Tag : Exhibition

Exhibition feedback

Before the exhibition I felt that obtaining feedback was going to be an important aspect of the event but couldn’t decide how best to approach it. My favourite option was to have a large cork board or similar with a large supply of brightly coloured Post-Its and pens to enable comment to be left in this way. In theory this would have worked well and I did set it up at the beginning but I realised before the exhibition a slight flaw with this plan. The Arts Centre is next door to a college whose students use the bar area for coffee breaks or for after-college drinks. Whilst a number of the comments left were appreciative, many of the students did exactly what I’d have done as a student meaning that the board wasn’t going to be of much use!

In addition, most of the respectable comments were along the lines of “Beautiful images” or “Lovely work”. Whilst very much appreciated and flattering these comments weren’t going to be of much help in planning future exhibits.

Of more use were the comments that were left on the website exhibition comment area whose URL was on the information board. When I was around and talking to visitors I took to pointing them in the direction of this contact form and asked if they would leave a comment if they had the time and inclination. The comments solicited in this way were far more constructive, nearly all were complementary but many had suggestions on things that would have worked better. Some of which I agreed with and some that I didn’t but all had merits.

Generally, the venue was well-received but there were one or two suggestions regarding the positioning of the images and of the information board. The latter was placed near the door that led to some of the other areas so that most of the people passing through could read it and, hopefully, be encouraged to stop. Some of the comments wanted a start point and a sequence to the images so felt that the board should have been at the beginning – even though I had deliberately not created a recommended path or beginning. I’d felt that this was contrary to the idea of exploring, if I created a path through the images then it was no different to creating a boundary to the exploration of the area.

Another suggestion that cropped up was to have more information with the images, the location and the time/date of the image. Again, this was something that I’d deliberately avoided for the same reason. If I’d told people where the location was then they would go there, much as they would find the location when photographed and uploaded to Social Media. When I explained the reasoning most people came round to my way of thinking but, of course, not everybody felt that it was the correct decision.

On some days there were more tables and chairs in the main room than I would have liked. This was largely due to the fact that some groups such as a language class might use part of the room for their chats and the chairs were placed accordingly. That was the negative aspect, the positive aspect being that the presence of these groups introduced more people. I even heard one of these groups discussing my images in Italian as part of their practice!

I’ve included one of the more extensive comments below as an example of the type of feedback obtained when solicited.

Venue The choice of what is in effect a licensed coffee bar was a particularly good choice for capturing the attention of a broad range of visitors. The converted old fire engine station has a welcoming ambience which encourages chance visits from people of all ages. Being distinctly not a pub meant that it was also attended by families some even with small children. Its position on St Leonards Road was great for passing footfall.

Presentation The display of the photographs around the walls encouraged you to walk around the different areas which served to provoke discussion with others also viewing the pictures. However, sometimes the presence of occupied chairs and tables proved an obstruction and occasionally prevented as close an examination of the photographs as might have been ideal.

Concept of photographic content The idea of going to a well known geographic location but then seeking out pockets of otherwise unexplored territory was quite thought provoking and it has inspired me to do the same since. When visiting paths and woods I know well I have deliberately chosen to follow unfamiliar paths to unfamiliar places.

Images I really liked the different natural light that was captured by the photographs. Without the inclusion of classic dramatic landscapes to make each picture interesting, the scenes caught your attention through the way that the natural light illuminated the various images.

This type of feedback was extremely encouraging and the above was far from an isolated case.

Another item of feedback that I found extremely heartening was from the Director of the Centre

 “Hosting Gaz’s exhibition at The Old Court was a real pleasure and working with him was a delight. The photographs were beautiful, and enhanced greatly by the clear and helpful description and explanation of his work. The result was well-received by the general public, and much comment and interest was made and taken in the works which helped provoke thought around these less obvious aspects of Windsor Great Park. I would welcome Gaz back to The Old Court most happily.”

In summary I couldn’t have been happier with the feedback and to get an endorsement from the Centre was unexpected.

However, there was one anecdotal piece of feedback that hit home far harder then any of the complementary or critical elements referred to above. I wasn’t present at the time but some of the staff at the Centre mentioned an elderly gentleman who had seen the exhibition advertised in the local paper. Now in a wheelchair he was unable to visit the Park as he had done in the past, just wandering and exploring the lesser used areas, much as I was encouraging people to do. He’d asked his daughter to bring him to the Centre so that he could see the images of the places that he so missed. According to the staff who helped him get closer to the images the memories came flooding back to him, he couldn’t stop talking about the area and his memories of it until all of those present could feel the same emotions. He, and many of the others, ended up with tears in their eyes, in a good way, from the memories that my images brought back.

If that wasn’t a worthwhile reason to have created the exhibition then I don’t know what would be!

After the Exhibition

My first ever exhibition is over and, contrary to my misgivings at the start of the module, it seemed to go very well. The feedback was, in my view at least, excellent but, more importantly, I actually enjoyed it – something that I would have found inconceivable a few months back.

There’s really not much to add to the previous post that described the installation and the early days but one problem did arise. Some of the images, particularly those in the bar area, tended to warp slightly. Most people wouldn’t have noticed but, to my eyes, it was a disaster!

The temporary remedy was quick and simple. I just needed to take the image off the cables and it lie flat on a table for 3 or 4 minutes then put them back – that’s all it took, but it was still annoying as I had to do that two or three times for the affected images. I think that it was caused by the temperature since the affected images were the closest to the heaters.

Obviously, if I’d framed the images behind glass this wouldn’t have happened but I’m still of the opinion that the images, or at least the theme, worked better without these artificial “boundaries”.

On a couple of images I tried putting vertical battens on the back which worked well. The battens were invisible, added a little extra stiffness but were unobtrusive.

In hindsight I think that I should have gone with the 5mm Foamex instead of the 3mm that I originally selected. It would have supplied that little bit of extra rigidity and the extra depth of the blackness on the side view might have enhanced the floating impression but that’s a minor improvement.

I was “in attendance” on most days even if it was only for 30 minutes at a time and found it fascinating to watch people as they moved around the rooms. Sometimes I’d just listen as they talked to other visitors, on other occasions I’d introduce myself and chat about the images and the theme in general. People were universally friendly when I took this approach and were happy to comment or criticise constructively. It was interesting to listen to other peoples’ interpretations of the images, sometimes very different to mine or just surprising.

Back in the days of the Documentary module I wrote an essay about the “Reflexive View”, discussing how a person’s experiences or cultures led them to perceive things differently, whether as a photographer or as a viewer. The different interpretations that I heard would have been excellent examples to use in that essay.

Due to commercial regulations associated with photography on Crown property I wasn’t allowed to sell my images at the exhibition or, more accurately, I hadn’t applied for permission to do so, mainly because there was a licence fee to be paid and I didn’t want the distraction of commercial licencing during the preparation for the exhibition. Instead, after the exhibition, I simply offered the mounted images to friends who’d visited the exhibition and all of them were snapped up quickly. Some of them have been framed behind glass and I have to admit that they look good in that form. However, they definitely do create a boundary which is totally acceptable for individual images (because the theme has been removed) but I still don’t think that frames would have worked when all of the images were being displayed together. When together the theme was apparent and the images worked well together, frames on all the images would have separated them, creating boundaries between them, instead of being able to view them as a consistent and integrated whole.

In summary, I had a great time, I really (unexpectedly) enjoyed putting on the exhibition and felt that it was well appreciated, both by the Centre and by the visitors. Indeed, the director of the Old Court has already asked me to produce another exhibition due to the success of this one – I don’t think that I can get a much better endorsement.

The Installation Process

The long wait is finally over – after seven, almost eight, modules and a number of years my first exhibition is hanging on a wall and the first visitors have been in to see it. OK, some of those were friends who were coerced into it or bribed with the offer of a drink at the bar but those are actually my images on the wall of an exhibition site!

The hanging of the images was, as I expected, very fiddly and frustrating but not as bad as I’d expected. Because of the method of hanging that was mandated by the Centre it was difficult to get the images level but a spirit level app on the ubiquitous smartphone was surprisingly effective. The biggest problem was the vertical hanging cable method. These cables were made of a fairly stiff plastic material with a sliding clip to take the crocodile mounts. These clips were slightly stiff to move so trying to move them a millimetre ended up in a movement ten times that so I’d need to go back and try again to get them level.

More annoying was the surplus cable which had to be rolled up so that they wouldn’t be visible hanging beneath the images. Because of the stiffness of the cable these coils of surplus material had a mind of their own and instead of lying parallel to the wall would rotate and push one side of the image away from the wall. Lots of insulating tape tended to fix that problem but over the past week since I hung the images two or three of these coils have worked lose so I need to go in regularly to maintain the correct hanging of the images.

It’s no worse than I expected so I can’t really complain though I would still have preferred to be able to mount directly to the wall. Having said that, I totally understand the Centre’s reluctance to allow it. One aspect that did work well were the polystyrene floaters as I called them – those small tubes of polystyrene that I’d placed at the four corners of the Foamex mount so that all four corners would stay at the same distance from the wall even on the vertical hangers. Apart from the aforementioned issue with the surplus cables this was a success and created the floating effect that I wanted.

The “Opening Night” was fun even if it was on the second evening. It simply consisted of a group of coerced invited friends and family for drinks and canapes in the bar area. This contained three images which can be seen being hung in the second image above. The arch to the right in that image lead to the main area where most of the images were displayed. some of which can be see in the bottom left image.

We didn’t have exclusive access to the bar area so other casual visitors were present and it was interesting to watch their reactions as well. Not surprisingly the general comments from friends was complementary but some interesting comments were made. Most of them totally understood the theme once they’d read the information board and some were coming out with observations that I hadn’t thought about, particularly about the consistent use of light.

Another thing that was successful according to these early comments was the way the images floated just off the wall creating a portal-like effect. A number of the guess commented on its effectiveness in giving the impression that the viewer could step through the boundary into the other area, something that I’d envisioned when I thought about the hanging and mounting of the images.

All in all I’m happy and pleasantly surprised with the installation and its effectiveness but we’ll see if I still feel that way in four weeks time when I come to dismantle the exhibition.

One final note – I have to say again the the staff at the Old Court were fantastic. It was my responsibility to do the actual hanging but they were so helpful with everything that I needed.