logo

Photography by Gaz Williams

The Photography Industry – Interview 1

It was pretty obvious that the first interview for this essay should be the director of the Arts Centre were I intend to hold my exhibition. Although not a curator in the truest sense of the word he is responsible for a large portion of the Arts Scene in Windsor and has been involved in curating many aspects of this scene. I’ve removed his name and replaced his initials with “Ans” as I don’t want to put his name on the Internet without his permission.

GW: These questions are about Art in general but, out of curiosity, do you have any interest in photography specifically?

Ans: My first interest is music and always has been but though my work in the Old Court, and before that, I found that it was impossible to not have some interest in other forms of art if one was interested in a particular form. Nowadays, classical music might be a slight exception, but in other forms there’s so much crossover between forms that you move, or are moved, into other areas almost without realising it.

GW: You’re central to the Arts scene in Windsor through the Old Court and the Festival – you could say “at the apex”. How do you see it?

Ans: Yes, I mean that I wouldn’t won’t to posture on it but that’s the aim of both of them, both organisations, and if my job is to facilitate that and get them both working like that then “yes” that’s absolutely right. Yep.

GW: Curator or Curationism is a trendy word now. You could describe yourself as a curator to Art in the community – is this fair?

Ans: Yes, I mean, I think that’s very much the case. I see it as <pause> it works … there’s two sides to it. One, it is providing for the people who are going to consume and the other is facilitating for those who are providing … and so it is a balance of the two because we’re not the Arts Council and we’re not solely concerned with providing work for artists. We are principally concerned with serving the community. So, you’ve got to think about what will work for them, and what people want to see. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re driven by being populist but by what you think is going to be of interest. But also, as a curator, and producer I suppose … there’s no science to it. You know, it’s very much an individual thing and somebody else would do it completely differently. But I always start with what I think are the opportunities to make life a bit more enjoyable, more colourful

GW: How did your role develop?

Ans: It’s funny but I have no particular training or background in this, I’ve never read a book studied any theories on the subject to curating or on how to do what I do. It’s simply, I suppose, experience and intuition – a bit like life I suppose 😊

GW: You’ve mentioned your two roles and there seems to be a lot of synergy between them?

Ans: Indeed, they should do because this place is, as you know, the community Arts Centre and when we took over it was very, very important, to me, to get as many people through the doors as we possibly could. To make people want to use it, to make it busy, vibrant and with filling the time that it’s open. I mean it’s open 7 days a week. Adding a cinema to the site has been a good thing as well in this respect. So, it’s natural that the Festival should use this place, as is the Fringe this year. Because the Festival in its early days was very easily defined as slightly “club-like” and if you weren’t in it then it wasn’t for you. And there’s no point in that really because the Festival should represent all sorts of different people and events and audiences. So, this has been a great boost to our Festival program because it has allowed us to do stuff that we didn’t have the facility to do before. Because you can’t put on a Rock and Roll in St George’s Chapel so now, having an auditorium here of 160 seats with theatre-style equipment, we can do that so … in previous years the Festival did occasionally use here but it was very difficult from a relationship point of view. We couldn’t establish any sense of partnership so it is great that they do support each other.

GW: I’ve noticed that the successful exhibitions or shows in Windsor, including the Old Court, generally tell a story – do you agree and do you think that is necessary for a successful exhibition?

Ans: I think that storytelling is a very, very important part of Arts activity and provision and it can be very basic, it can be in the sense of a straightforward classical music concert where you might just listen to the music and you might not get much od a story at all. Obviously, with more romantic music you move into that where it’s telling you about something nut a Haydn symphony or a Mozart symphony doesn’t really give you a story. However, the experience of going to the State Apartments in the Castle for a performance or a concert in those wonderful surroundings is almost like a pilgrimage, walking up to the chapel and listening to this wonderful music is almost like a story in itself.

GW: In those circumstances isn’t it the listener that is creating his or her own story?

