Friday, 22 March 2013

FD2 Photography Exhibition

Now I would have written about this exhibition each day as it was being set up, but I was way too busy to be writing up a blog post every night, so I shall unleash it on you in one post! It's gonna be a long one!

This roller-coaster of chaos began on Tuesday 5th March which was the day we were told that the exhibition needed to be curated and organised. So I volunteered to be part of the curation team with Ellena, Paulina, Brett, Tom C and Tom S, curation has always been something that I have wanted to do and this was my opportunity to test myself, but where to start!? We had just under 2 weeks to set up an exhibition, promote it and organise a private view, that for some reason had been organised to be 2 days after the exhibition actually opened so kind of defeated the point of having a private view.
But anyway, apart from what seemed like a million obstacles to overcome we got onto the task of delegating jobs, Ellie had already started on the poster design for which we had been given the title of 'The best so far...', a title I just had to cringe at, purely because it sounded like a gcse students exhibition rather than that of a degree show, I would have chosen something a little more ambiguous that would have covered the range of styles on display, but we did our best with it. The labels to go with the images were being covered by the guys, Paulina was looking at the printing of the posters and I was assigned the job of the Facebook event page and inviting people.
The event page took only 5 minutes to do but then it was onto helping Ellie with reviewing the poster design,which she had done a brilliant job of so I didn't really have to say anything about it, so we left it to Paulina to print them and post them around the college (Plymouth College of Art).

The poster designed by Ellena Simpson (cover image by Shelley Barlow)

Our next job was to fill in the press release form for the marketing team to promote our exhibition, me and Ellena did this on the 13th March and sent it off there and then - we had to say where the exhibition was, when it was, what it was about and then a quote from a student.
It took about a week to get published on the college website :(
and in The Herald (

The day of setting up the exhibition at the gallery space came upon us very quickly! It was the 18th March, I managed to get the day off work so I had a lovely 6am start to get the train to college! I arrived at about 9:30am to help take the 42 framed/mounted images down to the van to then be transported to the gallery. It was a sunny day so those who couldn't fit in the van walked down to the gallery, including myself, which I appreciated later on whilst I was cooped up inside hanging prints!
We arrived and began organising some of our fellow students who had turned up to help us out, we sorted out who would be stewarding for the duration of the exhibition, different people on different days and also who would be in the morning group and who would be in the afternoon group. Obviously the curation team stayed the whole day to oversee the putting up of the work. We decided to send everyone out of the gallery for about 45mins to allow just the curation team to sort out the layout of the images within the gallery and then when the students came back they could give feedback on what we had decided.
So this was harder than I imagined it to be, we had photographs of different sizes, different frames, some were mounted, they covered a range of styles from commercial to abstract photography and we had 42 images and only a small gallery space - it was certainly one of the more challenging aspects of setting up an exhibition!
We decided to not try to group the images, we didn't want to make the room 'blocky', we needed it to flow through the three segments of the gallery, so this required different approaches. Some images had a similar mood created with their lighting, some enhanced each other within the space, but most of our concentration went into complimenting colours and sizing, this seemed to create the most aesthetic view within the space.

The mounted image leaning on the wall to the left is mine from my 'House of Fear' series.

You can see how the gallery was segmented into 3 rooms, which actually helped in laying out the images.

This is myself, Paulina and Ellena working on the layout of the images on the wall in front of us.

As art students none of us were great at maths but we got there in the end, it just meant a lot of measuring!

Discussing the layout and writing down measurements

These were photographs by Billie Lodrick, Stephen Frapwell and Aaron Prout. 

