One of the rights of passage for photographers is to exhibit their work. It’s true that displaying work on social media or a website is a form of exhibition, but the process of turning a digital image into a physical print is, to my mind, the hallmark of a true photographer.
So much photographic potential is lost when you display your work on the internet. The small file sizes are generally over sharpened, the JPEG format loses much of their tonality, the colour space reduces the colour palette and, worst of all, you have no control over how your work is seen by your viewers. Goodness knows what monitor or display they may be using!
Online exhibiting has its place and its distribution is second to none, but I believe the context of a public exhibition of physical prints with controlled lighting is the pinnacle of photographic expression.
One marvellous aspect of an exhibition is that you get to interact with people – and all their foibles. Normally it is very polite and civilised, but several experiences come to mind, such as with this print of a fisherman on the lake at Kinloch, New Zealand. A woman was very interested in purchasing a large print, but just wanted to get her husband’s approval.
The husband returned a few minutes later, took one look at the fish being hauled into the boat and dismissed the photograph as being ‘Photoshopped’ and not worthy of consideration. He dragged his wife away.
I remember this keenly because of all the photographs I had in the exhibition, this had the least amount of Photoshop and the fish was captured in-camera. I think this experience has scarred me psychologically because now when people tell me they can tell if a photograph has been ‘Photoshopped’ (a term, by the way, which Adobe has actively discouraged), I wonder if they really can, or if they just think they can.
I guess it doesn’t really matter because when it comes to selling your work at an exhibition, the only opinion that matters is that of the buyer. I didn’t make the sale.
Footnote: Some seven years later, the boat sank and the owner was looking for a photograph to remember it by. However, I was told my print prices were too high. I’m sure he simply took a screenshot of my website and put the money he saved towards a new boat – the challenges of making a living as a photographer in The New Tradition.
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