When visiting photographic exhibitions, I am often struck by how little thought is given to presentation, when so much time and effort has obviously been given to the photographs themselves. Back in my “camera club” days, marks were given or taken away for how well or how poorly an image was presented, and God forbid that anyone enter a photograph for display which hadn’t been meticulously de-dusted and correctly mounted on stiff card.
The latest examples of poor presentation I saw were at the photo 10 exhibition in Zurich this weekend. The photos on show were across the usual range of standards and levels of interest, from prominent displays of work by prison inmates to the wonderful Hasselblad Masters selection and a row of extra-large portraits by one of my favourite photographers, Marco Grob.
In pretty much every instance, the photos were laid flat on display cases of varying heights, meaning that one looked down on them from above. With the light coming from above, this meant that many images, due to the highly reflective nature of their surfaces, were only poorly visible. Images printed onto matt paper and laid out without protective covering were the best, but few photographers had thought of the effects of the image position and lighting. Even the large portraits by Grob were angled to poor effect, leaning back slightly so that when standing in front of each image, one saw the reflection of the overhead spotlights much more clearly than the images themselves.
All of this aside, the exhibition was enjoyable and showed a good range of themes, from the usual portaiture and documentary series to creative and experimentational work. On a personal level, the display which resonated best and which inspired me enough to note the photographer’s details was a set by Austrian photographer Corinne Rusch, whose Crewdson-esque set “badrutt’s palace & co 2010” was presented in just the kind of discreetly kitsch frames one would expect to find in the kind of old-fashioned hotel which were used as locations for the photos themselves.