The Experience of Exhibiting

Each of the photos below was intended to be in my first real exhibition of my photography. The theme is loose: photos of New Mexico. A couple were taken on assignment for New Mexico Magazine, a couple (monks) for a Sony CD cover, a few commissioned for clients, and some were made as my family and I explored New Mexico together. Three of the images below (horizontal monks/flowers/tree) didn't work in print (see below if you're interested), but were meant for the show so I'm including them here anyway. If you haven't made it by Satellite Café yet, the show is up until March 6th. Thanks to them for reaching out to me for this project. 

I don't print my photos much. The process brings out an obsessive savage inside me that tries to drag me into a rabbit hole of color correcting, paper/monitor profiling, file sizing, etc. from which I may never emerge. For that reason I typically deliver an online gallery to clients that they can print via top shelf printer Bay Photo (by way of my Smug Mug service) out of San Francisco, or (with Magazines and the like) I Dropbox the files and let them profile them to suit the printers they work with. But when the Satellite Café invited me to show my work there, I had to let the savage come out.

It took me a week to figure out the format I would use in the space. It's a huge brick wall, so I had to have really big prints. I grew up in a museum and watched the paralysis that can happen between archivists, artists and installers, so I don't like putting stuff behind glass or using frames/matting/special paper/inks—ad nauseam. I just want it out there on it's own. Simple. Clean. Easy.

I looked into 'thin wrap' options offered by the big boy printers (Millers, Bay Photo, etc). The products are beautiful, stunningly so. They're simple, printed on metal, mounted via a box on the back. They were perfect. Except... they would cost me $500/print at the sizes I wanted. I am a relatively successful photographer, but I'm not Chase Jarvis. I can't drop over $5k for a show at a local cafe. That's a new D800 and a 2.8 mid-range zoom. And part of me always wants to work with local companies (except when it comes to camera stores, but that's another story).

I remembered talking to local photog Kyle Zimmerman about printing really big, and that she had pointed me to a local sign company, so I did some tests with them.  A couple of my favorites were unusable, but the others worked surprisingly well. Shadow detail was horribly rendered, but even-toned light or dark images held up well. For $50/print I decided this was the way to go, so I took another couple days finding images with those qualities and tied together a loose theme about living in this amazing state that I have called home (on and off) for over 35 years now. The signs were printed and mounted on 3/8" hard plastic Sintra. I would use heavy-duty red outdoor mounting tape from home depot (good up to 5 LBS it says) and we'd be good to go.

Not so much.

The day after the manager and I spent 2 hours putting up the show, 4 of the prints had fallen down. Luckily they didn't hurt anyone. The next step was having a very handy friend help me design a system that involved creating a box frame and something to attach it to the wall. It took hours to re-install the prints on the brick wall, but by around 10:30 on the second night we were done. I don't know how many people have seen the show—my phone hasn't been ringing off the hook with print orders—but the anxiety and cost of putting it together were well worth it. I've accomplished a system to exhibit my work big that is affordable and sets up in a simple, clean style. Next time will be easier.