Richard Chalfen, Snapshot Versions of Life – Exhibition Events pg.25


“An Exhibition Event consists of any action(s) which occurs after shooting, in which photographic, filmic, or video imagery is shown and viewed in a public contect. For purposes of studying the home mode, we will call “public” any audience that consists of more than the picture taker or the editor (if editing was done at all). We must be prepared to include one-or-two member audiences-as when an individual or two children want to look at an album or a tray of slides without the rest of the family.

Information on how exhibition events work in the context of Kodak culture has been clarified by asking the following kinds of questions: What kinds of behaviour characterize the exhibition and viewing of a collection of snapshots or home movies? How are exhibition events socially organized? Who initiates, promotes or restricts this activity? Where do these events take place? What other kinds of behaviour of social activity are likely to accompany the showing of pictures? What are the social relationships between the people who plan the image, people who take them or appear in them, and the people who subsequently show or see the pictures?

The most commonly ridiculed example of home mode exhibition involves the showing of travel photographs to relatives and friends who did not make the trip. A short satirical description of this phenomenon appeared in a popular magazine article entitles “How to Stop Them-after they’ve photographed Paris”:

Let’s be honest – is there anything worse than spending an evening at a friend’s home looking at slides of his trip to Europe last summer? I say there’s nothing worse…Ususally, there are four or five couples called together on a Saturday evening for this ritual. I always hope that nobody will ask to see the photos, but that has never happened. Somehow the photos have some strange sense of  inevitability about them. From the moment I walk in the door. I know it’s only a matter of minutes until the familiar question is raised.

“Mona, we’re all dying to see your photographs of London. Will we get a chance to look at them tonight?” – Leonard S. Bernstein, “How to Stop Them After They’ve Photographed Paris,” House Beautiful, October 1972, pp. 171-172. “

To me this highlights the importance of the conventions of the viewing of amateur imagery and for the purposes of the minor project crit we have little scope to create a viewing space specifically taylored to the work. So I have to think that theoretically if this piece was to be shown in a gallery context then would I even attemt a re-creation of the home viewing space? The artist Gillian Wearing exhibited some of the work for her Family History project off site, in residential settings. Then brought it to the gallery in London.

ML: And how about the difference between screening it in Birmingham and Reading to now that it’s coming to London?

GW: Thinking about installation, just trying to build an installation that, now that it’s in a gallery – obviously, when it’s in an apartment you can bring that idea of the television coming into your home, but this is obviously not an apartment. But I have thought about building a wall. So we’re going to have a wall built with seats that are going to kind of echo the sort of seats that you get in a studio. These kind of half-circular seats, just a row of two, it’s not going to be like a big arena because there’s not the space.

With a significant budget and if I had a gallery space allocated I could attempt to recreate the home viewing space for Karen’s story because I feel that this would be appropriate to the viewing of it. Ideas include the darkened carpeted room with sofa chairs and nibbles. 

I feel for Will’s story that the setting would be more like a kitchen. With a metal stool, laptop on a breakfast bar, that kind of thing.  A light space with contemporary fittings.   

But for now the differences in the two display mediums i.e, Television and laptop computer, and the suggested differences in the viewing method that have been incorporated into the piece such as the projector noise vs. the mouse click, and the blank black back screen vs windows picture viewer, will have to allude to my presentational ideas of grandeur unless I can secure an arts council grant or have my final exhibition not at uni.

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