Reception and Presentation

This was always going to be an evening of exultation and intrepidation I had every confidence in Kitty Dough (who designed the invite), Larry Warner the exhibits curator and all of the staff and volunteers at the Aquarium; I just had to make sure I didn’t mess it up!
I had made a practice run of the presentation a few days earlier. This was taking place in the perfect location. I was to share the room with a 285,000-gallon shark tank ”Graveyard of the Atlantic” that’s 35-foot long and 14 feet tall. As well as the sharks, and numerous smaller fish which sometimes become dinner, the  tank holds a 1/3 scale replica of the USS Monitor, which lies just off Cape Hatteras at a depth of 210 feet. The room is essentially lit by the dull blue glow coming through the 5.5 inch thick acrylic window of the tank. The projector screen seemed massive, like a small cinema, and combined with the powerful projector made my images look awesome. I spent a lot of time getting used to a wireless mouse because I was using Adobe bridge for the slideshow which enabled me to use big files and zoom right into the images.

Meeting and greeting was at 6pm around the exhibition cabinets. This helped to guage the interest level and questions my audience might have; and calmed my nerves. There was a great spread of Anglo/American food available that had either been bought from the next State that likes to call itself a commonwealth, or homemade like the scones.

7pm was the presentation. Kitty introduced me to the audience numbering 50+. The talk was far more than my photographs, although there was a fascination in the way I construct my images from as many as 100 seperately taken frames. This exhibition, to me, had always been about introducing Manteo to it’s twin town through it’s surrounding coast, river and, originally shared, history. Using old maps, the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty map and Richard Larn’s shipwreck map, I took my audience on a journey from Marsland Mouth on the border with Cornwall, along the Hartland coast, across Bideford Bay, up the Torridge into Bideford, around Saunton Sands to Baggy Point, along to Briery Cave at Watermouth, into Combe Martin and it’s caves which were mines; and finished off on the Exmoor coast at Wringapeak, near to the Somerset border.

It was supposed to be a half hour presentation and in practice it had been 45 minutes to I had vowed to cut it shorter. But, when I get excited I can’t stop; so it was more like 50 minutes, plus questions which were many. Nobody seemed to mind the length except perhaps my ever supportive wife Sadie who had been gesticulating ‘cut it’ and ‘wind it up’ but I hadn’t noticed! Sadie is also credited for all of these photographs.


The Exhibit

18 months ago I was invited to exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. It’s been a massive 2 weeks for me, working up to ‘Great Britain’s Graveyard of the Atlantic’ which opened on Thursday 5th April. And it’s not been plain sailing at all. The exhibition prints were made within the State and this foresight for possible problems paid off. We arrived in Manteo, the Dare County seat and home of the Aquarium late on 22nd March and the very next day opened the package containing the exhibition mounted giclee prints.

After very little time I started to notice strange marks in the highlight areas of the prints and it was all too obvious that the prints, packaged face-to-face, had migrated some of their rich dark areas onto the light areas of their facing images. There were other odd finger shaped smears, odd in that the process of manufacturing the prints has no human contact until they are packaged. Charles from Mastercolor of Greenboro had been very helpful throughout the process of getting the work made since the end of February, and he was as devastated as I with the result which he hadn’t seen. Sample prints on different paper stock where UPS’d straight away and arrived on Wednesday 28th. The face-to-face packaging had been an issue but confounded by the saturated black pigment ink that didn’t want to stay put. I chose a giclee lustre similar to the prints I’d ordered from Germany for Silver Bonsai Gallery, on the Island, to stock. The finished mounted prints arrived on Friday 30th and Sadie, Kitty Dough (exhibitions co-ordinator at the Aquarium) and I hung the show that afternoon. I should perhaps say created the installation as that is a better description of the artwork.

Me and Kitty Dough, who has been a star throughout the past 18 months

I opened this post with the 18 months of lead time; organisation was crucial with this show. Normally I might turn up to a gallery with a car full of framed images and make design decisions with the work in the space, returning some images to the car and making an exhibition of the work that works best together in the space. But there was no space for those kind of decisions here. A working scale 2D model of the display cabinets has been on my computer for months and has changed many times until the final images, sizes etc where fixed. Even here I decided in the end to have sixteen 16×20’s and two 16×16’s so that a little interchangability was still possible – and it was needed!

The Aquarium staff, who have been encouraging and supportive throughout, were thrilled with the exhibition prints, and amazed at how quickly they were installed using 3,4 and 6 inch space bars cut from some old foamex. But the icing on the cake, that the Aquarium staff had never seen, were the 200 postcard sized ‘snapshots’ that I’d had printed as supporting work for the exhibition. These where carefully placed to look like a random collage of images taken on the North Devon coast over the last 7 years.

The first international exhibition in the North Carolina Aquarium was installed and open to the public.