The Artist's Statement
So I think the first thing we need to do is write a quick synopsis about your exhibition and why people should come along. And it's a different, two ways, I mean you'll probably need a synopsis or an idea or a mission statement to start with, and then you could also little talk about artist statements. So, for instance, with my Rockhopper Exhibition, rockhopper being that it's a type of penguin and also they're a whole lot of islands or rocks that we went to to get down to Antarctica and back. I said, "The Rockhopper Exhibition is a collection "of stunning images from the Falkland Islands, "South Georgia and Antarctica, "taken by internationally renowned photographer, "Peter Eastway. "Proceeds from the exhibition "of the large format photographs "will benefit the Save the Albatross Campaign." So that was sort of like my synopsis. But that was more for a commercial type exhibition, it was just profile-raising more than anything else. But you've done a couple of exhibitions where an arti...
st statement has been useful.
Yeah, so if you're exhibiting through a commercial gallery that may have a stable of artists, so one of the galleries that represents my work would have maybe 50 artists of which three or four would be photographers and they consider them all artists, so when you do an exhibition in there. I would do an exhibition once a year, but that work would stay within the gallery, that would represent my work and they would have buyers come in and ask that work outside the exhibition space hall window. One of the things I want to have is a statement from the artists about the intent, the context, of how these images should be viewed. So I've got a couple here I'll read out to you. For the viewers at home, if you'll just sit back and listen. This is what would be behind the thinking when somebody walks in and I say, "Well, read that and then when you look at these pictures, "this is the thread that binds them together." One of the artists statements I've used is, "Hdden in plain sight, "the familiar ways to be rediscovered." So I'm telling people it's about an abstract. "What we see often goes far beyond what lies before us. "Echoes of our experience and recognition of the real "and perceived within the landscape resonate with us "and release an instinctive response, an emotional stirring, "often times joining us into a moment past "or a moment future." So this tells people hey my work, I want you to stop and think about what you're feeling, it's not about just that place. "I've always been simultaneously been fascinated "and comforted by symmetry and harmonious discord. "Abstractions within the landscape "open themselves to interpretation "and the aerial perspective provides a fresh viewpoint "on the familiar." So now I'm telling them there's a lot of aerial here, and it's about viewpoint. "Challenging us to see far beyond the literal. "Often my images are a celebration of the inherent design "in nature, an instinctive recognition of organic purpose." So I'm saying these abstracts are about me looking for shapes in the landscape that make me feel like nature has a purpose, which I believe it does. "Within many of my images, "I strive to reveal further layers of meaning, "with references to unknown and subdued elements." Take a closer look, people. There may be something that's just hidden in there for you. "Presenting inquisitions into the conversations "between land and water. "These images represent both literal "and abstract expressions of my response to the land. "Each intransigent location, "often appearing at the whim of nature." It's about tides and that. Now I've got another one there, don't think I need to read all of them. But that's the idea of an artist statement. It's kind of an inside into emotional stirrings. We've talked about in a couple other modules why do you take a picture? It's a bit of a different audience, it's saying, "We're not looking at my finished art pieces, "I want you to have an understanding of why I've done "what I've done."
Creating a context.
OK, so from there, we gotta get into selecting the images.
This is a hard one, I find.
It is. So in many ways, creating an exhibition is similar to creating an audiovisual or a book, selecting what you need to show. Probably fewer because it's quite expensive to put them all up on the wall. Look at your prints with a white border around them in Photoshop, sometimes gives you a better sense for how they're gonna look like on the wall. And only show your very best work. It really has to be just your very best.
Yeah, I've learned a few lessons there, like, a couple of my early exhibitions, you kind of, you're narrowing down, narrowing down, you think, OK. You've measure out the space, you've got the wall space, you've got the footprint. I can get 26 images in. You narrow it down, you get to 30. Pull a few teeth out and you get 29 and 28, you think, "Let's go with 27. "I probably should have 22." So you start puttin' them up, and then on the day, you cram them in a little bit because you don't know which ones to leave out. Well I learned very quickly over the first couple of exhibitions, I was better off having slightly less and leaving a couple at home because that gave a little bit more space and I knew there was not a single image on the wall that I wasn't happy with. And that's something I've learned. And you can save the other ones for the next exhibition.
OK, so if you're wanting to sell your images, do you second guess what the public is going to want? And I find that a lot of people, when they have their exhibitions, "I have 20 photographs and I expect to sell all 20." And they find that two or three might have sold two or three each and that's it. Now, photographers like Peter Lik, who works very much over here in Australia and Ken Duncan, who's--
Sorry, I've got that the wrong way, Peter Lik in America, who was an Australian photographer and Ken Duncan, Australian photographer, still works in Australia, they certainly have, their photography is designed to sell and they have big, they've got retail stores. Whereas if you looked at Bill Henson and Edward Burtynsky, for instance, their represented more by the art fraternity, by galleries. So it's a different way of selling and probably, Peter and Ken can outsell Bill and Edward, certainly in numbers.
