Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Problem of Exposure.

Photographers are usually familiar with the term exposure, meaning the amount of light given to film or sensor in order to take a photograph. Once left over to guess work and experience, later to be made easier by light meters and then effortless by automatic systems built in the cameras, the problem of exposure seems a thing of the past. Still it isn’t, particularly not in another sense of the word: that of getting exposure for our work once the images are finished, printed and ready to hang or publish.

Easy enough to put them on the Web, but then it is rather difficult to ensure that these sites we make will be visited a lot. For those who feel that their work should be experienced as a print the problem is even worse because they need walls: well lit spaces visited by acquisitively minded wealthy collectors, in short, galleries. The talent of getting your work accepted by a gallery is arguably more important than that of making great pictures when it comes to making it in this difficult world. Some seem to stream without delay from the art college to the art gallery and even museums, others toil for a lifetime in the sidelines, hanging their work in cafes and restaurants, cultural institutions or anywhere else, sometimes at their expense and with little or no reward. After a while this effort can become both daunting and discouraging, one tends to lose heart.

Far from having cracked it myself I have become something of a collector of both success and toil stories, anecdotes, and theories. Most success stories are second hand though: somebody else’s rendition of the facts while those who make it seem to be understandably secretive and evasive as to the reasons of their success – other than their great personality and talent that is, more implied than openly stated for the sake of modesty-. My good friend Mrs. G. swears by socializing at gallery openings and art fairs and names the capacity to take huge amounts of alcohol on board without incurring in loss of speech or dignity as a major asset. This approach involves a lot of traveling, since art fairs are all over the place, so nothing short of a Paris, Basel, Miami via New York triangle will do, better make it a pentagon to include Tokyo and Peking really. Oh, and spread it over a season lasting at least six months. In the time left the artist is to recover his sanity, revolve back to his photographic endeavor and work, in between AA meetings I might add. It may work, but it’s obviously not for everyone. Even when you have made it as far as getting your work under the nose of some influential person you are likely to find their response cautious and rather neutral. This happens for the simple fact that as an unknown photographer, it is a risk to support you, a liability to one’s reputation as an expert should you prove uncool, a commitment not worth making.

So I find it highly commendable that photographers who have been through this devilish mill for years find the energy, dedication and enthusiasm to land their prints on a good wall in a public building, albeit being aware of the staggering odds stacked against them. I also believe that the best honest work is produced without any hope or thought of success, beyond that very way of reasoning and being, but purely for the sake of it. Christopher Regis has done just that, and from the 5th of February to the end of March you can see a selection of his nighttime Amsterdam work, beautifully printed on fiber base and framed as good photographs should be, in the OBA (the capital’s central library). Since I have known Christopher for years I have no fears in vouching for his integrity. As for the pictures, they speak for themselves.

No comments: