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‘Why Exhibit Your Photography?’ by Matt Goddard

21st September 2020

Us photographers, like many artists, need a push now and again. 

We thrive on the thrill of the chase... Bad weather? So what?! Early starts? I eat those for breakfast (mainly because I forgot to bring any).

Back home, we review our efforts and edit to our intention and style. Proudly we show family and friends, and post to Social Media - safe in the knowledge that we're sat behind a screen. Those proud achievements are now consigned to collecting virtual dust on our storage and online accounts.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s more than just social media, what about the one true pinnacle of being a visual artist and the celebration of your artistic endeavours... 

Free your photography

I, like many artists, question my photography; “is it any good?”, “what does it say about me?”, “Is this even an expression that’s true to myself”? Or at least, I hope it’s not just me that has these thoughts!?

It's not hard to believe us artist types are sensitive souls. Our photography is a personal reflection and it's naturally a daunting step to exhibit. Your photographic creation is centre stage and free from its digital binds. Gone is the separation between artist and viewer. In many ways this is both the pro and the con.

I'd like to share my experience of overcoming a lack of confidence and taking the step of exhibiting. It takes effort and a little courage but it’s a journey well worth making.

Enjoy the Journey

A photograph is an expressive creation. Printing, framing and exhibiting fully realises your creative expression and acts as the ultimate celebration. 

See the steps beyond taking the photo as onward areas to challenge yourself. Paper is not just paper; should I use traditional C-Type matt, gloss or pearl, or even a giclee print on heavyweight cotton paper?  Does the print need to be dry-mounted and framed using a Window mount, float mount or no frame at all? Then there’s glass options and frame mouldings.

Let’s not forget processing and exporting the photo for accurate colour reproduction and trueness to your vision. It sounds daunting but in fact it’s rather enjoyable whilst being every so slightly scary. Every step of the journey post edit is just as exciting, challenging and rewarding as capturing the image in the first place. Personal growth often comes on the fringe of being slightly out of your comfort zone. Embrace it!

Learn from others

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but that said there is a lot to learn. 

Look to others for ideas. Visit exhibitions, in person or online, to gauge pricing and framing styles. Pinterest is always well worth considering for anything visual. Don’t be afraid to break the rules if it suits your style but do keep in mind you may reduce your potential customer base.

I had no idea how much I needed to learn until attending the Light & Land – Selling & Exhibiting your artwork course with Charlie Waite and Luke Whitaker. Consider finding a professional photographer to coach and support you through your first exhibition.

That said, there is the option to start off small, learn, improve, repeat and build to a shared or solo exhibition. Displaying in an art cafe, or artists open house could be a good starting place.

The Reward

This final result is a beautiful moment sure to put a smile on your face and pride in your heart. Your creation now has its own life; captivating and telling a story for those who slow down and press pause.

A tangible and tactile print in one's hands gives something a screen could never give; a physical connection much like the one experienced when making the photo.I believe only a printed photograph elicits such a powerful and emotional response – allowing it to do only what art can do. Art becomes a shared experience and there’s a great amount of enjoyment talking to others about the how, when and where, and more importantly why.

Do it to Grow
 

Exhibiting your photography will bring you 3 things...

 

1.   Greater Awareness of your style, theme, strengths and areas to develop. Take a fresh look at your back catalogue & portfolio - a retrospective review of your photos will give a chance to step back and reflect on the year, or years, so far. 
 

2.   The ability to discuss your photography with others - Representing your work in an exhibition, be that a coffee shop, artists open house, art fair, or gallery exhibition will improve your artistic vocabulary and help you understand why you took the photo and to forge your narrative. You'll also hear what others have to say, receive recommendations of locations and artists, and often share personal stories that bring a true connection. 

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein. 
 

3.   More confidence to do it again  - Remember Confidence Breeds Confidence.

 

Confidence, it's a funny thing
 

I'm a great believer that confidence breeds confidence. 

I'm not the most confident person in the world and coupled with long term health problems (Crohn's) it took a lot of digging deep to find the confidence and drive to exhibit. Not just for the first time but for the first few times. But, I did it and my life felt richer for it and the world that bit brighter for sharing.

How do we overcome fears of exhibiting? We're not all the next Ansel Adams, but we don't need to be. Art is a personal expression and it's not a matter of right and wrong. Sure, personal preference and taste comes into it but we're not all here to please everyone else. Your art has to at the least represent your identity, if not directly then indirectly as a form of self-expression.

Often it's best to jump straight-in and everything will drop into place when fuelled by passion and a little hard work. An event deadline does wonders to sharpen the mind!

Don't forget, exhibiting comes in many forms and baby steps can be taken to learn, grow and build to a shared or solo exhibition.

My Journey:

1.   2017 - 1st exhibition alongside 30(!) others in an artist's open house

2.   2018 - As above but I'd learnt how better to present my photography and share my ideas and concepts

3.   2018 Committed to opening a pop-up gallery & exhibition

Having realised I didn't know very much (panic) I attended the Exhibiting and selling your photography Light & Land course at Bosham with the wonderful pairing of Luke Whitaker & Charlie Waite

2018/2019 For 2 to 3 months I thoroughly enjoyed running a gallery and sharing both my photography and story behind each photograph. I Met great people, heard kind feedback and encouragement, and enjoyed conversing on art, life and everything inbetween.

4.   2019 Opened my own home as an artist open house

5.   2019 2x local art fairs

For similar posts coming soon, see my blog at https://mattgoddardphotography.co.uk

Light and Land

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