22 things I have learned while preparing for a photography exhibit

21 02 2012

Someone once said, “it takes a village to produce a photography exhibit,” (or something to that effect). It’s true, and I will thank as many people possible in this posting. I know there will be more thanks to deliver in future postings, so if I’ve missed naming you, please forgive me.

1) Be careful what you wish for. Oh, and thanks (both heartfelt and sarcastically) to Jeff Evans for suggesting I hop on the photo exhibit bandwagon with him.

2) Every image that ultimately gets vetoed, even after trying to assess it with a critical eye 87 times, feels like I’m abandoning a child (that I don’t have). I’m down to this: does this image make me immediately say, “ohhhhh, yes. You are good.” Or does it elicit a “meh” or “Really? A point and shooter coulda shot that” at first glance?

3) Acid-free framing tape makes an excellent bandage around a wedge of Bounty paper towel when you stub your big toe on that piece of unusable glass you forgot was there.

4) Don’t try to continue framing when you get a paper cut. It’s not pretty. And no, an eraser won’t help.

5) Even the nicest frames can come with crappy glass. If there’s a scratch on my brand new glass, can I assume someone took a diamond ring and ran it across the surface? I thought the only thing that could scratch glass was a diamond.

6) And while we’re on the subject of frames…when you need 20 larger frames and the best price online for a particular frame is one that has acrylic/Plexiglas instead of actual glass (cheaper and safer to ship, I’ve learned), this is still not the way to go—no matter what you read on the forums by all those exhibit know-it-alls when you Google, “glass vs. Plexiglas for a photography exhibit.” When you get the frame in, you will peel off the protective cover on both sides of the flimsy sheet and every speck of dust in Bexar County, Texas will find its way to you. No amount of compressed air will alleviate the problem. When you use that baby soft dust brush to lightly remove the dust, it will make permanent scratches on the surface. You will then spend an hour on the phone researching the cheapest place in San Antonio to have glass cut in 18×24 sheets. Sigh, another purchase? (See #12)

7) Converting one’s craft room to a frame shop makes it irresistible to a cat. ZenaB, our tuxedo cat, has this thing for licking plastic (bags and the like). Every frame I unwrap is covered in acres of shrink wrap or a plastic envelope. Seriously, she needs an intervention.

8) Speaking of cats, did you know that the sound of compressed air will send a cat back upstairs in two seconds flat?

9) When one is so pinned in by empty frames, backer boards, acid-free foam core, prints of various sizes, mats, good glass and diamond-scratched glass, glazier gun and points, tape, scissors, xacto knives, rulers and framing wire that one can’t get up to change the radio station when a song one really hates comes on or one debates whether one should go pee or just hold it in a little longer, one should question one’s sanity. All that is missing is that adorable and extremely patient Matt Paxton, extreme cleaning expert from Hoarders, coming around the corner and chuckling nervously as he assesses the mission and asks “can this woman/house be saved?” Excuse me while I diverge…a few months ago I saw a magazine cover (some pricey creative/artsy/craftsy publication whose name escapes me) and the main headline read, “Are you a horder?” Who is proofreading this thing?

10) And speaking of purchases…buy everything you need online, from coated framing wire to hooks to mats and foam core boards (even cut to exact specs!). It will be considerably cheaper, even after you add shipping costs, than getting it locally at a craft store or frame shop. This was a valuable lesson at the outset.

11) Every time I enter my temporary “frame shop,” I hear that “thrinkkkkkk” sound from Hoarders—the one that sounds right before they type something like “Cindy, Alexandria, Virginia” on the screen. Ditto when I step into the living room, where all the finished frames are awaiting transport to the venue next Monday. Will my house ever be back to normal?

12) My bank account may never truly recover. Ever. So if you do come to the show, have pity—buy something. Or two somethings. And really, an odd number is better for a whole host of reasons, so make it three somethings. I promise to apply a quantity discount.

13) You would be surprised at how guerilla-marketing-ish you’ll get when you’re parting with this much time and money in preparation for an exhibit (not to mention you haven’t had an exhibition of your work since the covered wagon days). I have e-mailed people that I haven’t talked to in years in an effort to promote the show. If I could find my kindergarten teacher, I would mail her a postcard, too. To what end, I have no idea. It is something I feel compelled to do. What if I leave her out? She might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who publishes a magazine about flowers and they are in dyer dire need of fresh images.

14) Note to self: A Flower fly does not a Honey bee make. Surely you knew that when you signed that print, matted it, framed it, sealed the back and added the framing wire and hooks. Your heart really wasn’t in it when you came up with that lame title, “Busy Bee,” anyway. Maybe it’s because it’s not a bee in the first place. You know the difference. Were you inhaling compressed air? There’s one do-over to add to the queue. Muchas gracias to my younger sister, Kelley, for her very keen eye in helping me cull the first round of images and for suggesting (and assisting in) naming the images. You really do have an eye for this, Wap-Wap! Wanna represent me? Thanks to my high school buddy James Williams and his wife Irma and daughter Elise for being the first to preview the show (or what I had finished preparing at that point), spread out all over the King’s living room (the prints, not the Williams family).

