After completing Faces of Friendship: Part II earlier this year I put my mind to how I could exhibit it. It was never my intention to do so when I first set out but as time progressed and the project grew I warmed to the idea. At the very least it was a formal means of bringing Part II to a close and an opportunity to thank those involved.
I quickly discovered that no matter how big or small your exhibition is, planning is key. Even with a low-key event there is still a lot to think about to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible. So here are a few pointers, based upon my own experience, about putting on your first exhibition.
1. Give yourself time
The reality is that no matter how much time you allow for planning, you will find it is never enough. To give you an idea, I started looking into dates about five months in advance. Be realistic about how long it will take to organise your exhibition and add another month for good measure.
2. Be creative with your venue
Living in London brings the benefit of choice but it can come with a hefty price tag. For small events (and if you are not planning on selling your work) a lot of galleries can be cost prohibitive. But cafes, bars, and commercial spaces are increasingly popular venues. I hired the events room of a central London pub which offered plenty of space, music, a digital display, and even the option of a private bar.
3. Quality over quantity
It goes without saying but think very carefully about which photographs you choose to display. Be your own critic and if you think it would be beneficial then seek the opinion of someone you trust. At the end of the day always adhere to the old adage of quality over quantity.
4. Don't neglect print
I wanted to ensure there was a print and digital element to my exhibition. I had some images playing on a loop on the display but also had a selection printed and framed. The balance worked well; the digital images were a constant feature while the prints allow people to engage more closely with the work.
5. It's not all about selling
Be realistic about what you wish to get out of your exhibition. My primary objective was not to sell my work; for me it was a means of concluding the project and gaining experience. Exhibitions can also be valuable networking opportunities to connect with existing or potential new clients. So think carefully about the purpose behind your exhibition which should in turn help guide your budget.
6. Use social media
Promoting via social media is effective and immediate. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or a client mailing list, it is important to spread the word. I used a combination of all three to target different audiences. And use hashtags. The benefit of this project was that it took nearly a year to complete so regular posts using #facesoffriendship helps to gradually build awareness.
7. The small details
Once you have a date, venue, and decided upon the photographs you want to exhibit then give a thought to the small details: music, an artist statement, guestbook, promotional flyer, welcome drinks. Not all will necessarily be suitable depending on the type of exhibition you are putting on but consider these final touches to make it as polished as possible.
Organising an exhibition can be stressful but give yourself sufficient time to plan and you'll be surprised how quickly things fall into place. I experienced a mix of excitement, anxiety and relief but at the end of the day I was extremely pleased with how it went and it has certainly encouraged me to do another in the new year. Ultimately, enjoy it!