Photoville 2015

I've been writing about this for quite a while already, but now it's official - my series Blood Unquiet is part of Photoville 2015 programming (as they funnily call it - programming means entirely different thing for the other half of me - the IT guy). The contracts are signed, fees paid, plane tickets bought and my pictures will start their journey towards Photoville already tomorrow.

Photoville is a "gate event" for me - this probably isn't a correct term, but I don't know a better one to describe an event that could change a lot, but is not guaranteed to do it. So on one end of the spectrum of possible outcomes is that my life goes on quietly just like it has until now or, on the other end of the spectrum is that I'll get a lot of invitations and exhibitions etc. I'd rather not speculate which way it goes, I'm used to keeping my expectations low and trying to produce work that pleases myself first.

It's still great honor to be among the exhibitions organized by Getty, Magnum, PDN and so on. I'm planning to visit as many exhibitions as possible myself during the time I'm staying in New York. Hope to find some time to cover it here too.

Exhibition Decisions Followup

During the preparations of my exhibition in the last six months I wrote a lengthy series of posts about different decisions I needed to take. Now I'm trying to analyze what worked and what didn't. Of course I don't know what the outcome would've been had I took different path, but in general I think I did a pretty good job even though I completely rethought some aspects just days before the pictures went to print.

Diasec vs showcase floater. I chose Diasec and I'm happy about it. For me, Diasec somehow represents the bleeding edge of printing technology although I do have much respect towards the classic matted and framed photos. In this case, Diasec made me able to print bigger which was necessary to fill the gallery space. Showcase floaters would have been more expensive and thus smaller.

Diasec vs anything else. I ruled out canvas pretty early, although I have to admit that after seeing Arne Maasik's Deep Sea exhibition, my attitude towards canvas changed a little bit. If the canvas in question has fine texture and is put onto quite shallow frame (not the usual 2-3cm deep things), it looks pretty good. Had I chosen the classic framing with passe-partout I wouldn't have been able to make the pictures as big, leaving the gallery visually empty again. 

Glossy vs matte Diasec. I chose glossy. Definitely happy about that, because matte version reminded me of ordinary photo paper glued to foam board. I might have to rethink that after Photoville, but that's then. I would have been able to afford non-reflective museum glass had I gone down the classic passe-partout route, but then again, I really wanted to try something I cannot afford without grant money.

Sizing based on photo importance. In the early stages I thought about this, but then realized it would have resulted four different sizes. That's obviously too much (for me to handle).

Sizing based on visual appearance - that is, make both portrait and landscape pictures all the same height. It probably looks nice in the gallery, but the pictures will have different visual importance, downgrading all portraits to B-pictures. I'm happy I was talked out of it just hours before the final commitment.

Sizing based on Photoville requirements - fit the pictures into 2,3x2,3x6m container taking into account the convenient viewing distance/picture diagonal ratio. It would have certainly resulted too small pictures for Tallinn City Gallery. But as I'm not yet back from Photoville, the jury is still out there on this one.

Overall sizing. I settled with 92x76cm prints which I consider optimal for the circumstances. Not too big, not too small. It would have been nice to have one really big print, but here my rational thinking held me back - I going to need to transport the pictures quite a lot after all.

Borders vs no borders. I chose to add 6cm white borders to the pictures. No practicalities here, I just like the way they look. Maybe this will have a practical aspect to it at other exhibition venues where the walls are not plain white.

Alignment. I tried two options - pictures aligned by top border and by upper thirds. When I did the sketchups in computer, it seemed that aligning upper thirds will make the visual appearance more uniform while aligning top borders gave too much visual weight to portrait pictures. When I finally went to install the exhibition into the gallery, the guys who design and install all the exhibitions there still suggested aligning top borders. I took their advice as when the pictures are at real distances from each other, this solution looks better and there're no problems with visual weight.

