Alessio Williams Pastucci

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How to set up a gallery exhibition

September 1, 2015 | PHOTOGRAPHY | 2834 views | no comments | Author: Alessio Williams Pastucci

how to set up a gallery exhibition photo exhibit

If you are involved in photography, probably you desire to know how to set up a gallery exhibition where you can start with giving life to your idea, up to showing publicly your photos and earn some fame and appreciation. Well, imagine a similar situation, with different traits.
What you are going to read is the story of how I fully created a gallery exhibition starting from scratch.
There are many premises to write in order to let you understand exactly this story, but before let us revise which are the main points to consider on the road to your first gallery exhibition.

How to set up a gallery exhibition

Previously I have never had any experience and didn’t know exactly how to set up a gallery exhibition…but remember that sometimes your sixth sense and the simple intellect are right. And they were right in my case, too!

At first you need an idea. You may have an idea about a theme for your photos and then if you can collect some shoots you might think about a gallery exhibition, otherwise you decide to set up a gallery exhibition and later on you will take care of the theme. Whatever your path is, it is important to define a precise theme and stick to it. No exceptions.

Another important step is collecting photos. If you want to show your own photos, take care about the selection, in order to choose the “right” number of photos (which is the right number?) and remember to be coherent with the theme you chose. You choose how many photos show at the gallery exhibition. Do not exaggerate as well as do not prepare only a handful of shoots.
Consider also the physical space where you can display your photos and decide the right number, keeping in mind that in any case it is better to have a good number of photos: no one will complain about too many photos (visitors are free to interrupt looking at photos and would not complain about that) but they may lament a poor number of photos in the gallery exhibition, specifically if they go out only for your photo exhibit.

Quality of photos: it must be excellent! Nothing more to say.
Do not go cheap on print quality, it is the worst error you could do if you print photos you shot. People want to observe your photos and it is absolutely necessary to provide the best quality you can afford. Say no to visible big pixels. It may be nice to frame your photos, as well as provide titles, the places and times when they were shot, their story, and also consider linking a specific number to each photo if visitors are required to give a vote.

When organizing a gallery exhibition that consists of photos participating in a photo contest, be strict about technical requirements, so you will automatically show that it is a well-organized and serious contest, and would not have to sacrifice the quality of your gallery exhibition. Be precise in technical requirements about layout, photo dimensions and quality, the exact theme that must be respected, and so on.

Up to now I mentioned basic aspects, that come out by thinking out loud, I have not discovered the magic formula yet about how to set up a gallery exhibition, but in my opinion these are simple rules to follow, providing for sure good results.

Other important steps in how to set up a gallery exhibition include the choice of the place where to settle your gallery. Find a middle way between overlying photos and leaving too much space, in order to avoid a mess or too much distracting empty space, respectively. Please consider that a group of people could stop watching a particular photo and they need the right space to stop there and take their time. Avoid narrow passages and take advantage of all the physical space you are allowed to use.

Be social. Get in touch with visitors, answer their questions and explain interesting details about your photos, such as where you shot the photo, if there is a specific anecdote or something that will intrigue them.
Do not let them come in, give a quick look and go away, because they will forget your exhibit in minutes! Create an experience!
Do not be passive, you need to believe in what you do before visitors can get interested in what they are going to see. Take time to talk with them, ask for their opinions and exploit these moments to promote yourself, too. Trust in your work.

Tips for a successful gallery exhibition

We could agree on many short tips but these are the most important ones, in my opinion.

Choose an interesting theme for your gallery exhibition

What means interesting? Let us proceed by logic: a gallery exhibition means that there are some photos of yours that you decide to show to the public. So, at first, we highlight that the theme should be of public interest or on the contrary could be pleasant for a niche: few people that share an uncommon interest or would like to visit an exhibition based on a specific theme.

Create interest for what visitors will see, before they see it

OK, this may sound puzzling. Think about this and fog will lift: someone might go for a stroll, notice that your exhibit is in place and decide to have a visit. He or she then might be satisfied or not, but if in advance you can influence him or her in a positive way, everything moves to your advantage. The visitor then will be impatient about giving a look and its judgment will be unbalanced towards a positive opinion. There are many ways to do this, I would suggest a sort of interesting explanation or something like this, anything that will attract the visitor’s attention. Refreshments always do a reasonably good job, if the circumstance allows that; just be careful about not misuse it as primary attraction.