This wall was the easiest to put together, these images just flowed and played off one another, as you can see below (if only they were all so easy!):

Top left: Steve Frapwell. Bottom: Aaron Prout. Right: Billie Lodrick
The day continued with us putting up the images we had laid out, this meant hammers and nails at the ready along with an okay knowledge of basic math - which after a few hours of doing it began to get confusing as tiredness began to creep up on us. I made a chip run at lunch which gave us a nice break in the sunshine, but then it was back to work. The numbers began to filter down through the afternoon so soon it ended up being the curation team and one or two other students putting up the work. So apart from a few 'length of nail' dilemmas which had to be solved with bluetack and extra nails it got to 5:30pm and we finally finished. With a few high fives and some sighs of relief we looked around with pride at our 8hrs worth of work - we had definitely done the best with what we had - an eclectic mix of work by 42 students!

We even had visitors pop by whilst we were setting up! And all of their comments were positive, it was certainly good to have that motivation throughout the day.
But that wasn't the end, our private view was on the Wednesday night and we still had drinks to sort out for the night - I have to say I was shocked at the lack of donations from our fellow students, the curation team had already shelled out money from their own pockets to pay for printing, labels, velcro strips and nails to hang the work and we managed to get about £9 overall from about 3 students. We had to make a plea on our course facebook page for people to bring a bottle of wine or a carton of juice with them on the night and then cross our fingers that at least half of them would.
So Tuesday 19th I spent stewarding at the gallery with a fellow student, attaching the labels underneath the images, tidying up, rubbing pencil marks from the walls and chatting with the visitors, of which there were many and all with positive comments about the layout and the work! So much so that I just had to write a post on our FB course page about specific comments I remembered, and I hoped in some ways that it would motivate our fellow students to be enthusiastic about the exhibition. One of our lecturers, Jessica Lennan, came down to the gallery to see how we were doing and to look around, it was great to hear a lecturer speak about how well we had done and she also suggested making a brochure for the visitors that explained the exhibition. I had a moment of panic and felt like slapping my own forehead for being so stupid as to forget to make a brochure, so I headed back to college at 3pm from the gallery to start on this brochure, my first design was crap I have to admit, it was a quick A4 size stapled together leaflet which were poorly printed and it was a rush job. So at 7pm I decided to go home and design a new brochure which I could fold together into a smaller size, the night before the Private View! I knew I was in for a late night. We also remembered that we needed a comments book for guests so we left Paulina with that role - for which she shelled out £13! Donations would have really been handy for things like this!
So I started the brochure and sent my first try out to our lecturer Tim who I knew would be the one with the best advice as he is particularly good at design and typography etc. I knew I hadn't done the best job, it was 11pm and I was very much sleep deprived and my motivation was lacking. I spent until 1am emailing people and doing a gallery layout so that everyone who hadn't been at the set up could see where their images were and I also typed up a new stewarding rota with notes on how to lock up which I had discussed with gallery co-ordinator Paula. Below you can see my little layout design:

So I finally went to sleep at about 2am, my plan of a lie in was lost after a wake up phone call at 9.36am about cups - which I had been worrying about so in some ways it was a relief, but it was also a bit like life telling me to get my ass out of bed! So whilst still in my pj's, berocca fizzing away in a glass and a bowl of weetabix to one side, I checked my emails and there waiting for me was an email from Tim...he hated the layout. In all honesty, I agreed with him, I thought it was a shit brochure and I could do better, it was just time that seemed to be going against me! He commented about the aspect ratio of the image I had attempted to stretch and squeeze onto the brochure - it clearly wasn't working. So back to the drawing board I went, a blank canvas. So with ideas lacking I went for a quick bit of internet research and drew some inspiration from some leaflets I had acquired over the years and somehow out of all that I managed to get my 'design head' screwed on and started to put something together. The first one was okay, it was better than my previous design so I emailed it to Tim. His reply was a little better this time, his only problem was the layout of some of the text, so I moved things around, a few font changes and some graphic elements added and I knew I was onto something. I decided not to email him this last one as the clock was ticking towards midday and I didn't have time to perfect the brochure to Tim's perfectionist standards! But he definitely helped to steer me in the right direction, I would have made a right mess of it without his help!
And so I went into college with my brochure design on my memory stick, ready to print off as many as I could afford (turned out to be 20) I then had to sit and fold them all up ready for the Private View that evening, I was pretty happy with my achievement, some pics of my design can be seen below: 

I printed it double sided so that it was a complete, folded brochure, there was a message of thanks, contact details of the gallery and of the college, a front cover with the dates and times and a description of the exhibition.

