Setting up my images for the exhibition was nerve-wracking; not knowing how people would react or what they would think of them. However overall the response has been positive and a lot of people were quite pleasantly surprised at the images, one person even said they thought they were professional photographs, and not mine….which is a nice confidence booster!
As previously outlined, I held the exhibition in the office staff kitchen. Something I want to show through the photographs is how surfing and being in the ocean can be an escape and can help to re-balance inland surfers that can feel trapped by working in offices and being surrounded by man-made environments. So showing the photographs to office-based workers I thought would not only be appropriate to that aim of the project, but would also hopefully help me gauge whether the images were having that effect.
So along with the images I also put up a text explanation of what the exhibition was about and the aim of showing the works-in-progress, and also asked for feedback via a questionnaire left with the exhibition. I asked for participants age and gender, to help identify whether there were any trends in different age groups or between men and women, and I also asked the following questions:
· Do you surf or regularly take part in any water sports/activities?
· Do you like the overall exhibition?
· How do the black & white photographs make you feel?
· How do the colour photographs make you feel?
· Do you have a preference between the black & white images, or the colour images? If you do, could you tell me which ones you prefer and why?
· Do you have a preference between the photographs displayed as pairs or the individual images, or do you like the mix? If you do, could you tell me what you prefer and why?
I wanted to know whether participants were surfers or water-sportsmen in case that had an impact on the way they reacted to the photographs, how they felt about the exhibition generally, and then I wanted to get some more specific feedback about the black & white versus the colour photographs, and as I had also decided to include non-paired images I wanted to see what the viewers thought about the paired versus single images as well.
Out of the 17 questionnaire responses received only one person said they regularly surf or take part in any water sports/activities, so most of the responses are from people that aren’t regularly in the sea. More women completed the questionnaires than men, and ages ranged from 23-42, however none of the responses had a trend correlating to age or gender.
All viewers like the overall exhibition, so a good start there! Across the board it seems that the black & white and colour images had the desired effect of communicating negative and positive emotions respectively. Regarding the black & white some responses included feeling “sad”, “gloomy”, “stuck in the real world”, “burnt out”, “melancholic”, and “cold”. Responses to the colour images included “relaxed”, “I want to go to the beach”, “longing for the weekend”, “enlightened”, “calm”, and “free”. So it would seem that they are generating the intended feelings in the viewers.
Most viewers preferred the colour images, which makes sense as the black & white ones made them feel sad! One person preferred the black & whites as they “show the struggle” – again this is something I was hoping to convey so that is great! Quite a few didn’t have a preference of one over the other, but liked the contrast of seeing both together. Regarding the pairings versus individuals, again it was fairly evenly split between preferring the pairings, preferring the individuals, and preferring/liking the mix of the two, and having the variety of the different ways of displaying the images.
So although this was useful to know that the images/message communication does seem be going in the right direction, because there were no clear leanings towards either black & white vs colour, or pairings vs individuals vs mix, it is hard to know whether to continue with what I’ve been doing or to go back to just individual images or bring them back in and have the mix. My overall takeaway is that more work is needed, and more feedback as well perhaps. I think I want to maintain the pairings, and bring back the individual images as personally I do like the mix of the two, and I think together they present a wider perspective of surfing in the UK, which is also something I want to show. I need to decide what areas within surfing I want the project to look at in the future. I.e. whether to continue with just inland/coast images, or to have multiple subsections of the project - in which this is one of them.