If you are on a budget or do not have right tools, let your imagination work.

Whatever the situation is, if you hold a gallery exhibition for the first time it may happen that you cannot manage everything, some aspects will be out of your control. You have a low budget or cannot find the tools you need, if  you can rely on a staff they may not do provide exactly what you ask, so you find yourself relying upon your own strength and instruments. Imagination is a strength and also a powerful instrument. Think out of the box and be adaptive. Sometimes lack of tools may be an advantage, I will write an example later about my experience.

My experience while holding a gallery exhibition

It all started when my brother and I got involved in a collaboration with editorial staff of “il Paese” (known online as “il Paese Macherio“), a local newspaper settled in a small town in the north of Italy, Macherio. Its first issue was in 1980 and we provided some ideas for 2015, not only about the printed monthly issue, but also for the social media networks. Our ideas brought a good empowerment, making stronger the online presence through many initiatives.

We both have a strong passion for digital photography. Once a year, the next year calendar is distributed along with a monthly edition and since each page of the calendar includes a photo that goes with a month, the idea of a photo contest came by itself. We discussed about an important and intriguing theme, “Macherio che lavora”, (that could be translated from Italian to English as “Crafts in Macherio”) where each participant had the possibility to send photos about the various jobs in our town, from agriculture to factories, going through various services (both public and private) and so on. It was mandatory that the jobs occurred inside our town, Macherio.

Planning deadlines was really helpful. We heavily advertised this photo contest both on our social media pages and also with a special article in a monthly issue of the printed newspaper, providing clear examples of what could have been accepted as part of our contest and announcing few technical rules about photos accepted. We chose to focus more on content (being fully respectful of the theme), while being more tolerant about technical details, for instance photos taken with mobile phones were allowed but they had to have at least a minimum quality.

That’s fine, but I imagine you are asking yourself: “How to set up a gallery exhibition in this case?”
The calendar should be ready by the end of the year and so it is necessary to choose 12 photos out of all the ones that are part of the photo contest. Who is responsible for choosing the 12 photos? Yes, you are right! People send photos and people vote photos. That’s due to the decision of letting people be part of our community: people are fully involved, they are free to send photos about working activities in our town and then people are attracted to visit the gallery exhibition also because they can play an active role by voting photos they enjoyed the most. They are able to choose which kind of activities to take as subject and from which perspective to capture the essence of that jobs. They are allowed to choose which photos will see in the 2016 calendar, by mean of a democratic vote. You have less work while they have fun! Win-win situation!

We collected about 60 photos and managed to exhibit them on some boards during the Patron Saint’s festival (S. Cassiano, celebrated at the end of August), so we took advantage of having already a good share of visitors along the streets and we obtained some places to use, to set up the gallery exhibition. How people could vote? We had some heart-shaped cards, that not only were given away as gadgets, but also were used as ballot paper, to keep photos aligned on boards and used as label for each photo exposed. They were used for multiple aims, so we minimized efforts.

We are all volunteers and luckily had some support from a local print house. We decided to keep the gallery exhibition open on Saturday and Sunday, but the most intense time was Sunday (especially at afternoon hours), where roads were closed to traffic and we had the possibility to move the gallery exhibition from indoor to the street. Many many people came to visit because they heard about our advertising and just as many stopped for a visit, because attracted by how we set up the gallery exhibition.

Is it successful a gallery exhibition?

736 votes in few hours. Major success!

We put a lot of effort in managing the entire photo contest and exhibition, there were costs and a lot of physical work to do, but by mean of what it was available, we are so proud of this successful exhibition. No one was complaining and many people congratulated for the organization and the overall quality of the exhibition.

You can manage a gallery exhibition by showing your own photos or the ones collected from a photo contest, but even if there is a lot of effort involved in how to set up a gallery exhibition, this is a great opportunity in terms of advertising and so on.

Very important is your own satisfaction. Enjoy each moment, especially when visitors come and have fun in the gallery exhibition, people appreciate your work and you leave a smile on their faces.

Did you find the story interesting and learnt something more about how to set up a gallery exhibition? Let me know your opinion in the comments and if you like what you read, please share this article!

Give a look at photos of my gallery exhibition “Macherio che lavora” and observe details of how to set up a gallery exhibition, by considering all my premises.

Thanks for your time!

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