Compare and Contrast online vs gallery exhibition photography

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NIKON D70 - 319/10 sec, f3.5 at 18mm

Compare and contrast photography presented online with photography available to the public in galleries and exhibitions. 15 Marks.

June is the Auckland Festival of Photography. It's a great time to be someone that makes photos. There is a huge number of free exhibitions to see all month. The highlight of the festival will be Photoday, which is this Saturday.

The Mission

Last Sunday it was fine and clear, although chilly in the wind, so rather than sit in the house we took a trip in the car to see all the North Shore exhibitions. I had marked off all 6 in the program and found their locations.

First stop, the Mairangi Arts Center to see photos from Photoday 2005 which I was really looking forward to. It was closed for Queens Birthday weekend, dammit. Next was Devonport Public Library. Nope, no photos to see there either despite what it said in the official program.

So we wandered over to The Depot to see "Inside the North Shore" which is an exhibition of "established and emerging photographic artists". The photos at The Depot did nothing for me really. There was a couple that really inspired, but the rest were so so.

Next it was over to Northcote (or Chinatown as it should really be called) to Northart to see Ron Fitzwilliam: Selected Works 1955 - 2005. Mr Fitzwilliam's work was excellent stuff indeed.

The Compare and the Contrast

On Sunday morning in the space of 3 hours we burned $30 of gas and $8 in snacks and drinks. In total we got to see not much more than 60 photos. 30 of them I considered to be really outstanding. On Sunday afternoon for no cost at all I looked at perhaps 3000 photos in the space of about 4 hours at Flickr, Pbase and the 50 odd photoblogs I really follow closely. Not that I counted, but easily 500 of them would have been so good that I savored them, rolled them around for a bit in my mind.

At Mr Fitzwilliam's exhibition each photo had a little number below them. I had to pick up a bit of paper from the desk, refer to the number on the wall and then back to the paper to find out the title of the image and the year it was taken. That was all the information I had. Look online and you can have the entire back story for every single photo. Invariably you get information on the who the photographer was and where the photo was taken, including the how it was taken by way of the EXIF. Usually there is notes on the post processing involved. In some cases you even get an excellent tutorial on how to achieve the same results for yourself.

I love the feedback loop for online photographers and consumers. I can leave comments on most photoblogs and on Flickr. I can be as constructive or as sycophantic as I like. As a photographer I get feedback almost everyday on my photos. If someone has something nice to say, they say it. If they don't, then they generally say nothing. I know when I've done an average job because I hear nothing from everyone.

At the gallery on the other hand, there was just an old guy sitting behind the desk making sure I didn't wander off with the furniture. I could give nothing directly to the photographer, nor get anything from him. It was so passive. I wasn't at all part of the total process that I've come to know in consuming producing the art online.

Accessibility is the key thing for me. Not that I'm at all comparing Mr Fitzwilliam's skills to mine, but I'm guessing way more people visited this web site today than visited the gallery today where he has his work, given it's location. Not only that, there is over 300 photo's here of huge variation. Mr Fitzwilliam only has 30 on display. It's a pity he's not photoblogging so that we can love his work more. Although I concede he's got to make a living too.

I get to consume much more great photography online that I could afford to offline.

In saying all this though, I'll still be out next weekend checking out the galleries in Auckland. It is afterall the only photography festival Auckland has each year!

I've written before that the web should be the death of the coffee table photography book. I wonder if it too should be the death of small photography exhibitions? Or as Darren points out, perhaps it's the act of having to get out to hunt the art that's the appeal of the exhibition of photography?

What do you think?

The Photo

I was having trouble sleeping last night so I got up real early to take some sunrise photos. Unfortunately the forecast was wrong again and it was cloudy. Anyways, that's me on Waiake Beach (yes I should have stood still) watching the sunrise. I learned a bunch of stuff this morning. Firstly, dogs out for a walk in the early hours can trip over tripods and ruin 3 minute exposure shots. Secondly people out walking their dogs on the beach point out that yesterday morning was a much, much better sunrise (yeah thanks). And lastly, I need to spend a lot longer with it as the best stuff occurred after I had left.

