While staging your first solo show is a huge accomplishment, there’s no denying that it’s a mammoth undertaking – both in terms of time and cost. Challenges aside, it’s a great opportunity to gain a deeper insight into your personal practice and a wonderful way to share your imagery with a wider audience. We’ve outlined a few pointers so you can enjoy the process as much as possible and make your first exhibition a success.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE VENUE
When thinking about where you’d like to host your exhibition, venue and location are obviously key factors. Make sure the space is as accessible as possible and there’s a good footfall in the nearby area. Compile a list of your top spaces and prioritise your favourite. Before you approach the gallery or space, have a plan ready - how will you generate publicity for your show? What’s the estimated turnout for a private view? How will the gallery benefit from your exhibition?
TAKE YOUR TIME
It can take time to finalise the curation. There’s also a lot of thinking involved: you need to choose the right printing, framing, and sequencing, as well as thinking what would work best in your chosen space. Think about the accompanying text you’ll have too and make sure it’s readable (both in terms of content and how it’s displayed). If you’re not a confident writer, definitely work with someone you know who is.
Is there a company you could potentially partner up with? Perhaps a paper merchant, or a printing and framing company? Maybe you know someone in the food and drinks industry you could collaborate with for your opening night? While partners are often fundamental to funding larger-scale projects, make sure you have some guidelines in place so they feel like they’re getting a good deal while your work is still the main focus.
ENTER THE SONY WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Have you seen the new prize element for the Photographer of the Year award? Alongside the $25,000 The overall winner will also enjoy a solo presentation of their work as part of the Sony World Photography London exhibition the following year. This opportunity will allow photographers to further develop their winning project or exhibit a brand new work, gaining additional exposure for their practice and advance their careers.
USE YOUR RESOURCES
Personal projects are always more fulfilling when there’s an opportunity to collaborate with likeminded creatives. Do you know any production managers or creative directors to help you with the overall delivery of the show? Any designers you can work with for private view invites, flyers and social media graphics? Any writers for the exhibition texts? Or how about any performance artists for the opening night? Working closely with others while leading the project means all aspects of the show will remain cohesive.
IT’S ALL IN THE PRESENTATION
Printing for an exhibition is a stage where the process really comes alive. Make sure you do plenty of proofs (while staying within your budget of course) and really experiment with types of paper, various sizes and different printing techniques. Do you see a mixture of presentations in your display? Will you have work mounted and framed in a beautiful, simple way? Will you print on perspex or canvas? Will some prints be tacked to the wall, while others hanging in rolls?
Plan, plan and plan again – you never know what challenges might crop up so it’s always good to be as prepared as possible. Make sure your plan includes a budget, and how much you’ll allocate for each element of the show.
AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
Don’t give too much information away before your exhibition - having intrigue is key. Don’t rely on too many people for their advice, listen to their feedback but remember that you are your best critic and know your work intimately. And finally, try and keep a cool head! While parts of the process can be stressful, everything does have a habit of working out in the end.
PRICING YOUR WORK
Pricing your photographs is always going to be tricky. You need to find that balance of not being too expensive but also not undervaluing yourself. Definitely get advice from others on this - do you know any agents? Can you ask the gallerist for their thoughts? Make sure you incorporate the cost of the printing and framing so you cover your costs.
For advice on how to promote the exhibition, take a look at our previous blog post on marketing your work.
THINK BEYOND THE EXHIBITION
Is there anything you can produce that visitors can take away after the exhibition? Perhaps a coffee table book or some postcards? Having something tactile for people to enjoy and remember after they’ve viewed the exhibition will keep your work at the forefront of their mind.