It sounds so natural and effortless now that it's all decided and worked out and my wife has even teared down the brown paper placeholders from our living room I made to try out different sizes and alignment options. It didn't come nearly as easily though, if I'd need to come up with a rough estimate, I'd say 200+  hours (over 50h comes from some 7 trips to Tallinn). And that's not counting shooting, editing and postprocessing.

Fundraiser Print Breakdown

During my six-week fundraiser campaign to raise money for Photoville I managed to sell around 90 prints (85 people have contacted my with their choices, few answers are still missing). That's a huge amount compared to what I'm selling at usual pace. But usually I'm not doing any marketing either. Maybe I should, but that's a different topic.

Before we get to the number each print sold, I have to explain one thing. I built my campaign on the assumption that people do read and understand it. This was not the case ☺ When I asked people to pick prints weird things started to happen:

  • Some didn't want prints. Some didn't tell me they don't want ☺
  • Many hadn't even looked at the prints page.
  • Many people wanted lower level prints.
  • Many people wanted higher level prints.
  • Some people understood they can choose whatever print they want among my (whole body of) work.
  • Some didn't notice that these are unframed prints.
  • Many assumed I have their email/phone number/address/etc. Yes I do have many phone numbers, but imagine yourself looking up and rewriting 50+ phone numbers from the phone.

When the answers started coming back, I was very worried how to solve those conflicts. These people have actually put their money into my campaign, they made my New York exhibition possible - how can I tell them they don't get what they want? I waited a week thinking what I should do. If I stay strict and give people the pictures they don't want, they'll be unhappy, they won't hang it on their wall, they're unlikely to ever participate again in such campaign.

I made a hard decision - I'll limit people only by print size and let them choose the picture they want. I know that this is a little bit unjust to some, but I had to make some kind of compromise. This seemed like the best one. I really do apologize if you're the one affected by it in the bad way. If so - drop me a note and let's try to make a win-win situation out of it.

Now to the numbers (the captions match with those on the campaign page):

You might notice that nobody wanted the pictures on glass blocks nor glass blocks at all. I offered two ordinary prints on peoples' own choice instead of glass blocks, some took just one. I take this as a compliment actually - I hope these people really are going to hang them on the walls (it's not possible to hang the glass blocks, they're more like tabletop decoration).

While pictorialism leads the previous chart, here's another:

People actually bought black & white pictures. This is something that was a bit of a surprise for me and to be honest, and I like it. I like the idea of people hanging a nice and solid and not very big B&W picture that is not printed on canvas on the wall.  Hopefully nicely framed!

My Fundraiser Worked!

Wow, my fundraising campaign obviously worked, even better than I thought. I hit the target by the end of third week out of five total.

It's a relief, first of all. I'm not a promoter or salesman, more like the opposite.

During the process I personally thanked all the people in my contacts list. It was just good to reconnect and some people offered other kind of help - like contacts in New York, suggestions for accommodation and more. I'm going to need that.

It's clear that I'm going to Photoville now - only force majeure will stop me. There's a lot of work ahead though. And I need to start with it earlier than I expected, tomorrow that is.

There's also a lot of work with the prints I'm selling in the campaign too. Printing, proofing, signing, shipping.

I hope to write a proper conclusion to the fundraiser once it's over.

Exhibition Considerations Part III

Part III of the Exhibition Considerations is picking up where Part I left off (Part II was about determining the right sizes) - discussing finishing again, this time trying to take into account the venues where the project will be exhibited. These would be:

  • Tallinn Art Gallery
  • Photoville festival held in converted freight containers

First of all, these are two very different venues, but the one thing in common is that neither of them is very well suited for displaying pictures with highly glossy surfaces. Tallinn Art Gallery because of the first room where there's one big wall opposite to the windows and containers because the walls are light gray and close to each other.

I consulted with some people who confirmed my doubts and said that photos on Diasec are very demanding when it comes to the rooms where they're being displayed. I have a 80 x 100 cm test print on a high-gloss paper used in Diasec process taped to my living room wall opposite to a big window and I have to admit it's very hard to find a suitable viewing angle so that the reflections won't distract you. I explained in Part I why I chose Diasec (showcase floaters won't save me from reflections either and are even harder to transport and display in containers, matted prints under museum glass are just too ordinary), now lets investigate how to proceed from here.

