is very little opportunity to defend my work since it’s much more subjective. Any viewer’s negative comments, in general at least, are valid.

As an aside, David subsequently commented – “Not that I am suggesting anyone would hate your work of course” 🙂

It’s important to decide what I want to do afterwards in terms of photography and that must determine the location of the exhibition. Whichever the location, I would be remembered at that site for the work of my first portfolio so there is a danger of returning with a different genre. This aligns with my intention to exhibit the BoW work at the local Arts Centre which is a focus for local art in Windsor. It is also associated with the annual Windsor Arts Festival so provides a continuation of the local publicity and engagement. Subsequently, having gained experience with this location, I will host a larger wildlife exhibition at a gallery that has national associations, and which would market the exhibition nationally. It’s important to look at the profile of the visitors (or prospective buyers) so I feel that this split, of local and national, works with this approach, local visitors at a local centre for the BoW work to promote the Great Park and the wildlife exhibition could be held elsewhere with a larger, non-local and transient footfall.

So, its a case of taking these very useful comments on board and moving forward!

Assignment 1 Tutor Feedback

Everything seems to be generally OK as far as David is concerned with few critical issues raised.

David suggested that I shouldn’t mention the fact that I am a student in my material. This creates preconceptions and prevents the reviewer or visitor from looking at my work as that of a professional. It does mean that I shouldn’t refer to my exhibition as a Degree Show, something that I intended doing to tailor people’s preconceptions. However, that’s exactly what I shouldn’t do according to David. This is making me very nervous, almost as though I was pretending to be a “real” photographer and inviting harsher criticism from viewers of my work. Still, I suppose that I have to go for it !

We discussed my website name, Gaslight Photography with me trying to keep a straight face andas David had a slight difficulty in broaching it. Obviously, it was created at a time when “gaslighting” did not have the negative connotations of today!!!!!! I’ve since changed it to “Photography by Gaz Williams” which isn’t ideal but it creates minimal disruption and my email domain can still be used.

In the publicity I could use terms such as “Edgelands” or “liminal space”. We both agree that we don’t like these terms but galleries and curators often do. Possibly “renovate” the phrases e.g. “Challenging the concept of liminal space” “Edgelands: A tourist’s perspective”. Again, I’m not sure that I want to use such cliches but it fits in well with Laura Noble’s feedback on how to publicise an exhibition or work in general. I just need to think of a version which I can say without laughing or grimacing.

The last image in the BoW thumbnail grid stands out as it has a different colour set to the other images. By modifying the WB and rearranging the grid I’ve been able to reduce this “standout” factor. This is the image that I really want to keep in as it is very contentious, some people hate it and others love it. I’m curious what people will now think as it better integrates with the other images.

Finally, the last image in the wildlife grid appeared grainy in this form. I understand where David is coming from, but the quality is the same as the others and appears fine at full-size. I think that it’s a result of the panoramic format and the dusty location which does work well in the thumbnail format.

Anyway, that’s the feedback from my first tutorial and it’s been very useful. I’ve taken on board each comment and, with the respective changes, I know think I have a stronger approach.

Marketing / Publicity

Being a tourist town there are a number of avenues available for publicity and marketing, many of them free since they benefit the tourist trade upon which Windsor is dependant.

The local paper, The Windsor Observer, welcomes news about local events and the Borough website also includes a “What’s On” page for publicity which is free to use.

Continuing in the vein of free publicity it’s worth noting that the Windsor Photographic Society meets in the Old Court every Tuesday evening and I intend giving a brief talk to the Society while my exhibition is on.

Finally, as already mentioned, the Windsor Festival will have already finished at the start of my exhibition, but I will be able to use its infrastructure to publicise future, but connected, events such as my exhibition.

More formally, while getting my images printed locally for the show I’ll be printing a number of fliers and postcards. The former will be dropped off at several local businesses and outlets with a larger number being available at the Windsor Tourist Office. This is a slight dichotomy given my key audience is intended to be the local populace but, provided that my main efforts are targeted at the local people then any additional publicity will be a bonus. The postcards will be left at the exhibition for people to take away, in effect, acting as loss leaders.

Also, to be left at the site are business cards which are based on my new email signature advertising my website. By co-ordinating my email signature and business cards I intend to create a single, coherent presence for publicity.

In terms of wider and more long-term publicity I’m looking at two websites. Firstly I intend getting feedback from On Landscape’s 4×4 review which, as well as providing the feedback that I require, also provides wide publicity for moving forward.

Similarly, I’ll try to get a subset of the portfolio published on New Landscape Photography, a worldwide community of landscape photographers.

My existing website at www.gaslight.me.uk has been modified to support the exhibition, largely thanks to the feedback from Laura Noble. The domain and hosting costs have already been depreciated through my other interests, so it could be argued that these costs, when factored against the SyP work, are negligible.

Development costs are zero since I have done all the development myself.

Associated with the website will be a presence on Facebook and Instagram, all integrated to provide a coherent presence. The latter two will be completed shortly to ensure that they are available when I disseminate the images for feedback and to New Landscape Photography.

Publication Proposal

I’m looking at SyP as a method of getting my work out to a wider audience , building the confidence to do so and building a network to facilitate this. As a result I’m taking a multi-pronged approach to this. My primary focus is always going to be my Body of Work portfolio but, as mentioned earlier , I’m using the structure of the course to get feedback and build contacts in Wildlife and Travel since I’m interested in both and they, together with the documentary landscape work of BoW, create a coherent whole that reflects my interests.

