Back in May 2019 when we stepped out into the light to bring you our first pop up exhibition, a lot of eyebrows were raised as no one knew who we were or where we had come from and we were bombarded with literally hundreds of questions, some relevant to what we were trying to accomplish, some not. As the first 6 months flew past we began to get a grip on the gallery and what we were doing and answering a lot of those questions in the process, However with the gallery being largely side lined because of Covid and the new gallery emerging soon, the same questions are being asked as in 2019, and it feels a lot like we are starting again from scratch. So a wee blog post to talk about the gallery and why we do what we do may answer those questions for new participants joining us or for even the people who have been from us from the beginning. The Gallery was founded in 2015 by Photography Student Michael McCann as an online website for photographers to share their work with the photography community, both locally and internationally. In 2019 a photography pop up was developed and took place, it was so successful a second pop up took place in July 2019 which led to a permanent gallery opening in September 2019. But who is Michael McCann and what gives him the right to think he can open a gallery and judge my work? Was a genuine a question we got asked a few times in the early days. Michael McCann worked for Glasgow Museums from 2000 to 2006 working with visitors and learning the entire history of the collections within St Mungo’s Museum of Religious life and Art, The Transport Museum, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, The Gallery of Modern Art, The Peoples Palace museum, Scotland Street Museum, Fossil Grove, The Burrell collection and Provands Lordship. Learning about everything from serial numbers of 19th century locomotives in the transport museum, and the history behind almost every single painting in Kevingrove museum, work that included the likes of Rembrandt and Salvador Dali. It was while working at St Mango’s museum in 2005 where an exhibition by American photography James Edwards Bates on his time documenting the Klu Klux Klan in the south awoke Michael’s interest in photography. In 2012 Michael began to study photography at The City of Glasgow College and then onto University of the West of Scotland where he graduated with a BA with Honours in Photography. In that time he has also had several solo exhibitions and group exhibitions in Glasgow, London, Sydney and Japan, Many of which he curated. He has also carried out photography work for the likes of Channel 4 and Netflix as well as numerous organisations and art projects. It was Michael’s experience working in museums and galleries as well as studying photography that gave him the working knowledge of how they work as well as curating and creating his own photography exhibitions as well as working as a exhibitions co-ordinator for other local galleries. It is because of all this experience as well as running a gallery for over 2 years and learning from each individual exhibition that we have gained knowledge that helps us run our exhibitions. Hosting a large group show exhibition can be extremely difficult and throw up issues and problems that you would never even think of and we are constantly learning, for example, on a recent exhibition we had issues around the colour of frame mounts because they can react differently under certain light, so you may plan to have a white mount but under certain lighting conditions it can look off white and change the entire look of a show. Did you know Satin wall paint wouldn’t hold work on the wall because nothing can stick to it? We learnt that lesson the hard way, use matt paint! Never use gloss prints in glass frames is another one as it causes smears on the images, lustre all the way. We are constantly learning little small lessons that add to the bigger overall picture. We also get asked why our exhibitions last 10 days and not 2 weeks. This is a really complicated issue we had in our previous gallery, it all comes down to the number of days in each month, how many days off we need and how long it takes to prepare and hang an exhibition. We also found that the first 7 days of any exhibition where always the busiest, The last 3 days were always really slow, but we found that if an exhibition could have 2 Saturday’s, visitors greatly increased, because Saturdays were always our busiest days ranging anywhere from 40 to 140 visitors a day, which for a small gallery is incredible numbers as some well established galleries and museums don’t get anywhere near those visitor numbers. Our submission process is by far and away the most queried subject, The submission process is a fluid and ever changing challenge for the gallery, We are still trying to find out the easiest and sleekest way to do this, the issue we face is every individual photographer wants something different from their experience with us and we are constantly trying to meet everyone’s demands, as we want you to have a positive experience and get something out of it that will help them develop, For example, our submission fee. Submissions previously were free and only participating photographers would pay the fee if their work was selected. This was the right and fare way to do this, we still believe this, however it was open to abuse, which would consume and waste a lot of our time when people would submit work with no intention of taking part. That’s time we spend on their work judging it, writing emails etc., time wasted. This on one occasion happened 19 times in one exhibition. We understand that folk may change their minds, or have reservations, That ok, we are fine with that and understand, no one is ever forced into taking part, however 19 people ignoring our emails borders on vandalism. We will go back to this system but firstly we need to find a workable way of cutting time wasters. The fee itself is something that is often debated. We get told at least once a day that our exhibition fee of £30 is “too expensive” Well we can exclusively reveal here that it’s not too expensive! In fact it’s on of the cheapest submission fees out there and no more expensive that any other gallery, in fact we have reduced our fee £5 despite our overheads being 5 times higher than our previous gallery. An incredible amount of work goes on behind the scenes of each and every exhibition we host in our gallery, it is also in Glasgow city centre which means our overheads are almost as big as any business in London, the same as every other business in Glasgow. Emailing us or commenting on our social media that we are “Too expensive” is massively disrespectful to the work we put into each exhibition. We fully understand that £30 is a lot of money to people, especially in the last 2 years, We are working hard behind the scenes to find a funding solution that may bring the fee’s down further as well as introducing student rates. But we are going to need time to navigate these problems and find solutions to them. We and I cannot stress this enough, Are a non-profit organisation, any money made by the gallery goes straight back into the gallery. Everything we do in the gallery is about balance, finding out what we need to make it work while making sure you are getting everything you need out of it. What works for us may not work for you, but with your honest and constructed feedback we can at least try new things and see what works and what doesn’t. We are trying to create something that’s a little bit new and a little bit different that puts the photographer first while making sure we can navigate Covid, Brexit and everything else in between. Another challenge is space. The gallery can only hold so many images. If you submit 10 images, you may expect 5 of your images to be selected; however if we do that for every photographer that means our income for that exhibition would be £420. That would barely cover the printing of the images before we even get to Rent, wages, electricity, internet, the website as well as every other business cost thrown at us, So again we need to balance everything out, how do we meet our costs as well as give everyone a fare shot? Running a gallery like this is a mine field, trying to meet everyone’s expectations and demands while making sure we can continue to exist is something that will forever be on going. Going forward we are opening a brand new gallery, this will hopefully be open in early March and will be accompanied by a new book and print shop, we will hopefully be able to reveal the location very soon! We also have great solo and group exhibitions lined up, we hope to be able to do photography talks and events and a whole programme of new and unique things. So as we start again, we have a better understanding of what is waiting for us unlike 2019, please be patient with us while we navigate everything, we are spinning a lot of plates, new plates we have never spun before.
We hope this blog post has given you some understanding or insight into how the gallery works and who is behind it and why we are doing it.
Thank you for your support.
See you in March!
The Glasgow Gallery of Photography Team