Photography (only?) in the Exhibition

Let’s be clear: unlike the Process Portfolio, there are no requirements that students explore a range of media/processes in the Exhibition.

A successful exhibition could consist of, say, ten artworks that all explore the same technique, or ten artworks that explore ten different techniques/ processes, or anything in between.

Its May so – as an IA moderator – I’m enjoying looking at student exhibitions from all over the world.  Its always an exciting and often inspirational glimpse into the minds, concerns, desires and lives of students.

With regard to exhibitions that are exclusively photographic, I am pleased to report that this session I have seen exhibitions that are more successful than the frequently weak photographic submissions that I and many other IA moderators have encountered previously.

BACKGROUND (Context and developing the course)

A few years ago, when the current course was still in the planning stage, the curriculum review and development team had many discussions about how much creative freedom to allow students, vs how many demands we should make.

It seemed to make sense to keep certain expectations relating to how many processes students should explore in the Process Portfolio, but allow ‘media freedom’ in the exhibition – so that if students discovered a strength in a particular technique while exploring processes in the Process Portfolio, they could exploit that to their advantage for the Exhibition.

Having said that, most exhibitions are not single technique shows. There may be predominance of one process but in general students submit more than one process.

‘One-Technique’ Exhibitions

However, sometimes students upload eleven artworks that all explore the same technique.

Some techniques may have more options for success than others, but occasionally exhibition moderators encounter ‘one-technique’ exhibitions that are limited because that single technique has not really been pushed and explored in sufficient depth.

In general, success in any technique is more about how the technique is explored than the technique itself: no technique is automatically likely to be unsuccessful – but strangely photography comes to mind as a process that remains persistently pedestrian.

Photography?

I say strangely because in the hands of a conceptually sophisticated and imaginative student, photography has the potential to be the vehicle for an outstanding exhibition. There are so many things that photography can do that you would think the success rate for photographic exhibitions would be high. Certainly, there is great potential for achievement in terms of coherence, competence and conceptual qualities.

But – and based on experience – by submitting only photographs, students do sometimes limit their own achievement.

Take it Further!

An obvious solution is to develop the photographic journey into a more meaningful and creative direction.

For example, my students sometimes incorporate the wet transfer print process including acrylic transfer or gel medium transfer. The combination of accident and intention can be both surprising and appealing.

Photographs can also become part of mixed media collage combined with drawings and prints (also based on the photographs)

A further direction is printmaking (screen prints, photographic emulsion, etching/intaglio etc) based on the photography.

Starting points

The underlying message is not to stop, even though the student may like and be happy with the ten or eleven photos that he/she has taken.

Travel further along that creative path and see at least some of the photos as starting points rather than end products!

Photos by the author.

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