WHY EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST ONE EXHIBITION: MY EXPERIENCE
Last summer I decided to organize an exhibition of my photography work in my hometown Novi Sad. I think everybody who is serious about photography should have at least one "real" exhibition. There are many reasons for that, and I will name here the few.
SEEING YOUR WORK PRINTED
There are many photographers out there, I guess, who never saw their work printed, especially in a larger format. It's just incredible feeling. I can't explain it quite in words, but to see your work on photographic paper, materialized in a real world is a surprising and motivational experience. In a digital age where we live now, a large percent of images (even the great photos) never leave the realm of pixels and bytes. And that's a shame.
At first, we have looked at pictures on monitors (at the beginning they were terrible), and now, most of the people browse and look at images on their phones. And, phones are not a good way to view photos. Period. The screen is too small, and even if you have a great phone with a fantastic screen and pixel density-it's still small. All the tinny details and minor imperfections that make photography magic are crushed into a small, I will say "thumbnail" rectangle, and you can practically see only "overview" of the photo. And because of that, we are used to quickly scrolling through the gallery or feed, while our mind is "getting the picture" in the only fraction of time.
We think we saw the photo, but we saw almost nothing. I watch the people in the exhibition standing in front of my photos that were hanging on the walls, framed. Sometimes, people will stand in front of one of my picture almost a minute or two. How about that!
So, to summarize, photos are much bigger, and people absorb the content much longer. And, there is a difference, how the printing photo looks vs. the same one on the screen. When you look at the images on any screen, you are essentially looking at a lamp that is shining through the photo. I was quite surprised by how the same photo look when printed on photo paper. Depend on what type of screen you are looking, settings of the screen, saturation, etc. the picture looks different. On paper, some of my favorite photos that were looking good on screen, was not that good when printed, so I ditched them for the exhibition.
MEET THE REAL PEOPLE | GET THE REAL FEEDBACK
For this exhibition, I invited my friend photographer Igor Coko to share the place with me with his publication house selection of work "Best of Grain." Basically, we had two exhibitions in one. I never met him before, and even we knew each other for years on facebook we never actually met. So, because we were together the whole day, hanging photos on the wall, drinking beer, we talked a lot about photography and life in general. We probably exchanged more words, ideas, and jokes than in a few years via messenger and emails. Real people were coming, asking real questions, commenting much more than a few stupid smilies and icons, or "great photo," that I mostly get on Instagram, for example.
I remember, the morning, night after the great party that exhibition become, words of one of the waitress.
I came early, to look at my pictures on the wall, alone. She was there, and while she was making me a coffee, she said.
"Of all the pictures I saw that were in this space, yours are the best."
I asked here why.
" I don't know, I can look at your photos, and they are interesting. In each of them, there is some story; something is happening. They are not boring like most of them I saw here. All the others are trying to be the "artists," but I don't see anything in their pictures. They are just pretentious bullshit."
I looked at here, and she really meant that.
Those were the real words, not the "like your photo," or "great feed." And she probably never heard about the Garry Winogrand or the Magnum photos. I felt like my heart was melting. Never heard such a comment before, about my work, ever. And those words were coming from the ordinary waitress. And I had only one question. For who we are creating the "Art"? For who we are making those pictures that we are so obsessed with? So I just took one of the framed image hanging across the bar and gave it to her.
MOVE YOUR ASS | HAVE FUN
Let me tell you, organizing your exhibition is a lot of "real" work. You need to move your ass if you want to solve and handle everything you need on time. I'm not going to bore you with details or a list of all the things I've done before the exhibition. It was a lot of walking, talking with people, test printing, taking care of the small details. But I moved a lot, and my body was thankful for that. It's a lot better than staring at the monitor for hours, making big plans that you'll forget a few days after. I also invited to the exhibition my great friend with his rock'n'roll band who came despite it was raining like hell. So, after a few beers, we were all singing and laughing, and it was a great party beside the exhibition.
HAVE THAT FEELING THAT YOU'VE DONE SOMETHING VALUABLE
I was nervous on the day of the exhibition; luck was turned back on me. It was heavy raining all day, and besides that, it was a world football championship, and because of that and rain, it was much fewer people than I expected. But, after a week, when the dust has settled, and I was in the gallery packing my framed photos in a big carton box, suddenly I felt that feeling that I've done something valuable. Everything, from the moment I decided to organize this exhibition, to this very moment flashed before my eyes like a short movie. It was a trip, a small journey and it was a completely different experience then posting an image on social media and read comments about it.
That's because I've done something in the real world, not in virtual-behind the lightning screens.
PEACE & LIGHT