Thursday, 20 October 2016

Small Selection at the Clerkenwell Gallery, October 2016

My new London exhibition is opening on Tuesday next week - 

Rooftop Collective Edition 5
25th - 30th October 2016
Clerkenwell Gallery, 20 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DP

Full details, with all the events, times etc. are on a lovely PDF linked here.

As part of a group show, I'm showing a series under the title 'Small Selection'. These are all pictures taken on my phone and drawn from my Instagram feed @paulcliffordartist. This is certainly a departure for me - in the past I may have thought it impossible to show images from a phone. But, by shooting carefully and choosing a phone at my last upgrade pretty much solely based on camera quality, I am able to get pictures I'm not only happy with, but very proud of.

This is the first time those pictures will be off the screen and on the gallery wall. They'll be sitting amongst some powerful imagery from analogue and experimental photographers, and I think the combination of the 7 photographers will benefit all the images and make for a great show.

Although it's the 5th annual exhibition I've had with this group of photographers from the Rooftop Collective, it's the first one where the hang has been handed over to an independent curator, Amy Caiger of Caiger Contemporary. Whilst the selection of my work has been left to me, how it interacts over the 2 floors with the other 6 photographers will be left to Amy. That's very exciting as I'll be experiencing the show for the first time the same as everyone else.

So, as I'm now approaching my 600th daily image on Instagram, how did I make the selection for the show? In some ways I had a head start on this, as I had created a one-off book of thirty favourite images to mark my 500th image post. However, that was a personal selection, and I wanted the sense of community and interaction with the circle of photographers that have sprung up around my Instagram gallery to feed into the show.

I made a shortlist of 25 images - some of those personal favourites mixed in with some of the most popular images, based on 'likes' with my followers on Instagram. I then took that selection to my Facebook friends - which includes all kinds of people who are by no means 'arty'. I asked them to 'vote' on their own favourites, and had a great response. I also printed them out and showed them to friends and family for more opinions.

Combining all these reactions and votes with my own feelings I came up with the final 8 you'll see if you come to the show. It's always painful deciding what to leave out, and whilst the 8 were by no means the most 'popular' in the process, the votes did give me a bit of guidance about which ones could be dropped most easily.

I've written elsewhere on the blog about how Instagram has revitalised my photography, so it's great to have this show to validate that, and kind of put a line under my first 18 months or so on the platform. I'm really excited to see how these new pieces mix with the group, and I hope some of you are too.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Do you like it?

Since I started using a camera about 30 years ago, I've always taken pictures to please myself. I love putting things together in a composition within the frame, creating an image that I can take away and look at whenever I want.

And it still pleases me to look at my pictures - I'm not saying this because I think I'm a brilliant photographer, it's more that I like the pictures I take, or perhaps more precisely, I like the things I take pictures of, and the way I take pictures of them.

Showing in galleries lets me get an idea of whether people new to my work like the pictures. Or at least, find out what they think about them, and what they make them think about. That's one of the great pleasures of a private view for me, being able to talk about my work in a non self-conscious way. Here are people who have come to look at my work, and even if they don't like it, or have no interest in it, they might tell me why not.

In that kind of situation, with an audience of one or many that haven't seen my work before, I'm always a bit self aware and maybe defensive too. My pictures aren't necessarily 'normal', they're not flowers or fun images of my children, generally they're of things that are nothing special at all. Consequently, a few people just don't get it, I can tell they think it's all a bit of a waste of time.

Those people aren't wrong of course, art and taste is all completely subjective. I've been teaching photography in schools over the last couple of years, and one thing I try and get across is pleasing yourself, then no one can tell you their image is better or worse than anyone else's. I sometimes show them some of the most hailed, 'great' photographs that mean nothing to me.

Now I'm posting daily on Instagram, I have the immediate feedback of comments and likes on each and every picture. It can be interesting to see which images take off with Likes, and which ones you might call 'duds' in that context. And it's also interesting when people I know personally or photographers I follow like my pictures, as I can try to imagine why they liked that particular one.

So if you see me at my upcoming exhibition in London (Clerkenwell Gallery, 25-30 October 2016 - for full details click here), remember the answer to the question 'do you like it?' is one that has no wrong answer. Whatever you say, I'm interested to hear it!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Another proto-Instagram feed - markets and more

Last time I wrote about my photo books and how they came about, and ended up comparing them to an analogue version of my Instagram feed.

It's a fair comparison, but one of the most fun and insightful parts of my Instagram experience is watching the Likes and comments come in, finding out which images are chiming with my followers and the Instagram community at large. While the books look very nice sitting on a shelf here at home, they're definitely not putting images out there for viewing around the world 24/7. However, there is another experience I had in the years before I started on Instagram that does compare nicely with those Likes.

Once I started showing again in 2011, I had some great exhibition opportunities and gallery shows. All these came with private views, which offer a fleeting chance to discuss your photography with art lovers who have never met you or your work before. It's an exciting and interesting experience, but it is fleeting, and only limited to what's on the wall. I've always been fairly prolific as a photographer and found it somewhat frustrating to only be able to show a small amount of images each time. 

Of course, my Instagram account @paulcliffordartist has helped me to solve that problem of late, but back then I wanted to free more of my images from those books, get them seen by the outside world. I wanted to sell them too, not to make money (although that is nice) or get the self-validation that comes from someone else enjoying your work (nice too). What was most exciting to me when I sold from a gallery show was that the image was leaving me to go and have an existence somewhere else, hopefully to be loved and looked at by lots of new eyes.

The cost and process of producing larger prints, plus the nice frames I felt they needed to go in, plus gallery commission, meant the prices for my work were prohibitively high for some. I knew from talking to people at the shows that if the work was more affordable they would love to take one home.

So I got to thinking how I could resolve this. An opportunity arose at the London Photomonth Photofair, where I had some framed gallery prints on show, but I also brought over 100 different images for sale as postcard sized prints in small white frames, racked in boxes and arrayed on the tabletop. I wrote a blog post about it at the time - here.

At an exhibition I had early the next year, I was able to leave a box of the small framed images, and over the next few years I took them to various photographic fairs and art and craft markets. Sales of these little affordable items went well, getting hundreds of my images out into the world, and I kept a note of which ones sold each time. And that's where the Likes came from back then.

So, by that standard, to finish with a picture, here is the best Liked image from all those stalls, fairs and markets combined - from Venice in 2009 - my best seller!

3183 - Venice, Italy, 2009