“I am that Someone” Exhibition
I was recently asked to participate in an exhibition to raise awareness for Aids Help, and acknowledge World Aids Day, and thought I’d take this opportunity to give you some tips on setting up an exhibition.
Derrick Traylor and Rodney Ross of Aids Help, Key West, set up the project “I am that Someone”. They asked me to photograph eight recognisable, local people who are all active volunteers and regularly help to raise money in Key West.
Each person was videoed talking about how their lives have been affected in different ways, by having someone close to them suffer from Aids, or through their involvement in the charity. My role was to create a portrait of each of them to hang in an exhibition, alongside the videos.
This was very different from my normal photo shoots, as usually I allow a whole day. This time I had just one hour to work with each person, which meant using the area around their homes as backgrounds to save time on each shoot.
I was able to see the people prior to the shoot by watching their video, and I spoke to everyone on the phone to introduce myself and break the ice before actually meeting them. I find this really helps to put people’s minds at rest, and answer anything that is worrying them about being photographed.
To create a special portrait of each person which would later be printed in black and white at a finished size of 4 feet high. Four images had to be horizontal and four vertical to fit the windows where they would be displayed.
There were 4 men and 4 women, however Terry would be in drag, as he raises money for Aids Help by appearing as a fabulous drag queen called Smyrna.
No one was allowed to see the pictures until the night of the exhibition! That was the really hard bit – it’s very difficult for people to see themselves for the first time at 4 feet high in front of an audience – and it was difficult for me, not knowing whether they would like the pictures I had chosen – luckily they did!
To see an edited version of the videos, click here: I AM THAT SOMEONE, presented by AIDS Help and then check out the tips below to help you with your own exhibitions.
Tips for setting up an exhibition – things to think about:
1. How will you hang your pictures? Are you allowed to put screws/picture hooks in the walls?
2. If your images are hanging in windows – use extendable chrome shower poles as temporary rods – and suspend your pictures from fishing wire attached to hooks which you can screw into the top of pictures mounted on foam core or similar. Try blocking out the windows with black paper to give an even background and create visual impact, depending on what is outside the windows.
3. Will your pictures be framed with glass, or mounted on board? Glass will be heavy, so you need to make sure the fixings are strong enough to support them.
4. If your pictures are mounted on board – check whether a laminate will work over them to protect them from scratches – often laminates can affect the final look of the image – so do a test first to see if you like it. And think about adding a border to make the images stand out more.
5. Will your pictures be glossy or matt? Gloss is very reflective, so check out how the lighting will work in the room.
6. How big will your images need to be? This will depend on where you exhibit them – pictures can get “lost” in a vast room – you may need them larger than you think. The longest side of each exhibition image below is 4 feet, and yet they still look small in this large area. Black paper in the windows brings the exhibition together and stops the distraction of traffic outside.
7. Try to hang your exhibition the day before the opening event, this way you will be much fresher for your opening night – setting up on the day itself can be very stressful if things don’t go according to plan.
8. Make sure your images are signed – this sounds obvious, but I have seen many pictures in cafes, for example, without names on – it’s really important to sign your work so other people can see at a glance who the photographer is. If you feel nervous about signing your pictures – remember… you’re the artist – be proud of what you’ve achieved! And make sure your signature is legible – it makes a big difference, if you want to get more work!
9. Print up some postcards to accompany your exhibition, place them in stands near the pictures – try moo.com for these – they produce fantastic cards for photographers at very low rates. The best thing is that you can have a different image on each card, so you can allow people to select the one they like best.
10. Try adding a QR code to the postcard so people can instantly link to your website with their phone.
Selecting your images for display
It’s not always possible to select what you consider the best image of each person when exhibiting them, due to the fact that you may have constraints. In this case I had to choose 4 vertical and 4 horizontal, and I also had to make the images work together as a set. I felt I needed some of them showing the person looking away from the camera to break up the effect of everyone staring at you. It can make a big difference which images you place next to each other too – so play around with your pictures until you are happy that they look good together.
What a great bunch of people! That’s one of the things I love about being a photographer – meeting all sorts of fantastic people, who become new friends.
Many thanks to Derrick Traylor and Rodney Ross at Aids Help, and to all the “Someones” who were photographed. Also to Chris and Steven of Royal Furniture for all their help with setting up the exhibition and hosting the opening night. Also to Scott McCollum for his beautiful prints, and of course Marko Nurminen for his expert retouching.
Check out AIDS HELP for more information.