Last week Photographer and renaissance woman, Jill Reidy, exhibited her photographs at Abingdon Studios in Blackpool. I caught up with Jill to find out more about her experience and how the exhibition was put together.
Jill, How did you decide on the format of the exhibition?
I knew I wanted the exhibition in Blackpool, and I knew it had to be out of Season. Once I’d secured the space in Abingdon Studios I was lucky enough to be offered curator help. Jayne Simpson, who is an experienced artist and tutor, had a huge input.
As a photographer who can’t make decisions, Jayne’s support and advice was invaluable. Left to my own devices I would probably have filled every available wall space with hundreds of framed images. However, Jayne thought the exhibition should have a more contemporary feel, and suggested having just three large framed images on one wall and two extra large images at either end. I was a bit scared about taking this step as it was quite outside my usual style of exhibiting, but It worked really well and definitely felt more contemporary.
Jayne was instrumental in helping me choose which prints should dominate the exhibition, which was great for somebody like me, who struggles to cut down on images. I wanted to show the contrast between the sights in each town: the run down areas and the beautiful seascapes and sunsets. Every town I visited had these two opposing parts.
There were two aspects of the road trip that I decided I definitely needed to include in the exhibition. One was a representation of the actual road trip, and this was achieved by printing out over a hundred small images (some from each town) and displaying them in a long line, in order of visits, opposite the large prints. The other thing that was very important to me was to include a cafe table, with teapot and crockery, and chairs. This represented my sanctuary en route. Each town I visited had a very ordinary cafe, neither modern nor vintage, where I could sit, drink tea and catch my breath. It was also a place to meet the town’s inhabitants and hand out the postcards to be sent back to me. These were displayed on the window sills below the journey.
Finally, I wanted to include a soundtrack of seaside noises (waves, seagulls, rain) and people reading the postcards that had been returned to me. I loved the way the postcard reading sounded quite old fashioned, with each one following the same format. The barren car park print which greeted people as they entered the space was a joint decision between myself and Jayne.
The soundtrack of ‘Bring me Sunshine’ by Morecambe and Wise played on a loop as visitors ascended the stairs, and took me back to my childhood. That, combined with the flashing ‘Open’ sign halfway up gave a taste of things to come.
On the opening night, not only did we have typical sights and sounds of a seaside town but we were also treated to the smells of popcorn and candy floss which were produced in a corner of the open space.
Following the seaside theme, visitors were asked to give feedback, not in a book but on a postcard, taken from a bucket.
What was your greatest success of the evening?
The whole evening was far better than I could have imagined. Probably the greatest success was the number of people who attended. Booking in school parties for the following week was also very encouraging, as was the sale of books that accompanied the exhibition.
How did you find the feedback on your exhibition?
The feedback was fantastic. It was lovely to read comments from other artists and photographers whose work and opinions I respect. I had so much support along the way, from the Kickstarter campaign right at the start, and all through the road trip and the blogging, that it was great to hear the final feedback, and to know people understood what I was trying to do.
Will the exhibition be shown elsewhere?
It’s been suggested that I might take the exhibition on the road, stopping at the towns I visited. However, although I love this idea in theory, I think it might be quite a challenge in reality. There have been other suggestions for local venues, but after careful thought, I feel that the whole road trip project has come to a natural conclusion after its gestation period of the last nine months.
What is your next for you and/or the exhibition?
Next is a rest for me, alongside Whipper Snappers workshops, then I’m going to start thinking about my next project – I have a long list of ideas. The exhibition has run its course and has now been dismantled. Who knows whether it will ever be on show again?
Would you have changed anything?
I really don’t think I would have changed a thing. I’ve learnt such a lot from this experience, and although it’s been challenging it’s also been hugely satisfying.
It feels like a great achievement.
Curator Jayne Simpson
Sound Rick Thomson
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