Public Exhibiting. Another Step in Sharing

I took a photo of an unusual bird on Prince Edward Island, and then weeks later, got the prints back to find that the bird, that fascinating bird, was only a small spot in an otherwise uninteresting lawn with an uneven horizon. That photo would probably still bring back a memory for me but has no value for sharing. It doesn’t convey a sense of that time, or location, or bird. And it certainly isn’t worth a second print.

That was a lesson in learning that the camera can focus to create a crisp edge but cannot focus our attention without a lot of human input.  Composition, choose of lens, depth of field, lighting is required. Post processing can further create an image that matches our brains effortless ability to ignore the unimportant, make the world level and bring our attention to the subject.

With some skill developed, I can now create an image worth sharing with others.  It can go out via email, twitter, Flicker, Facebook or Instagram. In club competitions it can be enjoyed with similar images, or perhaps show up on the website. 

And yet there are still dimensions missing in these electronic images. In the digital world my image size is dictated by the screen involved.  Often colour, vibrance and brightness is skewed. The electronic world produces many versions of the image from the small Instagram image on my phone to a large projection in a hall.

But size matters. The sculptor Ron Mueck plays with this impact superbly. If you will forgive the poor shot, you can see that the sheer size of this man affects your response. Now, imagine a tender shot of a newborn bird. Making this huge would change our response from something of tenderness, to a tremor of fear that this is a baby dinosaur soon to grow and begin feeding.  Printed small, say tiny enough to enough to make you step forward close to the image, will create a feeling of tenderness, of wanting to protect this delicate life with your hands. The size matters.

And the medium matters. An image takes on a different quality when printed on canvas, Dibond, glossy, matt or even a ceramic tile. The different textures will set off the sense of touch in your fingers and create a different relationship between you and the image.

We have now reached another level of sharing or communication when we spend the money and time needed to print some of the better images. Now we have images with consciously chosen focus, composition, depth of field, size, presence and texture.

To add a further dimension, the image needs to be taken from the folder and hung to be enjoyed more slowly.  It is time to think of about Time, which is something that we don’t always give our images.

Instructions on producing good slide shows will recommend 10 to 12 images per minute. Judges for CAPA have mentioned that in competition entry must grab their interest in two seconds. This rather worries me as it encourages us to develop images that grab you by the throat, demand your attention, and reduce content to the verbal equivalent of a 3-word bullet point. 

So the next step in sharing your work, and I think developing a more complex visual language, is to incorporate time by making your work available to be seen more slowly or more frequently. And that means exposing your image for longer periods of time in a venue that allows more contemplation. 

Members of the Victoria Camera club have regularly entered the Sooke and Sidney Fire Aft shows, Metchosin Art Pod, hung work at local coffee shops, the New Photographers Gallery in Sidney, the Victoria Art Gallery Small works show, and other galleries.

Showing your work, either as a show, or with others in a group exhibition, adds the dimension of being available to be seen more slowly with other similar or contrasting work.  And that will allow us to tell a story more slowly, perhaps develop a more complex composition, or hide small details in the work. Perhaps it is time to write a visual paragraph instead of a 3-word bullet.  Time Matters.

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