15) When you get a notice that the XYZ Chrysanthemum Society is taking orders for mum plants via e-mail (and you joined the group who knows why at that plant sale years ago), don’t e-mail the entire list back to (very politely) ask if anyone knows what hybrid a particular mum is in the attached photo. More than two dozen people received my question and not one responded. I thought gardeners were more open than that. Seriously, not one. The lesson in this sad tale is to never assume just because you’re excited about your show that total strangers want to make sure you get your IDs correct. They’re too busy growing mums to bother with your little project.

16) But on the identification flip-side, your fellow bloggers and rabid gardeners will respond within minutes on your Facebook wall when you attach a photo and beg for help labeling the flower. Thanks in particular to Pam Penick and Bobbie Hill Evans for identifying my Autumn sage (Salvia greggii), but also to Mahvelous Mahvin, Jimmie, Patricia, Sean and Anna, for chiming in on the “pretty flower.”

17) Ditto on the spider identification, too. Bug people are busy people, apparently. Why don’t you look it up in one of your umpteen spider books, Cindy? What are ya—lazy? Deep in my heart, I knew it was a sort of crab spider, but I wanted absolute confirmation of which crab spider it was. Didn’t get it. My mind flashed to this very possible scenario: A local entomologist is on his lunch break one balmy April day at Green Spring Gardens. After finishing lunch, he wanders into the Horticulture Center. “Oh, look, a new exhibit,” he thinks to himself. He wanders down the ramp, admiring each image (drawn in particular to the ones with insects, of course), until he comes to the image titled Bird’s Eye View. “Hmmm…let’s see…what an interesting perspective.” He leans forward to read the accompanying sign. “Crab spider on Chrysanthemum. Hmmm…girl should really have consulted a bug expert. That is most certainly not a Crab spider. Sheesh.” (Oh, and a note to that hypothetical entomologist—if you’re reading this, take this into consideration. I really did try to get my ID correct. Don’t you judge me.)

18) Despite the long (but happy) hours I’ve spent preparing for this exhibit, I’ve discovered that framing my images—with all the little details that go into it from start to finish—is very zen for me. Extreme thanks to my father, The King of Texas, for showing me how to do all of this by my lonesome self—and for letting me thoroughly deplete his ample (and expensive) supply of acid-free foam core board. (His framing shed, er, castle, is like being in a craft shop. The supplies never ran out!) The King (shown at left) is a major sponsor of this exhibit—so a grateful tip of this peasant’s bedraggled hat to his Royal Highness. When I’m framing, every image conjures up when, where and how I created it and that feeling I had knowing I got the best shot possible. However, I’m well aware that meditation is a far cheaper endeavor. Of course, I needed another hobby. 🙂

19) Friends, family and complete strangers who learn of the show will become your ultimate cheerleaders. You were already excited about the venue, the opportunity to do the show, seeing your work actually printed and framed (and not just contained within the boundaries of a computer screen on a blog) and the myriad possibilities that might accompany such an event—but your fans and supporters will only bolster that feeling with their feedback. They will spread the word, pass along your invite, and suggest other advertising outlets. Friends from far away will start making flight reservations just to come to see your little show.

20) The show will consume your life at every turn. When you are not designing something to make money to actually pay for the show, you will be matting, framing, taping, typing, primping, scheming, researching, identifying, begging for identification, labeling and stamping postcards and opening box after box after box of supplies delivered to you via FedEx, UPS and the postman. Your multiple purchases will bolster the faltering economy and provide an endless stream of oversized boxes that will amuse and delight your cats (except for that one time when you tossed the two kittens into the box filled with water-soluble-eco-friendly packing peanuts and completely freaked them out). You will skip dinner because you lose track of time. Your cats will (almost) skip dinner because you lose track of time. You will actually go through the motions of framing in your sleep and be a tad disappointed when you realize that those weren’t really done when you awaken the next day. Your husband will help you haul 600 pounds of frames to and from the car and try not to fall asleep when you recite your plans out loud. He will also feed you when you’re too preoccupied to do it yourself (thank you, sweetie). Your lovely long-time friend, Cam, will offer to fly up from Florida to help you hang the show and you will be floored by her generosity and sentiment and will anxiously await her arrival, input, feedback, honesty and company. Your redheaded friend Karen will not sigh or roll her eyes when you prattle incessantly about your show preparations over IHOP breakfast-for-dinner on girl’s night out. Your other friend Karen (she of the not-red-head) will help you with pricing your offerings and tablescaping the reception. Special thanks to one cheerleader in particular, Barbara Kelley (shown above). The Sneeze Guard Heiress will be catering my reception on April 15. Check out her latest culinary creation on her hospitality blog here.