Map of the photo location
Post Meta

Posted: Wednesday, 7 June, 2006 17:27

Captured: 2006:06:07 06:26:19

Add your own comment

  • I think the NZ - Australia photo blogger of the year should be having his own exhibition eh? After all that would enable you to get a real comparison between the online and off line photography shingding. Seeing anything in a gallery makes you look at it different, often giving kudos to an object that otherwise wouldn't have any, The web gives no such kudos, so my theory is anything that looks good on the webs going to look even better in a gallery so go and do it, no doubt you'll sell some, might help pay for that camera of yours eh.
    Tim - Wednesday, 7 June, 2006 20:10
  • Damn good point Tim. The implied value and quality from making it to your own exhibition is worthwhile. Not everyone can get an exhibition and any monkey can have a website. So it follows that the photography or art should be by far better there. However, as I found with my coffee table book example, it's not always the case. Thanks for contributing!
    Dave - Wednesday, 7 June, 2006 20:14
  • Great photo - I'm never up that early so nice to know what I'm missing out on. You make some good points but I wouldn't hold your breath. There are too many vested interests from "professional photographers" to the gallery etablishment to publishers who will ignore or downplay the web until it's too late - they will use it but not at the expense of their current business model. This technology has disrupted (democratised) the industry and tomorrows winners will not be the incumbents.
    Raymond Tse - Thursday, 8 June, 2006 1:40
  • I really like this shot. I think both the clouds and your movement add to the picture. Also, photoblogs and flickr are great, but I think there is something about seeing a big print. It will be a shame if art shows goes away because we all look at art online. I just don't think it's the same. But I view photography the same way you do.
    Adam - Thursday, 8 June, 2006 3:12
  • great points and i agree. when i go to an exhibit these days i feel the same im disconnected from the photo and it feels more intimate (which really should be totally suprising). Maybe its sad, but its a fact......Online, i can communcate, I can read the story, and i can get more facts about the photo. Nowadays photobloggers have their own little community thats like one massively big photo exhibit. That said, i still do enjoy getting out and going to art festivals when the occasion arrises. Also, great shot today..really nice little self portrait...i liked that you were blurred a bit...its a nice contrast to the stillness of the landscape.
    Mark [Markmyshots] - Thursday, 8 June, 2006 9:20
  • Great reflections I totaly agree with you! Every time I have been in exhibitions it was too much cold. Only the photo and maybe the title. In the web you can even have direct contact with the autor by the comments. It's way better. About the photo of today: I really like the blues and orange line over the horizon. I love the sunrises and have some of them in my blog, It doesn't matter how many of them have you seen they are allways different.
    chema - Thursday, 8 June, 2006 10:35
  • Nice shot again. I think your movement and the bllury effect of it makes it even nicer! I shoot stars at night and I really feel what you say ! When you are happy after 20 minutes of exposure and you think you're set to go a car passes by and burns all you had!
    Forough - Friday, 9 June, 2006 15:34
  • well, I am a photoblogger, as you know, and I am just preparing 2 exhibitions in 2 different galleries in Yerevan, Armenia. You name the absence of the artist in the gallery, I feel shy being the "artist of" and my friends support me, encourage me. To show photos in an exhibition desires more passion, accuracy and devotion because your work is really there, people can see, could touch it (beware!), could steal it (the photos of my first exhibition were stolen 2 hours after the opening. during the opening concert!) a photo exhibition is much more stress and more confession than a photoblog, I think, even it is just a short time, but if you are good people will ask for your next exhibtion etc. I know it is discouraging to enter an empty gallery with just some photos at the wall... but I was at the Moscow Photobiennale this year and I enjoyed it very much! If you want to see crowded spaces with photos, come to my openings: June 24 in "The Club" and June 29 in "Narekatsi Art Centre" , both in Yerevan!
    Connie - Saturday, 10 June, 2006 3:16
  • The way the movement affected the picture was a positive thing in your case, it's what made me keep looking the picture. I love the high contrast, one of my favorite things to do as a photography student as well as slow shutter speed. The way you are blurred out is whats beautiful, cause it made you almost transparent in the picture and it lets you see through to the full landscape. It lets people use their imagination to feel what the image could mean. It makes me feel like it is supposed to make you feel small, standing in the awesome beauty of this world, that we are only a small speck, but we matter so much.
    Catherine - Thursday, 15 October, 2009 13:31

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