Ans: Yes, I think that people do, I mean if you’re hindered by detailed program notes detailing things like “listen out for the clarinet entry three minutes into the second movement” then it becomes deadly dull and the mind can start focussing on other things like “What did I forget in Waitrose?” or it can create a story. Having said that, in the visual arts, they are “given” to telling a story and you look around here and see the current photos of the Festival and you see Terry Waite talking and you wonder where is that? Why is he there? Similarly with sculpture, you have the horses on the roundabout by the Long Walk or … obviously in Windsor we have a lot of regal connections, with memorials or statues al creating or reminding us of stories. So there’s very much a place for “seeing” what somebody is trying to tell you. Which again, we all work on different levels. You might look at a work at a very basic level or you might go into it profoundly and that’s all about the experience.

It’s very interesting, when the Festival does its schools exhibit where we exhibit prize-winning work from A level students from all around the Borough the experience of seeing the artist as a child watching other people react to their work which they’ve being doing in the classroom and suddenly it’s out for the critical eye is fascinating. Because somebody might miss it completely whereas somebody else might say that it’s amazing “it reminds me of those Ghanaian pots that people carry on their heads” and the artist would think “Good Lord, I never thought of that” then thinking that there’s somebody that I will never meet again but is making a connection and thinking about my work.

GW: What are you looking for when you curate or host an exhibition here?

Ans: The purpose of the Old Court is primarily to be a commercial organisation, without the revenue from the theatre, cinema, classes and the bar we, obviously, couldn’t survive, we need them to subsidise the other areas. At the same time, we want to encourage the art scene in Windsor as we are, as I mentioned, in effect the Community Arts Centre, so we’re heavily associated with the Windsor Festival and with the Winsor Fringe. As part of that we try and have a permanent exhibition in this area to, in effect, advertise art. Mainly we’re looking for something that has a local interest

The Photography Industry – Initial Thoughts

Whilst I can understand the need for a wider understanding of the photographic industry for a degree course I find the third assignment to be a slightly discordant exercise as if the module had been shoe-horned into the same structure as the other modules.

The two choices for this assignment are to either spend some time on a work placement that is relevant to the industry or to write a 2,000 word analytical text that discusses a particular role. At the moment I don’t think that I can commit to a work placement simply because I will be doing to much travelling over the next few months and would find it impossible to commit my time to anything and it would be extremely unfair and unprofessional to approach a placement with that attitude. As a result I’ll be writing an analytical text.

The subject or the role that I’ll be researching is, for me, a fairly obvious choice since I found the role of curator very interesting when I was doing the Contextual Studies module so I’ll be building on the research that I did for that module together with some primary research in the way of interviews.

Curator noun /kjʊˈreɪ.tər/ – person in charge of a museum, library, etc.

Obviously the term “curator” can involve many entities such as museums, libraries, art galleries as well as photography exhibitions but I’ll be looking, primarily, at the latter.

An early part of my Contextual Studies essay concerned John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic, who created a museum at Walkley, near Sheffield, to educate his workers. His aim in curating this museum was bring experience of cultures to those who were unable to travel and experience them for themselves. In this he ‘was dedicated to widening social access to cultural experience’ (Hanley & Walton, 2010:19)

As the essay developed I arrived at modern curators who curated multi-dimensional events involving light, music, video, dance as well as photography, sometimes inextricable linked to the Internet. Indeed PostInternet was a term reputedly first coined by the artist Marisa Olson to describe how artwork and other entities now transcends the internet, developing an existence across all media. With no formal definition and no ‘school’ associated with it, it has many critics but it has relevance to the issues to be addressed here, illustrating the issues involved in the overlap or integration of the virtual tourist with the corporeal tourist.

The aim of my Assignment 3 essay will be look at how the modern role of a photography curator is perceived today given the huge disparity between Ruskin’s view and Olson’s.

References

Hanley, K., and Walton, J. K.,2010, Constructing Cultural Tourism: John Ruskin and the Tourist Gaze, Bristol, Buffalo and Toronto: Channel View Publications.

Olson, M., (date unknown) Postinternet Foam, avaliable online at https://www.academia.edu/24570104/POSTINTERNET_FOAM_MARISA_OLSEN_ Accessed 22/08/2016

Assignment 1 Tutor Feedback

The assignment for this section can be found on my website here.

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 as 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.