I was gonna say--
That's right. Interesting. It just depends, I think you'll find that Bill and Edward, they're just creating images that make them happy and because they are who they are, you will either buy them or you won't, whereas I believe Ken and Peter probably have that same desire, but I'm sure there's an element within their selection, this one will sell or maybe their staff is making that decision for them, I guess. (laughs)
Yeah, and I suppose Ken and, I look at Ken and Peter's work and I admire both of them immensely for what they do and how they do it, but a lot of their work is about presenting images that people wish they could've taken themselves. 'Cause I've been to that place, I love that place, it inspires me, I wish I could go there, a memory of a future, whatever. They're thinking about where they'd like to go, whereas with, of course Bill or Edward, or that sort of fine art type of photographer--
It's very much behind the lenses--
It's about who they are and it's about this is who I am, this is my expression, you know this is all for me to show you what I am. One of the other things that I learned in the early days, which I hope I don't forget as I talk about it, (laughs) is that, now I've forgotten, it's gone. It'll come in a minute.
Well I'll give you time because we've got to talk about the exhibition brief. (Tony laughs)
There's so much to talk about, how do we do it?
So we've got the artist statement, I know we've talked about that, but now we just coming down to thinking about it for ourselves. So what is the exhibition of, when--
Oh, I remember what it was. (laughs) You were supposed to hug me before the end of the day, but I've half-hugged you, so there you go. Can I go onto it?
'Course you can.
One of the things that I found in my very first exhibition, I know a lot of people are there will be either having had a first exhibition or thinking, "I want to exhibit my work." Most photographers at some point think, "I'd love to have an exhibition." You have that first exhibition and depending where you have it, if it's in the community hall or a private one, the results can be mixed. When you go to a gallery, one of the things I learned was in the first exhibition, you don't necessarily sell a lot. But the gallery owners taught me that people are gonna come in and look at you and they wanna know, if I'm gonna collect you work, this is if you want to be a serious fine-art, you know, collective type of work, are you gonna be here next year?
They want longevity.
Are you gonna be here the year after? So they'll look at your work, they might admire it and say, "I really like that, but I'm not gonna spend the money on it." Then you hae an exhibition a year or so later and they come back and they go, "I remember you, I liked your work from the last one. "I might buy one from this exhibition. "In fact, I'm gonna look back in the catalog and buy one from before." And then I found by the fourth exhibition, we put it up online to say this is exhibition's coming up, and then I would be, they would ring up and say, "I'd like to buy that one." It hasn't even been printed yet. So you gotta be patient. You gotta have a goal. I wanted to share.
That's great, alright. We're into the planning stage. What is the exhibition of, when, where and why? You can write this down deep and meaningful, or you can make it short and sweet. So for instance, you could say, "These are my favorite images and that's that!" If you want to, that's fine.
So that would be what you would write.
No no no, my one for the rockhopper image was, "My images allude to the heroic, Homeric poems, "contrast color and tone with a tangential vision "that represents the mysteries of pre-historic Greece."
(whimpers) That's beautiful, Pete.
(laughs) So it's up to you. But just to give it a flavor, just to keep you on track. A bit like your salt and pepper. So you can display that brief to keep yourself, but it's just a guide to keep you on track about what are you doing. Can be unpublished or you could let everybody else know, but that's more a little bit like the artist statement. But you also should consider like the financial aspects as well. OK, am I gonna spend 20 grand, 10 grand, two grand trying to put this exhibition on, you know? Could be a lot more. And if I do spend that money, what is my expectation of a return?
And this is what a lot of people come on stuck with exhibitions, isn't it? And they can spend too much money expecting I'm gonna sell them all, as you said. Selling five prints might feel good, but it doesn't actually pay for the whole exhibition.
You might print 20, sell five and you've made, "Oh wow I've sold those five." Those 15 have probably cost you more than any profit you've made on the other side, so anyway.
One of the things I've discovered too is if you go and look for some sponsorship when you're on an exhibition, it can just soften the costs a little bit in terms of putting it one.
It doesn't always have to be a paper manufacturer or a framer or someone like that that can help. I've had a brewery, you know, with an opening, there's costs to run an opening. You have your opening--
I'm surprised that you had a brewery.
I did. Great stuff, Matso's, which makes great alcoholic ginger beer, but anyway, and then a winery, so we had wine. Different things like that can help as well to soften your costs so that you don't have to sell as many images or prints in order to cover your costs and start making a profit.