Preparing For My First Art Gallery

As a wedding photographer, having a gallery of my work has never been something that has crossed my mind. So when I was approached by The Apollo on Emma about putting some of my work on display, I had to dive down the rabbit hole of possibilities.  

When I first started to entertain the idea, I knew I wouldn't use any of my client work. I didn't think a ton of people would be super interested in looking at other people's wedding photos or family portraits. I thought about using images from my 50 Days of Quarantine project, but as much as I love those images, I decided I wanted something more people could not only relate to but also envision themselves a part of. So I settled on using images from my 2 week trip to India to document the Holi festival. Not only are these images colorful and exciting, but they give people a glimpse into another culture.  

The Prints

Once I had an idea of the work I would show, I needed to decide on how I would show that work. There are so many different types of printing options. From gallery wraps, framed prints, standouts, etc. Then inside the various options, there are different types of canvas or different types of paper. And although I do a fair amount of client printing, I just didn't know enough about it to be certain about what I wanted to go with. So I reached out to WHCC (White House Custom Color) to ask some questions about some of their offerings and explained what I was looking for. After a bit of back and forth, I ended up deciding to use standout prints. These are essentially prints that are mounted to a 3/4inch board. This gave me the ability to have large prints that I could hang without the use of frames. But what I wasn't sure about was the type of paper. Because of the use of color in my work, it was recommended that I try a fine art paper called "Photo Rag Baryta by Hahnemühle". But to be certain, I ordered four 11x14 standard prints using this paper so that I could see what it looked like. 

Once I got my sample order in, I was instantly on board. The highlights and shadows rendered amazing and the colors were deep and vibrant. From here, I needed to decide on sizes to order and how many. So after talking with the venue, I found that I had two large walls, two medium walls, and a tall narrow section of wall behind a bar that I could fill. I also knew that I wanted to stick with a 3:2 image ratio because I didn't want to have to crop any of the images since I tend to use my entire frame. So in the end, I went with ten 16x24 prints and six 30x45 prints. I knew this gave me enough pieces to fill all the spaces pretty well even though I wasn't fully set on the layout. 

Hanging The Work

Once the prints came in, I was so excited to see them. Especially the 30x45 prints because I had never seen my work printed that large. But I really didn't want to risk damaging the edges of the prints while moving them from my house to the venue. Standouts have a pretty fine edge, and in my past experience, a hit from the right angle could leave a decent dent. So, I decided to leave them all in their boxes and unpack everything on the day of installation. Though, this simple process of unpacking actually took a good deal of time. Each print was wrapped in plastic, foam, and then taped up really tight to the box as well as the other prints in that box. So there was a good deal of work to get all 16 prints completely unpacked and ready to hang. 

When it came to hanging the work, there were a few screws in the wall that the venue has permanently placed for hanging art. Unfortunately, these screws didn't align with the layout I had in mind and there also just were not enough screws to hang all the prints. So rather than punch a ton of holes in their wall for hanging, I decided to use the 3M Command Strips. But not the ones that are sticky on each side. They also offer an almost Velcro-style strip where you place one strip on the wall, another strip on the art, and then you basically press the two together and they click into place. This style of strip also holds more weight than the traditional sticky type. The best part is that once the show is over, these strips can easily be pulled off and will leave no trace behind on the wall. 

When it came to getting the strips hung I used a laser level and tape measure to get everything aligned on the wall. I then used a tape measure to get the strips in the right place on the art. This was all fairly straight forward and once I got my measurement down it was a lot of step and repeat.  

The only part that I didn't think about with this process was that normally, when you use a nail or screw to hang, you place the nail and then the print perfectly hangs with ease. But because I was using these strips, even if the strips were placed perfectly, I still needed to “click” them into place perfectly, or else things wouldn't line up. Basically, these strips give you a good amount of leeway left/right and up/down. So what I ended up doing is just setting up my laser level when hanging so that I could perfectly align the top edge of the art. I could then easily feel the placement of the strips left and right with my fingers while hanging. 

https://youtu.be/czMB5AmVzJ0

The last complication I ran into while hanging was with the pieces that hung behind the bar. The problem was that I couldn't get up high enough and in a good position to press the art into place without the ladder blocking me. So what I had to do was get the ladder as tall as I could and then with me on the ladder, pull the art into place from the other side. This ladder positioning allowed me to be centered so that I could press on both edges to click the art into place. Another trick I used that you’ll see in the video is that I pulled my sleeves over my hands. This allowed me to press onto the prints without leaving any oil from my hands on the art. 

Conclusion 

On the grand opening, there was an open bar with India-inspired drinks from Tie-1-On and India-inspired hors d'oeuvre from Carmelita Catering. I also had a large album of images on display that features all my favorite images from the trip. Overall I think it was a fun experience getting everything together and set up. I learned a lot and feel like the turnout was great! I am also in love with the prints and the fine art paper that I ended up going with. I actually have a few prints for my own home that I will be getting soon with this paper. If I had to do it all over again I absolutely would and I would also encourage anyone interested to reach out to some local venues to enquire about getting your own show set up for display.     

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3 Comments

Jan Holler's picture

Nice story. Hahnemühle does make some fine papers. How did the exhibition go after all? How did the people react to your photos? Were they displayed to get sold? How did that work out?

IGOR BRALGIN's picture

I miss Northwest Arkansas. Sorry for the off-topic comment :)

Lorin Duckman's picture

Nice story. Costs aside, you must be proud. We all love to see our works on white walls. I had one major show at the Garrison Art Center in Garrison NY. It will always be a high point of my photographic career. Lots of work. Great to be able to see people appreciate your work.