When you unfold the brochure you get the price list for all the images which I divided depending on what room the piece was in, this will make it easier to search for the image price in relation to where you are in the gallery. 

So at 5pm I picked up the 4 bottles of wine I had stored in my locker, I had the freshly printed brochures with me that I had made that morning and I had arrived at college dressed for the private view so I headed down to the gallery. I arrived at about 5:20pm and there were a group of fellow students there and some signs of orange juice and bottles of wine - it was a good start. As it got to about 6.10pm there was some more drinks on the table and the arrival of some cupcakes! A generous donation from Jazz and Nikki which I really appreciated, I knew it would come together in the end. The gallery began to fill up with the rest of the photography students and a few more contributions of wine and juice, I had made name labels for all the exhibiting students so that they were identifiable and everyone actually wore theirs!!
By 6.30pm we had lecturers and others from PCA, the drinks were flowing and there was plenty of mingling and discussions. I was greeting people, handing out brochures and making sure the drinks were going round. The principal, Andrew Brewerton, arrived later on and I greeted him at the door, giving him a brochure and asking if he wanted a drink, whilst also informing him of how it may be a bit of a squeeze to get around the gallery as it has been constantly packed out since 6.30pm! It was a surprisingly good turn out, perhaps too good - it was a little warm and I was monitoring the images to make sure they weren't being knocked by bags and the wine was depleting rapidly. Despite this, I overheard so many positive comments, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and for some of the night I actually relaxed a little - although I was on orange juice for most of the night as I needed a clear mind to keep things in order, at about 8pm I had a cheeky cup of rose wine as a treat, seeing as the night was slowly winding down and there was a little more movability in what I called an 'intimate' space.
9pm was closing down time, gallery co-ordinator Paula Carnell was there to oversee it and the few remaining students helped to clean up and get rid of rubbish. 10mins later and we were out and as I said my goodbyes to everyone I couldn't help but smile, in fact I was rather giddy. The night had gone so much better than I thought it would and everyone pulled together in the end, the hugs and thank you's from my peers helped too!
It was 10.30pm by the time I got home, I jumped on my computer and sent a few thank you emails and messages to people - the principal, photography students, friends etc and then I got to sleep at 12. Going to work the following morning was not nice - I was exhausted and drained from the past few days and so I looked forward to 6pm when I could get home and rest.
Or so I thought...I got home and had an email saying I had missed out a student on the brochure!! I felt so bad about it that I amended it that very night and finally got to sleep at 11pm, but it was up at 6.20am to head into college this morning for a lecture, print out 35 brochures to take down to the gallery and try to do some sketchbook work in the breaks I had in between.
Headed to the gallery at around 3.30pm with the brochures, read through a few positive comments in the guestbook. Once I got home I posted the PDF brochure online so that people on my course who wanted to could use it for their work based learning assignment, some just wanted it as a keepsake.

And now I am up to date, this is me talking about the present time, finally writing down the details of the past few days and despite the stress and sleep deprivation I experienced, I am itching to do it all again. Wandering around at the private view and just seeing lots of happy people, looking at the photographs we had all put so much effort into putting up, I just felt so in my element, like this is the sort of thing I should be doing. I have now had the thought that I need to get some photographs of the private view from Isabel, the student who photographed the night, to put on here and also some from Jo who took some pics of me doing random little things around the gallery. But that is for another day, for now I will leave you to breathe a sigh of relief as you finish reading this astonishingly long post and I will go and catch up on sleep.

Thank you and Good Night!

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