Sunday, May 27, 2007

New Trends in Exhibit Photography

Two trends are going on in exhibit photography that I find of great interest. The first is the democratization of photography as art thru sites like Flickr. Before the Internet the only way an aspiring art photographer could be seen was to either gain access to a darkroom or go to a custom lab and have 8" x10" or larger prints made at a cost way beyond the smaller standard album size one hour prints. Then these would need to placed in frames and find a library, restaurant or coffee shop that would be willing to hang them. Although this is not an unreasonable thing to do today, Flickr and similar sites offer a much cheaper alternative that just might be equally as satisfying.

The second is the gallery trend of showing photographs that are the average size of a painting. This forces anyone who chooses to exhibit work with the objective of selling it to re-exam the process of concept and execution. The concept being bringing the image to a state where it can be examined by the person who created it to make a clear judgment as to whether they consider it sound work. The execution being a print or mounted light box (see Jeff Wall's photographs). The cost of execution has increased rapidly over the past 50 years. Where once an 8"x10" black and white print was suitable for sale to even museums, the current standard has become 30"x40" or larger. For photographers who started with homemade darkroom 8"x10" black and whites this is a terrible shock. Making hundreds of prints per year is absolutely unaffordable under these standards. Photographers interested in exhibiting their work will now be faced with a new problem. Digital photography makes it very easy to make an inexpensive concept piece that acts as a model for potential prints. To make a jpg. image and post it on a website or blog costs nothing, but the days of printing everything that is liked are now over. It's a hard adjustment for older photographers like myself. But in the end it is good for everyone. This removes one more barrier of people who say photography is not as real an art as painting. Scale is a critical component to evaluating contemporary art.


Blogger Katarina Silva said...

Thank you for this reflective blog on the evolution of photography exhibitions. As a new photographer, I appreciate the INternet communities you named, (like flickr), which do indeed grant us novices audience feedback we wouldn't otherwise receive. IT has been very helpful to me. I have learned a lot by "exhibiting" my work online, and I have yet to exhibit my work anywhere, the old fashioned way!

3:47 PM  

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