From idea to exhibition
The means of presentation affects the context of any work. By its very nature as a large body of work, reveal is a difficult project to present in traditional means. In a gallery, 120+ prints will need space, and if they are to be presented democratically, each must share the same space and not compete.
In terms of a published work, a book for example, it would be possible
to present the photographs of each person in their own double page spread,
however this is again a large 100+ page edition, but would give the viewer
their own timetable for looking at the images.
At the time I began to find partners in the community for the work,
the director of Watershed Media Centre, Dick Penny, agreed to present
the work as part of a community based website. It was with this as a final
outcome in mind that I was shooting the work. It is interesting that the
use of the web is a very democratic form of presentation, in that anyone
with a computer can access the work and the web, and is able to interact
with the work on many levels. Another feature of the presentation is that
there is a digital café in Watershed, where viewers can access
high speed internet and have the results projected on a large screen instead
of a personal screen. This virtual gallery solves many of the problems
associated with presenting such a large work as outlined above, and enables
anyone to walk in off the street and access the work. The exhibition becomes
a web based entity, remaining available for as long as required. It can
be updated to add new features, keeping the content fresh. It can be linked
to other sites to encourage traffic, and also include links of its own
to other sites of interest. User feedback via email, to web hosts, Watershed,
and to the artist are encouraged, and it is possible to construct an online
comments book so that viewers can find out how others have responded to
Note: Refurbishments at Watershed mean there is no longer a digital café where online art work can be viewed on a large screen. However there are viewing tables equipped with computers available in the café bar, where selected online material can be accessed free of charge at any time.
Another area for placing the work is editorially in magazines and journals,
and this has happened already in Blueprint Magazine, in the September
2001 issue. It is hoped that the work can be placed again, but I have
yet to find anyone in the UK to take this on. I have been told by friends
in the photography business, that editorial possibilities would be better
overseas, and they will be explored in 2003, now the project is complete.
In practical terms, the website idea was the one that had the best chance of being realized, but I am finding that as the work progresses, and more people see it, new opportunities arise.
I ended up making an exhibition based on the idea of picture narrative seen traditionally in examples like the Bayeux Tapestry, made to record the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.
The pictures were edited to form a selection representing 18 people, and displayed on four panels, mounted on aluminum. I chose to edit the pictures in a way that provided a continuous narrative based on the content of the pictures in purely visual terms. In a project of this nature, it is impossible to expect every shot to have as much artistic merit as each other, and the strongest pictures from the strongest sets were chosen to be represented in the exhibition.
I designed the panels with the tapestry in mind, thinking of how the images could relate to each other, form a sequence, and therefore, tell the story of Bristol at the beginning of a new millennium through the eyes of an artist and young people living in the city.
The panels were designed in Adobe Photoshop, an image editing program, after scanning the negatives on a high end film scanner. File sizes for each image came to about 300 megabytes. The whole file for the exhibition comes to over 1.2 gigabytes, saved as a Tiff file. I had compressed the file to a JPEG in order to fit it on one CD to send to the printer. The exhibition was printed on a Lightjet Photographic printer in London, on one piece of photographic paper measuring six metres by two metres, and then cut into the three panels, and mounted on aluminum for presentation. The fourth panel, that of the two lads, was produced separately, the same way.
I wanted to create a digital document that could be printed easily anywhere
in the world where such a photographic printer existed, in order to facilitate
any future international exhibition. The other advantage is that the
panels can be joined and mounted into a book form, folded concertina-like
to make a book that can be opened to be six meters long - in keeping
with the idea of the Bayeux Tapestry. As well as acting as a portfolio,
this form of presentation makes transportation easier, and enables me
to show the work to galleries and editors, who can judge the print quality
for their own particular uses.
I hope that reveal becomes a book in this format, and I can design more panels/ pages to this effect, as the format is flexible enough to change and modify.
Combined with the website, the panels (in book form or mounted) give people a chance to be introduced to the work, with the website acting as the main image bank where the work as a whole can be presented. In this way, and through editorial presentation in magazines, many people can see the work, which is the main point of all presentations - to make the work available to as wide an audience as possible.
© John Frederick Anderson