Thursday, January 7, 2021

Exhibits - Selecting a Theme

Part 1 - Selecting a Theme

Although I have posted a couple of time about my exhibit preparations, I thought I would take a step back and start at the beginning with a small "how to" series about planning for a solo exhibit.

I applied for my first solo exhibit several years ago. The location was the public library for our town, and at the time there was a board that was reviewing applications. I picked my favourite images....a selection that I was proud of....and submitted them with my application.

My application was accepted (I will write more about applications in the next blog post) and, although I had written an exhibit statement, it was kindly suggested to me that I work on developing a theme. I asked for advice and was told someone would get back to me, but that never happened. So...what to do? I tried to figure it out for myself.

Exhibit Statement (condensed, 2017): Every Story Needs a Picture is a collection of approximately 15 framed photographs, together with inspirational verse and prose created by me to help deal with life's challenges and focus on life's joys.

We all have our own stories, and it's important for us to share them and document life. Whether we are celebrating our joys, or facing our challenges, or anything in between, our stories link us all together and pictures help tell those stories.

In Every Story Needs a Picture, inspiring photographic images are paired with verse and story cards. I see inspiration in every day things that others may not notice - a seaweed alphabet created by Mother Nature, a touching family story made with gourds, a series of images about change inspired by feathers. I hope to help others contemplate their own stories and feel inspired by my images and words of rejuvenation and hope. Viewing my photographic art might just prompt you to create your own stories with pictures.

Although I had a written theme, there was quite a variety in the sample images I sent. I thought that was a good thing, but the selection committee found it a weakness. Here are the sample images I included with my application:

Sample images included with application - 2017

At that time, I had been working on another series that was very personal to me. I called it "Stroke of Emotions" and it was a series of composited self portraits dealing with the emotional fall out of my husband's stroke. I wasn't ready to share that with the world, but I thought I might be able to work with the theme in a different way to develop a more cohesive exhibit and I started looking at my library of images.

After reviewing my images, I realized that birds and trees were very significant to me so I decided to work with that theme. In a burst of creativity, I created a series of images called "Roots+Wings", along with written verse for each image, in a period of 2 months.

I'm not advising anyone to do that! However, I am recommending that you select a theme for your exhibit. Pick a topic that means something to you personally and develop your theme around that. Most galleries expect a theme for their exhibits, not a random selection of "best of".

Here are some of the images from my first solo exhibit:

Although the exhibit was still about emotional healing, it was a more cohesive set of images than the one I had included with my original application.

If you are interested in seeing all the images with their corresponding verse in a larger format, you can view a book online at Blurb Books by clicking here.  Then click on the right or left pages to page through the booklet.

Although I think there was improvement from my original submission to my final exhibit, I have learned more since then.

When you are selecting your images, here are some things to think about:

- you should have a unique concept, and your idea should have depth. Be original!

- images should be attention grabbing

- images should be cohesive, with a polished technique

- images should be non-repetitive

Questions? Leave a comment and I'll be happy to give my thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Love your work, Sara, and it's very interesting to read more about how you approach it. Thanks for taking time to share your insights!


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