Final Major Project: Reaching Out Into The Dark Exhibition, November 2018

The ROITD FMP exhibition took place this week, November 27th and 28th, at studio1.1 gallery on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, London. The decision to actually hold an exhibition was only taken earlier this month, so pulling it together from conception to opening occurred in the space of 19 days.

studio1.1 London gallery

studio1.1 London gallery

The progress of the work during this FMP period has been slow and hindered by outside factors, such that I initially felt that trying to hold an exhibition would prevent me from focusing enough time and energy on actually having enough work to submit by the December deadline. I was also discouraged by preliminary enquiries into potential exhibition spaces. Space hire seemed so prohibitively expensive and difficult to arrange that I figured I should concentrate on putting the work together for online presentation in the form of a project website, which I’d always envisaged as the main repository of the finished work.

I had wanted to present the images in triptychs, aiming to suggest quite open-ended narratives, and had decided that each triptych would be anchored by a portrait. After completing a couple of portrait shoots in the last six weeks or so, I saw this vision finally begin to take shape in a way that made an exhibition now seem possible.



Additionally I was encouraged by a conversation with tutor Wendy McMurdo, an incredibly accomplished artist in her own right, who seemed to confirm that the work was heading in the right direction and encouraged me to keep pushing forward. She perfectly understood the internal conflict that I was having – ‘that’s the artistic process Justin’ – and this reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy and that I could possibly pull it off after all. 

I also realised that without an exhibition I’d be missing a great opportunity to engage with the audience, to ‘reach out’ as I had always been aiming to do with the work. Reflecting on this aspect of the exhibition is something that I’ll discuss further in another CRJ post.

So, once decided upon, it was key to find a space to show the work. I was really fortunate that studio1.1 were able to accommodate me for two days at the end of November at a discounted rate that was within my budget. I had enough time to pull everything else together and also make more work, which at the time of deciding to have an exhibition was still necessary.

The initial plan was to show 12 to 15 images, but it quickly became clear that to do so would not allow me to articulate the idea well enough and would also not fill the space that the gallery afforded. The final exhibition consisted of 18 images presented with accompanying text panels taken from the project research, as well as some additional contextual information about the issue of urban solitude and loneliness. 

Following on from my recent experience with the Shutter Hub Open, I explored the possibility of using newspaper for the printing and made enquiries with Newspaper Club about the papers and sizes available. The price to print on newspaper was certainly very attractive compared to my usual printer Digitalarte (approximately 10 times cheaper!) but once I was clear about which images I wanted to show and considering the subtlety of tonal variations and deep shadow in many of them, I ended up going for the tried and trusted, and much more expensive fine art method. 

Once the space was secured I started promoting the exhibition via Instagram and Twitter and received a number of tentative responses suggesting that people were interested and planning to attend. The private view was held on the evening of Tuesday 27th and I’m really happy to say that it was well-attended.

Visitors at the Private View on 27th November 2018

Visitors at the Private View on 27th November 2018

The show ran for two days, 11am to 6pm on both days, with the private view from 7 to 9pm on the first day. I would have ideally held the exhibition for longer, but the gallery only had two free days available and it was difficult enough getting time off work for this period as it was. All in all it worked well, allowing those who expressed an interest in attending to do so. I was really gratified that people travelled from outside of London to see the exhibition and the feedback was generally really positive, which validated the expense and effort that had gone into putting the show on. 

Overall, I’m really glad that I made the effort to arrange an exhibition. It was an incredibly valuable learning experience, both in practical and organisational terms, but also in terms of helping to better understand how to present work to attract and engage an audience, what considerations are important when planning what one hopes will be a successful show, as well as helping me to gain a better understanding of how different outputs can connect differently with audiences and thus how to more strategically present one’s work in order for it to have the maximum reach and impact. 

I will write more about my reflections in this regard in a subsequent post. 

Final Major Project: Shutter Hub Open 2018 and thoughts on presentation

I had the pleasure of attending the private view for the Shutter Hub Open at Photomonth East London International Photography Festival at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch last week, where one of my FMP images was being shown. 