For my travel photography I’m using the travel companies as a direct market, dealing directly with their marketing directors or managers and I’m going to have a separate wildlife exhibition, possibly after SyP finishes, so I’ll be concentrating on my Virtual Boundaries portfolio for now. The most important aspect of this, together with my Contextual Studies mini-thesis is the local nature of it which heavily influences my choices, both in terms of how I present the work and where.

The “how” is simple – my preferred method of getting my work out to the local community is through an exhibition. I considered a book but I wanted the personal connection that an exhibition would enable, especially if it was on for a lengthy period of time rather than a single day. This led me on the the “where” which is equally simple. Our community Arts Centre, The Old Court, is based in the old fire station, holds classes in dance painting etc, has a local cinema and is a focus for much of the art world in the town. In addition they have a reasonably sized room, just off the entrance, which they use for art or photographic exhibitions, this is right by the areas used for classes and is on the route to the cinema so is guaranteed a strong footfall of local people. In addition, it has an overflow area in the bar which, again, attracts viewers to the exhibition area.

On contacting the Centre they were only to happy to accommodate my exhibition but, of course, timescales were always going to be an issue. As it happened they had a slot free from mid-October to mid-November – perfect! It just meant that I have to get my act together quickly otherwise the next slot was in February.

The feedback that I received from Laura and David (see earlier posts) has been excellent in helping me to refine my portfolio and the final version is now on my website

The marketing of this exhibition is going to be “interesting” as I’ve never had to do anything like this before. I’m currently looking at:

  • Flyers
  • Adverts in local newspapers
  • Postcards
  • Business Cards

and anything else that occurs to me in the next 2-3 months. I’ll cover this in the next post.

Portfolio Review 2 – Laura Noble

The course notes for SyP discuss portfolio reviews and one of the options detailed  is the gallerist Laura Noble. Noble established the Diemar/Noble Photography Gallery in London with photographic consultant Michael Diemar after working at the Photographers, Gallery.

She is quoted in the course notes for SyP :

The good thing about portfolio reviews is that it’s bespoke to each individual. Photographers’ backgrounds vary from MA/BA graduates or students to professionals wanting to alter their place within the industry, both self-taught and with academic qualifications. Often people ask for business advice or to advise on their editioning etc.

As a result I contacted her to arrange a portfolio review via Skype. In advance, I sent the updated portfolio PDF that I’d used in my earlier review with David Williams and prepared myself for some difficult feedback !

It was an interesting session and, much as she describes above, it was very individual – in fact it surprised me with its direction. I had expected a degree of analysis of the portfolio, much as I’d received from David Williams (see earlier post) but the only real comment that Laura made about the portfolio was: “They’re beautiful photographs”

Now that was not the feedback that I was expecting!

Instead, Laura focused on other critical issues such as networking, the exhibition itself and my website which made it a very complementary session to my other review.

The early part of the review addressed networking, following on from her quote in the SyP notes:

“Networking is everything – I wish I’d had Twitter, Facebook, etc., when I was a student. Connecting with other people is key. It’s amazing how quickly people connect. Everyone has a mutual friend in the photography world! Keep in touch with everyone – peers, colleagues. Everyone will keep crossing paths; this is also good for having group shows and collaborating to show you are active.”

She emphasised the benefits of Twitter and Instagram for this purpose, explaining how to make the best use of the tools to create a broad network of interested parties. In particular, she described the “politics” of following and liking related groups that might not be directly related to photography but overlapped. For instance, my portfolio describes the virtual boundaries of Windsor Great Park but a group of dog walkers would have overlapping interests as would a more philosophical group interested in boundaries of any kind. She recommended the app Crowdfire to help with this function. Tweetfire was another recommend app to help manage the Twitter environment.

A website is an obvious mechanism for promoting one’s work and Laura was dismayed at the fact that I had three fonts on my home page. Given that one was a logo rather than a font and the other two were very similar (I’d thought that they were the same as I hadn’t looked closely enough 🙁 )  I didn’t think that it was quite as bad as she described but, on the other hand, it’s something that I need to correct. The logo is going and the other two fonts are now the same. In addition, I’d included some background material to my portfolio which was too complicated so is now much simpler.

The third element of the discussion was the exhibition itself and this, for me, was the most interesting section. We discussed options for presentation such as Ink Jet vs C Type (must be Ink Jet in Laura’s opinion), framing and mounting (never use black frames), the location (seemed to be OK) but the interesting part was how to get the audience/viewers involved, how to create an extra layer to the experience to make it stand out.

Image result for Rein Jelle Terpstra in his project The People’s View A simple, but effective, example was the exhibition of “The People’s View” by Dutch artist Rein Jelle Terpstra that is part of the exhibit, “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey,”. In the image shown some of the images are arranged on the wall to show the location at which they were taken along the route.

We discussed how I might add a layer of interest and came up with a number of examples

1. display a map of the Park with pins available that could be stuck into the map to show people’s favourite location

2. invite visitors to upload their favourite “off the beaten path” image of the Park to an Instagram account that could be displayed at the exhibition

3. Simply label each image with the distance, in metres, from the popular Tourism Space

etc, etc, etc

Throughout the review Laura used other photographers or their websites to illustrate some of her points and the most relevant of these were

In summary, it was a useful exercise, particularly the ideas on viewer interaction, adding a layer to the display, that was so complementary to my other feedvack.