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My Own Gallery

For a long time, I have quietly debated the idea of mounting a public exhibition of my photography.

Now, it’s happened in an unexpected way, and it’s a little weird.

More than one friend has suggested that I hold a vernissage of my personal work, but I have always resisted that notion. Part of the issue is the upfront cost, as there’s no guarantee that I would recoup the investment through the sale of the prints on exhibition. Then there’s the difficulty of advertising and promotion. I would need a larger audience than just friends and family to make it work, and I don’t have an established name as a photographer.

Sunrise flanked by two moody images of the Old Port
Sunrise flanked by two moody images of the Old Port

Nonetheless, these are merely logistical problems, and they are solvable. My main stumbling block is more philosophical: I’ve never been sure what an exhibition would achieve in terms of career goals.

There’s a photographer from whom I have learned a great deal. His name is David Hobby, and he runs a blog about lighting called Strobist. But the most important lesson he taught me is not about using a flash.

In assessing his own career as a newspaper photographer, he came to this realization:

Photography is not my life. It’s my special sauce. It’s the thing that makes me much more effective—and valuable—at lots of other things. It’s an ability, not a raison d’etre.

Knowing photography is like being multilingual. It’s not an end-all. It’s an ability, like any other. You can hang out a shingle announcing your multi-lingualness and offer to multi-ling stuff for people and that’s fine. But being multilingual is much, much more powerful as a secondary skill that leverages other abilities.

And that’s me, too.

I take pictures. I write instructional material and marketing collateral. I build websites. I create graphics. I shoot video. I do voice work. All these things and more, people have paid me good money to do.

I’ll never be able to pay my mortgage with photography alone. But I think it must be part of the mix of things that I do. And that’s my current struggle, which will be the topic of a future blog post.

Montreal Metro in a long-duration exposure
Montreal Metro in a long-duration exposure

So after all that, how did I end up mounting a permanent exhibition of my photography?

My employer asked for it.

We have been doing some redecorating at work, and it was decided that the office needed art. I was asked to put together a portfolio of Montreal-themed photos from which the staff could choose to decorate the office. Out of a shortlist of almost 40 photos, they chose eight.

I ordered the prints — all of which are on the large size; one is printed 55 inches across and is delightfully overwhelming. I chose and ordered the frames, did the framing, and hung them myself.

Having my own photography displayed in a large format like this is disconcerting. My relationship with my own work — which I normally see on a relatively small screen — is very different when it on a wall and fills my peripheral vision. It’s forcing me to re-evaluate the value of my own creative work.

And the upshot: the office where I work is now my own personal art gallery.

Weird, man.


Above is the final selection of photos chosen by the staff.

3 thoughts on “My Own Gallery”

  1. Quote:
    “My relationship with my own work — which I normally see on a relatively small screen — is very different when it on a wall and fills my peripheral vision. It’s forcing me to re-evaluate the value of my own creative work.”

    I went through a similar experience, where my images went from 4×6 inch prints [or on-screen display] to 12×18 inch or larger, where all the details matter [more], for better or worse.

    It is likely that the exposure to your work will mold/shape a visual esthetic that will become another way for you to express a vision of your perspective. Some images, from the start, will be captured and composed for large print, as you develop you own language of print and display.*

    Regards,
    Pascal

    * that was, and still is, the result of printing “bigger” than screen or 4×6 [inch prints]. Your mileage may vary.

    1. Thanks for the input, Pascal. You raise a good point about shooting for a particular format. I’m thinking especially of the work of people like Gregory Crewdson, whose environmental portraits often focus on small details in large landscapes. Such images are necessarily composed for large format display.

      I feel that I’m at a turning point in my photography. I’ve been doing more educational video, which provides a utilitarian purpose for my skills. I think I have gotten tired of shooting simply to please myself or my meagre Flickr following. I need a practical goal.

    2. By the way, sorry for the delayed reply. I just realized that I’m not receiving email notifications from the site. Time to accelerate my planned migration to new hosting.

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