The photography exhibition that I went to see was an enjoyable experience, showcasing 63 photographs by various artists taking different approaches to photography. The exhibition itself was well-curated and showed only the best pieces by the individual artists, which meant that everything was high quality and interesting to look at. As someone interested in photography, the process of really diving into an exhibition highlighted some of the unusual ways that photography can be shown in public spaces. The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the features of this photography exhibition to give insight into why the project was so successful and some of the factors that contributed to the experience. It will put this experience into the context of photography exhibitions in general to show which factors can have an impact on the viewing experience, what worked and what did not work in this specific photography exhibition.
The physical space of an exhibition is almost as important as the photography itself. In this case, the photographs were shown in a gallery space specifically designed to showcase artworks. Many of the photographs were hung on the wall, but some where shown in display cases and table top cases. Some of the photographs were also propped up on tables, which I had never seen before. This helped to make the exhibition more interesting as not all the images were shown in the same way: there was diversity in the approach used which may have been decided by the artists themselves. The lighting was also good in the exhibition, most of it coming from the overhead lights and natural lights from the entrance and the windows of the space. This made it easier to see the details of the photographs shown as well as made the space more enjoyable to be in.
The exhibition was a collection of works from many different artists, all of which were students. This gave the exhibition the feel of being a loose collection of works rather than having one specific theme. It was interesting to see how each of the different artists had interpreted the medium of photography and used it to create images that would fit together in this exhibition. Many of the students had chosen to shoot images of people close up: these photographs had a lot of emotion in them and allowed the viewer to get close to the subject. In others, the photographs were more abstract and were meant to be interpreted as an individual, which again made the exhibition more interesting and sometimes challenging to understand. The diverse ways that the photographs were shown helped to highlight that each of these works were from different people and were designed to have different impacts.
One of the most interesting images in the exhibition was of a seascape shot in black and white. The use of black and white gave the image a classic, timeless feel, which I interpreted as being related to the timeless and endless nature of the ocean in the image. The use of black and white photography can also help to add stark contrasts to the image (Guadagnini et al. 42), and this was very much a part of this photograph. The main definition was between the whites of the water hitting the rocks and the rocks themselves, which were black and forbidding as part of this image. In another context, sea images can be quite soothing and peaceful, but the use of black and white here helped to make the image more dramatic and show that the sea is not always calm and kind.
The shapes in the image were mainly defined by the shapes of the rocks. These were jagged and irregular, which again made the photograph feel a little bit disconcerting compared to a typical seascape image. The rocks also had deep and dark shadows on them based on the angles of the rocks, which highlighted that this could be quite a dangerous place to get caught in and that the rocks could do some considerable damage to people or boats. Overall, the feeling and emotion associated with this photograph was that of drama: it was a dramatic photograph that contrasted with typical sea scenes and helped to show that everything is not always as it seems. These rocks could be dangerous, and they are even influencing the usually calm and peaceful sea in the area. This photograph was my favorite of the exhibition and one that I returned to look at many times.
Overall, this photography exhibition showed works that were interesting and different, which made the experience useful for learning about photography and how images can be displayed in public spaces. The use of work by several different artists and displaying each of the works in an unusual way meant that there was no cohesive theme to the project, but it did mean that lots of different viewpoints were showcased as part of the exhibition. In addition, the space itself made looking at the photographs easy: there was lots of light in the space and this helped to draw the eye to the photographs rather than to any other part of the room. Going to look at this exhibition opened my eyes to some of the different ways that photographs can be displayed: they do not always have to hang on the wall but can be shown in such a way that best represents their content, style and form.
- Guadagnini, Walter et al. Photography. Milano: Skira, 2011. Print.