Tamron Image Master, Kevin A. Gilligan has an incredibly diverse background, but when there's a camera in his hands, it's all about the big picture, the landscape. His "mind's eye" has priority over everything he captures and one image after another is stunning, leaving the viewer with a moment to pause, reflect and within seconds be pulled into the image.
Recently Kevin did his first exhibition. He pulled it together himself looking for the right venue, then selecting the images he wanted to share and in the end held a weekend opening to show his work. In a recent phone conversation I asked if he'd be willing to write a blog post. Like every image he captures, he exceeded my expectations.
Kevin couldn't be more open in talking about the steps he took to create his own exhibition, the results and everything he learned. Sharing this information is one of the things that makes him such a great representative for Tamron USA - he's always willing to help.
Click the start button below to hear the podcast.
What I Learned From My First Solo Photography Show - Part I
Landscape photography is one of my passions. I love the feeling of capturing a great scene, especially if I get to explore somewhere new while doing it. Photographers love to share their best images. We want others to enjoy and appreciate them, and hopefully, buy them.
In the past five years, I’ve shown my landscape and travel photography in a half-dozen group shows, and two museums. Last year I began to feel it was time to have a solo exhibit. I’m a self-taught photographer, and I was not planning to wait around for a gallery to offer me a show. I made up my mind that I was going to create my show. Over the course of six months, I planned and executed every detail of a solo show.
Deciding to do a solo exhibit is a large commitment of time, resources, and ego. Yep, ego, you are putting yourself out there, and saying come look at my work. You have to have the confidence to show it, and a thick skin for those who won’t like it. Photography is art; you won’t please everyone, nor should you try to.
The opening night of a solo show is exhilarating and worth all the work that goes into it. I learned a ton in the process. Here are a few tips I can share for those who are committed enough to put on their first solo show.
Tip #1 Try a Group Show First
Group art shows are a perfect way to ease your way into showing your work. You don’t need many pieces; you can often show just one. It takes less time and less money, and there is less pressure because much of the logistical work is already done. You don’t have to book a gallery space, and often someone will hang the images for you. The theme may already be selected. The group shows help you build your network of contacts: collectors, framers, printers, public relations folks. Hand out your cards, get the cards of others, send thank you notes.
Tip #2 Select Your Best Images
Learning to select your best images and editing them for a show is a big first step.
You must learn to be ruthless. I have over 40,000 images in my catalog. I showed 27. If you are thinking about a solo show, I am assuming you are already proficient in post-production using Lightroom/Photoshop, etc. Selecting your images for a show is much more than just processing your images. It involves selecting a group of images that go together in the show. You might have several groupings of images.
For my exhibit, I had 27 images in three groups. The first were aerial images of Los Angeles. I printed those on metal. The second were black and white photographs of Rocky Mountain National Park; those were printed on paper and framed and matted. The third group included some of my favorite water-related images, and a few black and white, or dark themed landscapes that complimented the Colorado images.
Tip #3 Print A Test Book
Once I had a semi-final selection of images, I printed a high-quality test book. The book was about 5x7 inches, and I did not spend a lot of time on the text. The point of the book was to see how the images looked together and to have the book to take with me when I met with galleries. It was also an inspiration to me to keep going. When I was tired or frustrated, I could look at the book and remind myself of my purpose. The book was something tangible I could hold in my hands. I also showed it to a lot of potential guests for the show. Printing the book shows you are serious, and it elicits a different reaction than, “Hey, look at these pictures on my iPhone.” Everyone has pictures on their iPhone, this is different, print a book. You will look at your images differently. It pushes you to do better.
Tip #4 Theme/Artist Statement
You need a theme. Your exhibit will need a name. Give some thought to what will describe your show to guests. This was hard for me, really hard. It took me a while. I read photography books, listened to podcasts, talked to my wife about it. I won’t lie, this took me months. Finally, I figured out something that worked for the collection of images I had in mind. ELEMENTS: SEA – AIR – LAND. Was it the best name ever, probably not, but it told the viewer what to expect, images of the sea, air, and land. As I got closer to the exhibit I wrote an artist statement incorporating the theme, and what I wanted to convey with this collection of images. Personally, I think this is an indispensable step to solidify your thoughts and connect with potential collectors. The theme was done early in the process; the artist statement came much later.
Coming up tomorrow - finding the right venue, sponsorship, creating a flier, social media and asking for help.