I’m conscious that I haven’t posted here since making the virtual exhibition live in mid-December – I’ve been busy doing stuff rather than writing about doing stuff! But it feels like enough has happened to merit an update. Note that this is not the actual self-assessment exercise that forms Assignment 5, that will follow shortly. This is more of a brain-dump of the ups and downs of the last couple of months, some of which I will then sift into a more coherent self-evaluation.

I’ll start with what I believe went well and will finish with a couple of aspects that for one reason or another could have gone better (learning opportunities!).

Virtual exhibition

Virtual exhibition

The virtual gallery went live on Friday 11th December. To date it has had 561 unique visitors. I’m not sure whether this is objectively impressive or not! I’m very pleased with it. It’s probably more than I might have got to turn up in person to a physical exhibition in a local venue.

Feedback

I have been very heartened by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I have received for the project. I will battle with my natural tendency towards modesty ☺️ by publishing some of them below:

  • Excellent images with great titles. Very imaginative concept. I can certainly empathise with it. Love the format.
  • Super well done. Looks really professional and a moving contemplation on age.
  • Well worth visiting for wonderfully crafted images and a few minutes of reflective time!
  • Interesting concept. Many of the prints are sad; empty of memories sometimes. Well done.
  • Absolutely fascinating exhibition – thoughtful, sensitive and evocative.
  • Wow. Quite simply just wow. The exhibition was like a breath of fresh air, changing visuality and creativity at every corner. Simply stunning.
  • I was amused and touched by your images – and found your image framing and colours and textures really involving.
  • I think your images are superb and there is a sense of humour in them too.
  • I really enjoyed looking through your exhibition, your photos are very captivating and you have captured the beauty in many things that we often overlook.
  • Your images are really beautiful you know.

With specific regard to my stated intent with the work (to encourage people to think about their own memory), I had some good comments too:

  • It made me think about time and loss.
  • It is the striking of the thought or memory that occurs to us all out of the blue and seemingly at random that as we age, begins to make us consider if we too are entering a stage of life where a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or one of the myriad types of dementia is only a visit to the doctor’s surgery away.
  • It has made me think about how my own memory is affecting me in middle age and how it is almost making me reconsider how I live my life
  • Opens up the depths of your mind that you don’t often venture and what a beautiful message about memory.
  • I found this work really fascinating and it made me think about how many times I forget things.
  • In many ways I can relate to the images and the situation of fading or altering memory.

However, not too many people contributed new ‘forgettances’ to the exhibition’s user-generated section. I was a tad disappointed in that.

A couple of people did comment about the deficiencies of the virtual reality exhibition format versus a real-world exhibition, and that this hindered their engagement with the work somewhat; this is understandable and a personal preference so I’m not taking it as a criticism of my work per se.

As an aside: I extended the virtual exhibition from its original end date of 31st January to 28th February, largely because the study visit mentioned below wasn’t scheduled to take place until mid-February.

Study visit / artist talk

On Thursday 11th February I did an artist talk / virtual study visit via Zoom. It was about an hour long and started with a 20-minute presentation by me on the journey through the body of work to publication, followed by an ‘in conversation’ segment where my tutor Garry Clarkson interviewed me about my work, closing with an open question and answer session with the audience.

Virtual study visit

Pulling together the presentation was a useful experience; it made me hone my journey of developing the work down to a concise yet coherent narrative. I decided to include the couple of false starts (BoW assignments 1 and 2) but edited out Assignment 4 as too similar to Assignment 3.

About 45 people attended the sessions, and five people who couldn’t attend live requested the recorded copy. I got lots of positive feedback afterwards.

Handmade book

Now I can’t claim the credit for this beyond sending him the photos to work with, but my very talented friend Paul Gotts is an enthusiastic photobook maker and he offered to make me a unique handmade cloth-bound book version of the project. Sadly I haven’t been able to see it in person yet, as it’s stuck in the UK like the catalogues (see below) but he sent me photos of the work-in-progress and the finished article and I am immeasurably pleased with the result, it looks amazing!

Handmade book

Printed catalogue

A bit of a mixed bag. The final catalogue itself looks great and I am really pleased with it. And 41 of the 50 catalogues have been claimed, which is pretty good I think.

Catalogue

The big letdown is that the print run of 50 editions is still stuck in the UK and I am still stuck in France! The catalogues were printed in the UK and delivered to an unmanned locker at my UK address at the end of December. I was due to return to the UK in January and planned to send out the catalogues then (it made sense as the vast majority of the recipients are at UK addresses). But the coronavirus situation deteriorated rapidly in early January and my flights were cancelled up until the end of March. Non-essential travel between France and the UK is still banned and I have no way of getting someone to access the catalogues. They await the return of international travel…

Promotion

Another mixed bag. I was quite pleased with the amplification (sharing, retweeting) I got on my own social media posts, and each time I posted I got a boost in virtual gallery visitors. I did a series of posts on Instagram talking about each image in turn, and got some good feedback via this channel.

The minor letdown was the lack of any offline promotion. I submitted a press release and press kit (photos) to 12 publications and freelance photography journalists. Only one responded, and it was a polite decline. Hindsight: I picked a bad time to promote the exhibition (early-mid December) – I now think that most outlets had pretty much already switched off for Christmas and so my approach fell on deaf ears.


That’s it for now. The exhibition still has about a week and a half to run. I’ll start pulling together Assignment 5 shortly.