Starting My Home Gallery

I have a vision of how a gallery should be.  I visited Peter Lik’s gallery in the Galleria a few weeks ago and am blown away by how it contrasts with some other galleries that I have been to.  What I like is that it has class.  Wood floors, dark walls, low ambient light, a single row of art at eye level (not stacked floor to ceiling), and most of all, good lighting on the artwork.  To me, these are indications of a classy, high-quality gallery, which truly does any kind of artwork justice.

I also enjoyed visiting Alain Briot’s home gallery near Phoenix.  He has a softer, more natural lighting approach, and he compliments his artwork with beautiful wood chairs and tables on which he displays some of his matted photographs, portfolios, and books.

So, to have at least one location where I can control exactly how my work is presented, I have decided to begin working on transforming my studio space into a dual purpose studio & gallery, adopting some ideas from each of these gentleman’s galleries, and also using a few of my own.  It will have dark ambient lighting with pleasant spotlighting on each photograph.  The floor will be a beautiful wood laminate.  There will be comfortable seating so you can just sit and enjoy each photograph.  I plan to incorporate some sort of ambient stereo system for soft classical music.  It’s going to be great.  Except….

What a mess!

What a mess!

…I have a long ways to go!

The difference between a photograph and “being there”.

We all know that looking at a fine art photograph of a location is not the same as being there, but we tend to think that a photograph is the “second best thing” to being there, or that being there is preferable to viewing a photograph of the location. I argue that there is no comparison to a fine art photograph, and there is no comparison to “being there”. They are two, very different things and share very little in common.



Let’s talk about “being there”. When you are at a location, sometimes you hear the wind blowing through the pine needles, the birds’ melodies, and water trickling in a stream. Or sometimes you hear a baby crying, the roar of a nearby interstate, or your phone ring. You smell the sweet honeysuckle, or the open pasture of freshly baled hay. Sometimes its car exhaust, a chemical factory, or something you stepped in. You feel the cold drizzle on your face, or the sweat fighting away the heat. You see the telephone poles, and the small pieces of litter, and the seemingly random arrangement of trees.

With a photograph, you only engage one sense. And what you see is only what the photographer allows you to see. There are no distractions inside the frame. There isn’t anything from the scene in your peripheral vision that shouldn’t be there. There is also no third dimension. A photograph takes a three dimensional space and compresses it into two dimensions, something completely different. When viewing a fine art photograph, you are likely having a much closer experience with the mind of the artist than you are with the location and time.



Take Pumpjacks as an example. It simply did not look or feel like that when I was standing there. It did not evoke that dramatic feeling. There were cars going by on the highway next to me. The temperature was beginning to be uncomfortable. The clouds were changing location and shape very quickly. The processing on this photograph changed the feel of the scene dramatically. And of course, we see in color, not grayscale.

I’m not saying that a photograph is better than being there. What I am saying is that comparing the two is apples and oranges. The two are going to give you completely different experiences. A photograph is not a substitute for being there, and more importantly, being there is not a substitute for a fine art photograph.