I’m not much of a resolution maker, but with the start of the new year I often get the urge to start projects or set some goals. Among them have been goals for taking my photography to the next level, or in a different direction altogether. Thanks to posts here on Mortal Muses I’ve been inspired to try working with film, experimenting with black and white, or playing with a new iphone app. I’ve tried a 365 project, a 52-week series, participated in online photo courses, and worked on a collaborative photo project or two. I’ve shared my work on flickr, instagram, on my blog, and on facebook.
But I realized there was something missing from my photography experience, and that was sharing my photographs in my own hometown. I was willing to put myself out there online in a big way, but I was nervous about showing my work in person to my friends and neighbors. Online, people around the world had seen and commented on my photographs, but most of the people I encountered everyday had no idea I was even a photographer!
Some of you may have had the same feeling, and wondered how to begin showing your work in your own community. Short of working with a gallery, where do you start? There is nothing quite so gratifying as seeing your work printed, matted, framed, and hanging on a wall someplace other than your own home. It’s amazing to get feedback from the people you see every day as they connect with your work.
Here are some tips to get you started on the exhibit journey:
• You’ll need to invest in printing, matting, and/or framing your work. This can be an expensive proposition, and it can take time to get enough work prepared to make a decent-sized exhibit. I have my photos printed through Redbubble – their matted prints are all 16×20, and I use a white mat for uniformity. Then I frame them in inexpensive but sturdy black frames for a cohesive look. I follow the discount sales at the major craft stores that carry frames, or I beg, borrow, or steal 40% off coupons from friends and coworkers. I now have 20 or so pieces that I can exhibit.
• You’ll need to get comfortable with a little self-promotion, and with getting out there and asking about exhibiting at local venues. Ask your artist and photographer friends where they show their work and who they contacted. Be prepared to leave your card or contact information everywhere you go. It pays to have attractive cards printed — or print them yourself.
• I’ll let you in on one of the easiest ways to get started – try your local public library. (I speak from experience as both a librarian and photographer). Most libraries have exhibit spaces and like to promote local artists. Policies vary but many libraries allow you to exhibit your work for up to a month and do not charge a fee. Some allow you to have an opening reception, and many will provide you with free PR in their library newsletter or on their website. Some allow you to sell your work – a few will require that a portion of the proceeds be given to the library. I’ve had three exhibits at local libraries here on Cape Cod in the last year, and have a fourth coming up shortly.
• Other great places to try are local restaurants and cafes, the Senior Center, or the town Historical Society. Community centers, the YMCA, art associations, and churches are all good places to inquire. Our neighborhood liquor store even has a monthly exhibit! Our Town Hall likes to promote local artists, and has several exhibit spaces to choose from. An added bonus is that they also produce a daily TV show for the local cable channel so during my exhibit there I had the opportunity to be interviewed. If you’re feeling brave this is a great way to be able to talk about your work and share your passion with a larger audience.
• You also can submit individual photos to group shows sponsored by your local art association or cultural council. There is often a theme to this type of show, and sometimes an entry fee. These group shows attract a larger and wider audience, so it’s a great way to get your name out there and have your work shown with other wonderful artists in your community.
• Finally, don’t forget to spread the word about where and when your work is being shown. Send an evite to your friends, post the dates on facebook, tweet about it, or send an old-fashioned announcement via snailmail. Call friends, tell the relatives, send out a short press release to the local paper. Brag a little. It’s your time to shine!
If you have exhibited your work, what was your experience? Leave a comment and share your tips. And if you haven’t tried it, I hope you’ll make exhibiting your work a goal for 2013. Good luck!