Articles Page

In this space you will find articles about photography, places to photograph and travel, photo-related Web sites (including this one), computers and software, and links. New articles will appear on an very irregular basis. Previous articles are archived. The information presented here is based on my own experiences in the areas listed above. I will avoid how-to articles, as I'm in no position to offer advice or tutorials. Instead, when I find an interesting place to photograph, had a fun or unusual experience making pictures somewhere, or simply have a good story to tell related to making, preparing, or displaying photographs, you'll find it here.

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Jay Cross

Lumen Perfectus

The Art of the Show

Foggy Sunrise in Yellowstone, 2003, 32 x 25 inches

I began making large prints in 2007; it wasn't long before I had pictures in various sizes all over the house, and needed to clear some space, and decided a good way to do that would be to have them displayed in local galleries. If I could store my photos on gallery walls where people could see and consider buying them, I wouldn't need to store them in my basement. With that concept in mind, and with what I hoped were good pictures properly printed and matted and framed simply but with high-quality materials, I set out to solve my storage problem and perhaps earn back some of my expenses.

Since then I've been the "featured artist" in several shows, exhibited in outdoor shows, and regularly have work displayed in a number of galleries and other venues. Along with all that has come some sales success, although if I had a day job I'd not consider quitting it just yet. (Perhaps I should mention photography, and getting my work out in front of people, are my day jobs). Still, it's gratifying when people choose to purchase my pictures, and it's nice when much of the cost of my work is paid for by sales.

While all this is a fair amount of work, it's very satisfying to hang a new show and then attend the opening reception. These typically draw nice crowds, even in our less than flourishing economy, and provide the opportunity to see friends and meet new people who often share an interest in art in general, and sometimes specifically in photography. There's always an opportunity to share a story or two. People seem to love hearing the details behind the taking of a photograph.

Preparing for a Show

The prep work for a major show is significant, in large part because I do everything myself. I select the work, make the prints, order the frames, mats, and glazing, assemble the frames, mount and frame the pictures, create title labels and apply them, determine pricing, print and apply title/price tags, enter all the pieces into my inventory database, double-check everything, and then pack up the car for delivery. Depending on the number of prints involved — when there are multiple concurrent shows there will be lots of prints — this can take several weeks.

Show preparation -- a few of the pictures ready to hang

Selecting the prints is often a challenge. Sometimes a show has a "theme" and I must make selections from my catalog which seem relevant. Sometimes the intent is to showcase a body of work, perhaps of a given subject or specific location. Of course, in many cases the choice is entirely mine — whatever I'd like to display. Making these selections can be difficult!

Once the images are selected they are printed. Measurements are recorded and the tedious process of ordering frames and mats begins. I use a couple of on-line framing suppliers for this, and I've also used a local framer who does very nice work at reasonable prices. My primary supplier is quite slow unless a fee is paid to expedite the work. Generally this isn't necessary. While waiting for frames I generate the various labels and tags the framed pieces will need and generally make ready for my work area to be overtaken by the framing process. It should be noted that after travel and lodging expenses incurred to take the pictures in the first place, framing and matting is my greatest expense in readying photos for display. I think a little could be saved if I cut my own mats, but for now I've chosen not to invest in a good cutter or investigate how to get full sheets of matboard delivered without damage. Cutting mats would also take time, which I'd rather spend outdoors taking pictures.

Shown here is a small group of pictures prepared and ready to deliver for hanging in a gallery show. This was about half the number of pieces I had in that show. Most of the rest were larger pieces.

Opening Reception

So this article doesn't run on forever I'm skipping a major part of the work: hanging the show. This usually takes only a few hours, but can be an exhausting experience. In many galleries I will hang the show myself, or provide direction to a couple of people while participating in the job. The process is always the same — it begins as total chaos, and before long I start to think the show will never come together. To my continued surprise it always does, and within a few hours the place looks great.

The opening reception is a sort-of open-house party, usually on a Friday or Saturday evening a few days after the show is hung. These things are advertised in various media, there's usually some word-of-mouth spread of information, and I often mail cards to past clients so they'll be aware of the show schedule and the opening. Typically there is food and drink, which may be the real reason so many people show up!

Opening reception, Sandpiper Gallery

These two pictures are from a 2008 opening at the Sandpiper Gallery in Polson, MT and show only a small part of the gallery. In addition to my work this show featured several other artists. The opening was on a Friday evening and was well attended; the show ran for about six weeks.

A Different Venue

We've done one outdoor show each summer. This happens in August and is held on the Lake County (MT) courthouse lawn. In addition to most of what's described above in the "Preparing for a Show" section, outdoor shows have an additional layer of complexity and require further organization: A canopy, or tent, must be erected and some kind of interior structure arranged from which to hang the pictures. And of course, weather becomes a big factor. This show is a one-day affair, always a Saturday. We are able to set up our canopy the evening before the show. We take advantage of that, but do not hang any pictures until Saturday in the early morning hours before the official opening of the show. At the end of the day everything must be torn down, loaded into the cars, and brought home. I've been fortunate with sales so far and have brought home fewer pieces than I took.

Polson Art Festival 2009 -- our booth

This picture was taken 30 minutes before the 2009 show opened and shows our canopy with pictures hung, ready to take on the crowd.

17 August 2009