During the planning phase for the final publication I submitted various sub-edits of the project for online group shows (the only kind of show happening during the pandemic restrictions) and this post serves as a summary of these experiences, including lessons and ideas I took forward into the later stages of SYP.
The opportunities fell into three categories:
- Graduate shows
- Open calls
I’ll cover each of them briefly below, with more details at the links provided.
These were grouped according to educational institution (i.e. there was an OCA BA Photography section), and to participate I just had to opt-in; there was no external selection/curation element.
I had a dedicated page featuring eight images, as part of an OCA section with eight other Level 3 students.
Having a dedicated page was an advantage in terms of pointing people to the site, and the presentation was nice and clean. It still felt like a ‘group show’ though, in the way they linked the OCA cohort together. A well thought through online exhibition format.
Along similar lines to Source, this entailed a subset of images from the project, although in this instance the OCA was allocated a total of 50 slots to be divided across the participants; 10 students took part so we all got just five images each.
I wasn’t as keen on the presentation on this one; the images were thumbnails linking to a virtual Lightbox focusing on each photo, and the background was darker than I would prefer. I was still grateful for the exposure, of course.
This is a showcase of OCA L3 Photography students, initiated and pulled together by fellow student Andrew Fitzgibbon. We all got our own page with up to six images.
I’m really pleased with this as it serves as a kind of permanent (I think!) record of my final year work, in the context of my OCA ‘cohort’. The AoP show is already removed from the web and the Source show may or may not be permanently published
This is where as part of the entry I could promote my own submission page, even if I didn’t get any exposure directly from the organisers.
This was quite a broad remit in terms of theme, as long as it was a coherent project of maximum 10 images. Another edit was required, slightly different to the Source and AoP ones. By now I was starting to get a feel for which images I felt worked best together.
I entered this competition partly to see if I could win (I did not) and partly because all entries got a written portfolio review. In terms of exposure, though I didn’t win anything I was able to promote my own entry via a dedicated public URL provided per entry.
These were themed (sometimes loosely) online exhibitions where individual images rather than whole projects were showcased.
I entered this following encouragement from Jayne Lloyd who gave me a portfolio review earlier in my SYP journey. Jayne is projects director at Shutter Hub and she persuaded me that my images could work as standalone artworks, outside of the context of the Remembering Forgetting project (and with the text removed). I thought of it as a kind of equivalent of ‘releasing singles off the album’.
I submitted five photos and had two included in the final online show. I took some comfort from their validation that the images could work well even when separated from their conceptual framework. However, the presentation was eclectic, with images from the same photographer being separated out around the online gallery. There wasn’t really a sense of me and my work coming through. An interesting diversion, though not a core part of the promotional journey for the body of work.
This was with the same platform as the above, but with more of a ‘project’ focus’. I used the same edit of 10 I had used for the LensCulture submission. This time I left the images with their text juxtapositions as I wanted to get a sense of the project across, not just the individual images.
Two images were chosen, and this time they were presented together. This made it feel like more of a part of the Remembering Forgetting promotional campaign than the Everyday Delight show.
Rules and limitations
The discipline of working to other people’s submission rules and presentation approaches was a valuable learning experience. Each submission had different requirements for:
- Number of images
- Dimensions / file quality
- Number of words in artist statement
The first point required me to ruthlessly edit down the set (15 images at this stage) to a subset, in one case as small as five images. This really focused my mind on which images were representative of the whole, which may not be exactly the same as the five ‘best’ images or my five favourite images. This was tough but I came out of it with a stronger sense of the ‘backbone’ of the overall project.
The rules on file quality were the hardest to work with, especially in the case of Source where the limitation was 800 pixels on the long edge. With this project I have made things slightly harder for myself by including text, which is much trickier to keep sharp at lower resolutions than photographic imagery. It took lots of experimenting with font weights, kerning and anti-aliasing methods in Photoshop to get to the point where I though the text was sufficiently clear.
The artist statement limitation was different across all the submissions, which meant I had to start with my ‘full’ statement and judiciously edit down to the word limit without sacrificing the key points. The AoP entry had a limit of only 500 characters, which led to a very concise version.
Overall I think these online opportunities had three great benefits to me:
- The discipline of working to given parameters as noted above
- it made me get better at articulating the work as concisely as possible
- which in turn helps me with my own publication planning
- The exposure itself
- which varied according to the reach/audience of the organisers
- The validation that comes with being published by respected photography platforms
- this has a virtuous circle effect of adding credibility to my practice and so making future opportunities more feasible
- and also boosted my own confidence in the work
However, working to other people’s rules also gave me a certain amount of frustration, and with that a desire to do things differently when I was in control of the publication! While there were presentational differences between the platforms, what they had in common was a pretty standard, static website image gallery approach.
What I have been trying to emulate with my online exhibition planning is more of a dynamic, immersive experience where the viewer simulates an actual walk around an exhibition space; the ‘walk as artistic framing strategy’ is something that Alexander Mourant picked out in our portfolio review discussion, and I do want to get a sense of movement into the viewing experience.
So the third party opportunities summarised here have helped me to define what I don’t want my exhibition to be like, which helps to refine what I do want it to be like.