Exhibitions

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Stephen Batey, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    I can sense before I even start that this could be contentious!

    In years gone by, the UK photographic event was Focus on Imaging. For non-UK members, it was a large show held in a couple of large halls in the NEC at Birmingham. All the major photographic companies were usually represented, so you could compare Canon/Nikon/Hassleblad (and even large format cameras on occasions) without dealer pressure. Books and sundries were also available from the stands, talks were given, different papers could be compared etc. etc. Many magazines also had stands. So far, so good. The organiser retired from the event, and it was replaced by another show, The Photography Show. Same venue, pretty much the same exhibitors, except...

    Focus on Imaging normally had some universities and colleges manning stands, showcasing the students' work and having both staff and students on hand, presumably in part to attract new students. I've seen it said that The Photography Show is more expensive to hire a stand, but whatever the reason, universities and colleges don't seem to attend (or I've missed them). And I do miss them. The photographs on display might or might not be to my taste, but they were always thought provoking. And I'm always saying that the like/dislike antithesis has nothing to do with the good/bad one, so the fact that I didn't like some of the work is irrelevant - even to me. In contrast, I've visited local exhibitions by camera clubs/photographic societies and generally haven't found them very stimulating. I once had it pointed out to me that this was actually deliberate - the annual exhibitions allowed everyone's work to be displayed, partly to involve everyone and partly to encourage new members who wouldn't think that the standard was beyond them. Which is fair enough, so far as it goes.

    Yesterday I visited the annual exhibition of a reasonably local club and found that in the main the work was of a high technical standard (unlike one exhibition where some resin coated prints were visibly laminating) but very few appealed to me. They almost all seemed to be as devoid of imagination as I imagine my prints are (I'm aware that I'm treading a well trodden path with my photographs). Today, I visited a different exhibition. This time (it was at the Arundel Museum) it was the work of 16-18 year olds, both paintings and photographs. And it was chalk and cheese. This exhibition did exhibit imagination as much as the images that were derived from it. (And in case anyone asks, there were some I didn't like, but they were still good.)

    So, as a discussion question: do you find the work of students more stimulating that that of the average camera club exhibition? If so, why do you think this is?
     
  2. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member

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    I haven't been to either type of exhibition for some time, but I would suggest that the age group of the people involved will be a factor. My recollection of camera clubs is that the members were generally middle-aged, or older and, back in those days, predominantly male. I learned in one area of study at University that most people's views are well settled by the time they reach their forties, and unlikely to change. This probably affects the way we see the world around us, and how we represent it in our images. Young people are more open to change, and therefore more likely to experiment with the type of photographs they make.
    The other factor, I would suggest, is motivation. If photography is part of your learning process towards a career, you are more likely to devote a significant amount of time and effort to improving your practice. I am not saying 'amateurs' or club members don't take their work seriously, but students of photography have chosen a route where they are expected to develop and improve their vision and skills within the time constraints of the course. They are, perhaps, naturally more focused (pardon the pun!). That's just my personal view. The question has made me think that I need to get out to more exhibitions.
    Alex


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  3. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    What an excellent topic of discussion, Stephen.

    It's such a HUGE topic that I'm not sure where to begin, but I am sure that whatever I say here in a few words might not get my points across or could be misunderstood. However, I offer the following...

    OK, I have no intention here of starting a digital vs analog war, but have you noticed that a lot of what I think you're referring to as "sameness" in the club images and in many other venues for that matter is somewhat related to the advent of digital photography? Back in the day, many photographers had to lug large cameras around because it was required to produce a high level of work. It was hard! You really had to want to put out the effort in order to make images. I'm speaking mostly of outdoor/landscape photographers here. You had to possess a fair amount of technical knowledge in order to produce any print; let alone a fine print. You had to understand light, gesture, and color, if we're talking about the second half of the 20th century.

    Nowadays, you point your digital gizmo at something, take a picture, load it onto your computer, and push "Print." Heck, you don't even need a camera...your smart phone will suffice! Sure, I'm greatly simplifying the concept here, but it's not too far from the truth. Yes, you still have to understand composition, viewpoint, light, color, gesture, etc, if you wish to raise your digital photography above the general fray, but out of all the folks who own a digital imaging device how many do that? I'm sure it's a very small number.

    So, think about that. Most folks taking photographs today, basically, snap all the same pictures. How many images are uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, etc, every day? It's a HUGE number of images and guess what? They all pretty much look the same? Really...how many ways can you snap a picture of your lunch and have it be unique? Just saying...

    Another thought... If you visit any of the well known photo locations in the USA, you'll likely find a hundred or more photographers in basically the same spot waiting to make a photograph! I've seen it! For example, there is a well known view of the Grand Tetons over the river at Oxbow Bend that has been photographed thousands of times. If you don't get there at about 3AM in the morning to stake out your spot, I'll bet you couldn't even get a single tripod leg in place later on. I've asked myself on many occasions...why? Why do all these photographers want to make the same photograph? I'll never understand that.

    Now, cut to students, or young photographers, or the housewife documenting the growth of her family with a smart phone. I'll bet they don't know or care what being a photographer even means! They don't know what they're "supposed" to do. They aren't restricted by any dogma and their minds are free to imagine and create. I believe many of these folks "feel" their pictures more than they see them. I've seen some incredibly creative and wonderful photography done with an iPhone and, personally, I couldn't care less how it was made or by whom. I can often get lost in the story and my own imagination about what's going on in the photograph! Yes, there are tens of thousands of useless snaps taken and uploaded to social media everyday, but there are also jewels that shimmer and glow in the light of our minds.

    This is, of course, simply my own opinions and nothing else. But, thanks for posing such a thought provoking topic!
     

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