One of the obstacles encountered to this point has been the difficulty in securing an exhibition space to show the FMP work and settling on the best method of presenting it. I don’t want to create unnecessary barriers between the work and the viewer, as this would be counter to one of the key aims of stimulating conversation and connection in as accessible and inclusive a way as possible. 

One of the benefits of the evening then, was that aside from it being great fun I came away with a new idea for presenting the work in the FMP. The images in this show were printed on newspaper by Newspaper Club and stuck to the wall with tape. When this idea had been proposed to us by Shutter Hub, I was sceptical about how colours and detail would be preserved in these prints. 

Newspaper print images at Shutter Hub Open 2018

Newspaper print images at Shutter Hub Open 2018

Happily though, the final results were great, with plenty of detail and good preservation of dynamic range and a surprisingly good amount of shadow detail in particular (especially relevant to me when thinking about how night images will look once printed). The fact the images were then simply stuck on the wall created a very informal and egalitarian feel to the show. Though the content was incredibly varied, there was a uniformity and unceremonious feel to the presentation that was largely due to this use of newspaper print.

My image on show at the Shutter Hub Open 2018

My image on show at the Shutter Hub Open 2018

This would work perfectly for the way I envisage a possible FMP show of my own work and would be a significantly cheaper option than getting a number of archival prints done with handmade frames. This possibility makes achieving a final show a lot more likely in practical terms and I will be researching this option further in the coming week.

You can find images of the exhibition installation here

Sustainable Prospects: Work It, Work It For Me Baby!

Ok, so I might just have had some kind of P-Funk/Rick James moment there, but that’s only because I’m suddenly enthused and totally convinced of the utility of networking (work it!!).

Last night I attended the launch of MAYNa creative photography and video agency out of Falmouth University. The event, helpfully, took place ten minutes down the road from my house, in Shoreditch (as they’d obviously realised at MAYN HQ that it would be too much of a stretch for me to make it to Falmouth after work on a Thursday!) at the achingly cool headquarters of the advertising agency Mother.

Cool people milling about in a cool place!

Cool people milling about in a cool place!

It was a genuine pleasure to meet artists represented by the agency, such as Alex Flemingwhose work was also on display at the event, as well as the person running the show Lynn Chambers who was just incredibly friendly and passionate about the new agency and what they are hoping to achieve moving forward. 

Aside from feeling honoured to be there, it was also great to be able to put human form to people who had previously only existed to me in the form of a small thumbnail on my screen, fellow students on the course, as well as Jesse Alexander (our MA course leader) and Anna-Maria Pfab, who is our module leader for Sustainable Prospects as well as the founder of another hot photo agency, Kiosk.

Having the chance to meet and speak to these people really cemented something that I have heard a lot during this module…the importance of networking and making genuine human connections in the creative industries. I felt like I learnt more in one evening than I have during most of the rest of the time on my course, simply by absorbing the wisdom of those in the room, and having left a sterile hospital environment immediately before I found being amongst like-minded passionate creatives to be really inspiring. Aside from the possible career benefits of networking, I can see that it’s also a way to stay connected to the energy and passion that got everything started.

For me, there’s a natural caution about these events, usually because I feel that I have little to contribute. I’m sure most people have an innate dread of being placed in a room of strangers and having to make conversation, but it just needs to be done. And it’s a lot less scary than we make it seem in our heads before we’ve actually dived in.

A key lesson from this module, aside from the relentless push to emerge into the  professional arena, is the importance of differentiating yourself in a saturated marketplace. It seems to me that this first starts with your work, having a visual approach that connects with viewers and stands you apart from other image makers. Second to that though is the ability to make genuine connections with others, either as potential clients or other artists who may become collaborators, work referrers, or ‘brand advocates’ almost…

All of these things require some personal connection and interaction and so networking is the lifeblood of any successful photographic practice, particularly in the early stages.

During this module I have made closer links with some of my class mates, discussing further collaborations with Chris Chucas for example, as well as arranging a meetup and exhibition visit for some of us who are local to London. It will be great to spend more time with my MA peers in person rather than in the virtual space of Canvas.