The gallery in crisis, (apparently)

Flat, soulless and stupid: why photographs don't work in art galleries by Jonathan Jones has created quite the panic. Now from someone writing for the Guardian I would imagine him to have a lot of knowledge of the art world and if he is commenting on photography he is likely to know a fair bit. This I find unlikely reading his suggestion that I Pads in a gallery space would be more effective than a print. In fact it would make it seem more like the Science museum. Although I do not completely disagree with him.

Having such a pompous argument not completely putting me off worries me somewhat, however I feel his concern with the gallery is a prominent issue within photography, even if he was childish about the way he said it. Even his title suggests he is an unbearable imbecile, 'Flat, soulless and stupid', truly the words of a credible art critic.

The issue I find with the gallery space covers a variety of problems. Here was my initial argument. I had just been rained on that morning so I might have been a little rash.

Alexander Norton
i like images on a screen and i have serious issues with the gallery. The main being the audiences or the lack of, and the cost of putting work on the walls. But this person (Jonathan Jones) does not seem too clever
I think the gallery in a small context is great but only for yourself. The gallery is a pretty plagued place. Online has a much more widespread audience and more room to comment

Luke Boland
Think about the shows we saw in new York. If we'd around an iPad instead of seeing them in person it wouldn't be an experience I still remember so vividly. There's a lot things that don't work in a gallery but with some it really does. This dudes dismissing the whole genre

Fiona Croall
Why is the gallery plagued?  Do you not enjoy seeing photographs hung on a wall? Its an entirely different experience.

Alexander Norton
ok, so the gallery in the young market is very lost
if you are william eggleston and co then the gallery is the main way to go
no one turns up to gallery shows in smaller organisations. they are a waste of time
the only use it has is to have pictures of your work in the space for your cv on your site to make it seem like you are more famous than you are
thats the only use of the gallery in smaller circles
if you are the tate then the gallery space is great
because people will always come
smaller ones, its like getting blood from a stone

Fiona Croall
I think that's really cynical. It's difficult for any small organisations or individuals to put on shows, and when is been done, it has often been weak.
It doesn't make future efforts a pointless endeavor.
Cost is the plague. If more organisation were involved, more funding secured, the right work ethics put in place - it could be fantastic.

Fiona Croall
Yeah,  there is a self aggrandising aspect to some DIY shows but don't discount the power it can have!

Alexander Norton
Unfortunately i have lost my interest or passion for shows
and i think the online gallery is becoming incredibly interesting
just through working on the internet etc
there is a lot of potential online which means you can do more
for less
it does not replace the gallery
but i think putting a show on, now, is just a use for me to see my work on the walls and get pictures of it
whoever turns up is unimportant
just hire a space for a day... put the work up and take pictures
its on your cv
and move on
then when you get a real space
have a proper show

Fiona Croall
Attitudes do affect the way a show is received, but offer something else, something new and stimulating and then people will engage - even make the effort to come see what's going on. A discussion will form,  impressions made and the work will live.

Fiona Croall
It doesn't have to be that way.

Luke Boland
This guys saying there should be no photography at all in galleries though that's what annoyed me. Not the Tate or moma or anywhere.

Alexander Norton
I think my issue is with small galleries and what they get out of it. Through my experiences I have felt largely disappointed by the reception. The gallery is a completely different beast and I think if its done badly its no good, from any angle. The online options allow for discussion but also allow for risks to be taken with no financial loss. I think this avenue is incredibly interesting. The gallery has to be done well otherwise it does not completely satisfy the viewer or the the people behind the show. It cannot be any less than 100% on the money.  


This was my initial argument which I agree with to a certain extent.

However, following this conversation I felt I had been too hasty in dismissing the gallery entirely. And I never truly believed this opinion. Fantastically, opinion prompts opinion and this is one good thing Jonathan Jones has achieved with his delusional rant.

If we think about what a gallery is, it is merely a space to place ideas and photographs, paintings, objects and sculptures upon the walls. It is a place of consideration and is too valuable to decline from our existence, nor will it disappear. It is one of the best forms of showing photographs. There are however other mediums of presentation that are now proving to be equally as useful. The digital exhibition seems to be a very condensed version of an exhibition if you think about this in direct correlation to the gallery space, but the audience it can reach opens up a new argument for its existence. Over the past few years, blogs, website and tweets have become more popular to the point where it is the best way to find out about new work and events. Whether it is a replacement is still to be foreseen but I highly doubt it. It is just another way of seeing things.

I get the feeling that the gallery, publications and internet presence are fighting with each other at the moment. It is irrational. They can all coexist as one, just different ways of viewing and seeing photography. I feel that technology is slowly become useful for the distribution for work which is an incredibly positive thing. For one person who loves digital media, the other would love physical prints. It is all dependent on context and the meaning of the work. Not everyone needs big prints, and some people can't have small ones. Its a very simple thing.

To head back to my recent argument, I perhaps jumped the gun on my reaction to the ideas presented in Jonathan Jone's article. I might have fallen out of love with the smaller gallery, but I find myself more and more attracted to the idea that we can show our work in our own designated spaces. We do not always need the Tate or The Photographers Gallery to show great work. It is not about audiences, nor is it about how many well known people turned up to your show. The show is a success if it made you think differently about your work or the work of others.

With so many people clambering over one another for the lime light it is always the best work that eventually wins. If the project is right then you don't even need to clamber, you can just put your ladder up and climb slowly. They who shout loudest don't always win the race as long term success is sometimes achieved at a snails pace. Would you rather be known for 5 minutes or 5 years? What is recognition to you anyway?

After all it only took me five minutes on the internet to come across incredible work. Photography is now beginning to evolve in quite an organic way when it might have seemed to be stagnating.

This feeds back to success and how we constitute success. What are we all working towards? Really. Of course, the gallery is well and truly alive but so are the online spaces. They can share the importance, they just need to work together to become completely useful.