After some googling I found out that there're several types of Diasec - the ordinary high-gloss version, the same thing just with matte acrylic (sometimes called anti-glare) and so called anti-reflective version (basically Diasec under museum glass). The last one is ruled out by price, that leaves me the matte Diasec.

When visiting Artproof we checked the test prints under frosted glass, mimicking the finishing of matte Diasec. It cuts the dynamic range of the prints noticeably, making the nice deep blacks a bit less black and probably the bright whites also a bit darker, but that's not so noticeable. But it also widens the viewing angle and cuts reflections.

I probably want to see a real example before making the final decision, but I don't think I have many other options to choose from.

Exhibition Considerations Part II

Today's post is about determining the sizes of my exhibition prints. This is how my ideas have developed. If you're here for the first time - Part I explains some background.

First thought - OK, I have 5000€ to spare, let's get the price for one square meter, divide 5000 with it and then divide with the number of prints and I'm done. For example, let's assume the price is 200€ per square meter of Diasec, so:
 5000 / 200 / 15 = ~1.7m² 
That would make huge prints - around 1.5 x 1.2m in size. This is a bit oversimplified, but enough to make the point.

I cannot discuss sizing without the venues where the exhibitions will take place. First of them is Tallinn Art Gallery (Linnagalerii), which consists of two fairly large rooms and is not very restrictive. The other exhibition - Photoville in New York - takes place in converted freight containers. The dimensions of standard freight container are 2.6m x 2.6m x 6m. So my theory doesn't hold up very well:

  1. I can't even fit all 15 photos into the container (easy workaround is not to show all pictures).
  2. Assuming there'll be people looking at both walls, the average viewing distance will be around 1m, which, for a 1.5 x 1.2m print is way way too close.
  3. Be assured that hauling prints of such size from Tallinn to New York is neither easy nor cheap too.

Obviously that's not going to work and I need to think of something else. Let's try to calculate the optimal size by viewing distance instead. The rule of the thumb is that optimum viewing distance should be around 1.5-2 times the diagonal of the picture. So if my smallest real viewing distance is 1m and we assume 1.5 as the multiplier (we're in eco mode, remember), it would make ~0.7m as the diagonal of the picture. That would make the print about 40 x 60cm (I'm deviating from the 4:5 ratio, but that's OK for illustration purposes). That does not make much sense from Linnagalerii's perspective nor will it fill my budget. This is supposed to be my big day with huge prints I can't afford otherwise, after all.

Next idea - let's make prints in two sizes, so that I can show, say, 7 big prints and 8 smaller prints in Linnagalerii, then make duplicates of the big prints equal to the smaller size and show them at Photoville. To be more specific, I was thinking about the following sizes:
100 x 80cm - the big prints, 7 pieces
80 x 64cm - the "small" prints, 8 pieces
The above set will be shown at Linnagalerii, then I'll make 7 more 80 x 64cm prints of the pictures that were previously big and show only the smaller sized set at Photoville. I can make all of them proportionally smaller if I don't fit into the budget. I even thought which pictures are more important and will thus be made bigger etc.

This was my working theory until last Friday when I went to Artproof for making proofs and to discuss sizing. What the guys there suggested is that the vertical size should remain constant - otherwise it won't look good in gallery. Thus I can make smaller and bigger sizes, but the division will be made whether the orientation is landscape or portrait. To give a visual reference of what I'm talking about:

█ ▐ ▐   █ ▐   █ ▐   █ 

It actually makes a lot of sense. It seemed so logical I was embarrassed I couldn't figure it out on my own. On my previous two exhibitions there were only photos in landscape orientation ☺

So I'm back to square one. I don't have a valid idea what the sizes should be to work for both venues.