• Andy Whysall

PHOT6051 - more fun than it sounds?

Photography Exhibition and Professional Practice is what this Yr 3 Sem 2 module is about. I'm lucky in having come from a very practical background, and been a 'maker' all my life, so I have lots of cutting, shaping, bending, folding and glueing skills in all sorts of materials, plastic, wood, metal, glass, paper, stone. I was also taught from an early age to visit galleries and museums, to appreciate what things are made of as much as how they look and on top of that I have worked in a museum doing the day-to-day practical stuff involved in the layout and installing of exhibitions. Because of all this I feel rather ahead of the game on ideas.

It's about the mechanics of showing the images that we have spent months producing, covering exhibition design, use of space, layout, how to keep attention, framing, glazing, mounting, fixing; not just how to do it, but what to do it with. A lot of attention is given to substrates, such as aluminium or perspex, foam-board, heavy job-specific cards and the mechanics of keeping all this on the wall.

Then there's plinths, tables, shelves etc. Everything takes forethought and timely forethought at that. On top of that there's the question of how to present material that's not going to be 'on the wall'; whether in book form (boards, bindings, papers) or portfolio form (box, folder etc), publicity material (business cards, post cards, brochures). Experience will make it all more second nature, but it'll never be easy.

Previous experience on my own exhibitions: At the end of Yr 2 in a group exhibition called Self I hung a series of images, framed and mounted very traditionally. They looked good on the wall, but through years of practical experience with wood, I knew that the fairly cold and really quite damp space we were using for the show would be the end of the frames I was using (see the footnote). They were pretty low density fibre board IKEA frames and they absorb atmospheric moisture like mad. They survived the week of the show with a nearly invisible amount of warping. A month later, the black laminate was peeling off, and they were sent to the bin. The prints (£200-worth of C-types) survived fine.

The slideshow shows a Photoshop layout, much more flexible paper layouts, me hanging it, the finished thing. Small details, like painting the brass mirror plates the same colour as the wall, all make a difference. Like I say, this time round will be rather less straightforward, and that means more perplexing.

Footnote: For the record, the way to damp-proof your cheap LDF frames, so they last longer - and I did know this then - is to seal all the exposed surfaces inside and at the back of the frame with a couple of coats of polyurethane varnish. It's time consuming and a pain in the neck, a bit less so if you have an airbrush. Ikea and similar frames don't stand a lot of reuse anyway; these had also done the Brampton show in 2015, and I didn't mind breaking them up. I kept the glass and hardboard back boards.

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