21) It really does help to have a strong graphic design background when you prepare for something like this. All of your marketing materials will look polished and you won’t have to pay someone else to design them. This will be the only place where you and your money will not be parted.

When you log online just to order the postcards to promote your exhibit, you will begin to imagine your photos on mousepads, key chains, hoodies, lawn signs, bumper stickers, tote bags, greeting cards, magnetic car signs, luggage tags, banners and posters. The online company will even suggest every single one of these items all the way up to checking out. You will be tempted. Step away from Vistaprint.com, sistah. Thank you to my college roommate and fellow graphic designer (shown at left), Sonya Mendeke, for designing my beautiful Garden Muse website dedicated to this show.

22) Remind me again why I’m doing this?

Ah, yes, to free these images from the confines of my blog and my external hard drives:

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13 responses

21 02 2012
thekingoftexas

And my visitors complain that it takes too long to read my postings. Wait until they are faced with yours! I am reminded of James Michener, author of Texas, Hawaii, Space, Poland and many other gigantic novels, sold by the pound at his book signings (I just made that up).

Kudos for your 22 things you learned, 21 of which I taught you over the years. Everything except for using the camera, and you insisted doing that without my help, and I have to admit, you done good!

I have to stop so I can be the first to comment on this post. Bah!

21 02 2012
mahvin

#6 One sheet of Cling-free dryer sheet, and a quick wipe down, usually works in MOST situations…

21 02 2012
Cindy Dyer

Apple. Tree. Falls. 🙂 Actually, you DID teach me a thing or two about photography—handing over your Yashica started this chain reaction—so really, it’s completely your doing and anything wrong is your fault! 😉

21 02 2012
Cindy Dyer

Mahvin, where were you, oh, say, 40+ frames ago! 🙂 I will try it on the last seven I have left to frame, though. I’ll report back to you with more details.

22 02 2012
mahvin

Cindy. Don’t try it! It was bad advice. That was meant for railings or spindles in a bannister. My bad!

22 02 2012
mahvin

BTW, I also blame your dad for my bad advice, had he not got you started on photography I wouldn’t be giving bad advice on your post (see Facebook post for more descriptive reason why I said NOT to do this). 🙂

22 02 2012
Bo Mackison

Ah Cindy. I LOVED reading this, because I could oooh and aaaah and groan with every single item, even the cat! Though the name is Jazz in my house.

Should I warn you that once you have turned a room into the framing room, it will never go back to being any other kind of room? My guest room turned framing room managed to materialize an 8 foot work bench one weekend while I was out of town at an art fair.

No, I probably shouldn’t tell you that. You will know where to put all that stuff you’ve accumulated, unlike the someone I know who’s never managed to do so!

But it’s great to get those photos off the web, and onto a wall! Hope the show is super-great for you! Best wishes! Sounds exciting, for sure.

23 02 2012
newmexicomtngirl

WOWZA, that is a month full of reading, love it tho. Please let us know how it all turns out and how quickly you sell out of every single thing. Your art is fabulous and I love your writing, always have.
peace n abundance,
CheyAnne
ps the last one about stepping away from the temptations vistaprint has to offer can be very hard to do when you envision your design on the side of your truck in big bold pretty.

23 02 2012
cindydyer

Hi Cheyanne!

Thank you for the lovely comment and I’m happy you’re reading my NOVELS despite how long they are sometimes. Yes, I admit, I got carried away with my “lessons learned” post. Oh, well, it’s great practice writing, eh?

Oooh…my design on the side of a truck…now there’s a thought…now, which photo to use? 😉

24 02 2012
newmexicomtngirl

right? In order to finally order cards I just order something of there’s because I just kept putting it off, maybe next time round, They got me at the very very end even after I had paid for the extra 250 cards…..go figure sometimes I am weak

25 02 2012
Mary Ellen Ryall

Cindy, There is one shot where rain drops are falling by single drops, spaced apart on a leaf. Perhaps this is a Christmas cactus? Whatever the plant is, the photograph is exquisite. I love this post. The Agony and Ecstasy of creation.

1 03 2012
Steve Schwartzman

I enjoyed this funny post on the travails of preparing for an exhibit of matted and framed photographs. You’ve inadvertently given us arguments for letting our photographs live unmolested on our hard drives and make their worldly appearances on computer monitors. Seriously, though, now that the preparations are done, you must feel a sense of accomplishment.

Steve Schwartzman
http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com

1 01 2016
Paul McKelvey

The rush of the invitation has been cut off at the knees by the bill for preparations. I agree entirely about the plastic replacement for glass. It catches every spurious point of light and covers the photo with them. In a juried show, it leads to a spate of forward-thrust lower lips from the judges. That may be better than forward-thrust tongues, with raspberry chorus, but I am not sure of that.

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