Running a Gallery - first impressions / by stuart mcglennon

 Inside the Gallery

Inside the Gallery

Well, as some of you will know a short time ago I gave up my nice, secure job at Sellafield for the 'glamorous' world of full-time photography, and more specifically - running a photographic gallery.

After nearly 4 months of being open I thought I'd take time out and touch base with those of you have an interest in my work - some of the things I've seen and experienced so far have been an eye-opener to say the least!

The general public

One thing that my fiance warned me about, and for the most part I didn't believe, was that people are just flat-out weird. No two ways about it. I've spent most of my working life around generally 'normal' folk (what even is normal?) and not in a customer-facing environment, so my patience and capacity to deal with sheer stupidity hasn't really been tested much.

Until now.

" not a fan, too many landscapes".................. said one guy. Obviously the giant banner outside the shop that can be seen from space advertising 'Lake District Landscape Photography' was worth investing in.

"Yes darling but you've got better ones on your phone"............ said another. This might actually be true, who knows :-)

"That part of the picture has really pixellated badly"........... mused one technically-minded visitor. Yes sir, THE REFLECTION IN THE WATER is pixellated. Obviously not too savvy with the concept that water actually moves.

"They're JUST prints".............. this is a new one to me but i'm now told is definitely a 'thing'. Such snobbery is often displayed by folk who you can just tell looking at them literally don't know the first thing about Art or Photography.

One of the best so far - "Of course I know it's Stonehenge"........... I kid you not i've heard this about 10 times now. Early on I'd gone to the liberty of creating nice wee image description cards which sit on the corner of each image, title is in font size 24 folks.

"Is it Lens District Gallery or LEN'S District Gallery??"..........said one guy to his partner - note the lack of an apostrophe in the name. 

Just to be clear, this is all very entertaining and doesn't bother me in the slightest - but forgetting the pictures, the stupidity of some people really does take the breath away at times. I'm now jotting these little nuggets down as they might make a good book in future!

What sells, what doesn't

So far this element has been really surprising, in a positive way though. When I first took over, I'd envisaged more of the classical, almost postcard content outselling the more personal work - what I've actually found is that they're selling in fairly equal measure. Keswick is an extremely busy tourist town during peak periods, and from a business standpoint you'd be absolutely mad not to cater for a tourist crowd who want something a bit more straightforward from their time in the lakes. However some of the more personal work has had no problem shifting either. Having a printer on-site is a big advantage in being able to 'trial' certain images without having to commit in bulk quantities, thus reducing the risk element also. I'd like to think in the future the gallery would be less reliant on the tourist-style stuff, a fanciful idea however in the short term the focus will be on catering to as wide a range of an audience as possible.

Print your work folks

It's a bit of cliche these days and as photographers we're always encouraged to print our work, but it couldn't be more true. I've in the past produced prints on a one-off basis like most of us however since opening and producing much bigger prints more often, it really does give you a better idea of whether an image stands up or not. I've seen countless examples already where I've been sure an image looks great in Lightroom then once printed at A2 / A1 size it just isn't the case, and also vice-versa. Of course you don't have to print this big but I'd encourage anyone to actively print their work. I've seen countless photographers already come in the gallery and comment that they never print which is a real shame.

 Distressed Oak Frame

Distressed Oak Frame

Framing is extremely important

When I first opened I'd truly underestimated the value of high quality framing, and naively was only working with two types which of course isn't ideal as some images simply can't be framed in a black or oak - cost is of course a factor but from a commercial standpoint I've found as i'm going along that a really striking frame can sell the image as well as the image itself. One thing is for sure though, you can absolutely ruin a great image with the wrong frame, so if I could give anyone any framing advice I'd say give it more thought than you would usually, it's worth it in the end. I work with Scott Richardson at Studio 18 just outside Keswick, we've built a great working relationship already and I know I can take my prints to him and discuss the best look possible for each image. I'd strongly recommend anyone to do the same if you value your work.

A Much More Happy Me

Finally, probably the most important aspect of my career move has been from a personal welfare standpoint - I'd alluded to in previous posts relating to opening the gallery that the overriding driver for this change was to improve our situation in the home. Thankfully this part has been an overwhelming success - regular sleep is fantastic! There's some quite alarming statistics for those who work shifts for prolonged periods of their lives (in my case 7 years, many of my friends will work shifts for the rest of their working lives) such as shortened life expectancy, risk of coronary/cardiovascular diseases as well as stress and poor sleep. In my case I never really understood stress until recently and always felt people used the term a bit too loosely (like when folk say they have the flu when they really don't!) but 'proper' stress is a horrible thing and insidiously invades your thoughts 24/7, and was something I'll openly admit to suffering from and in the end something had to give.

Thankfully since opening the gallery I've been able to spend way more time with my fiance and my son and our relationships are closer than ever. Up until I opened Rory would be classed as 'pre-verbal' (for those who hadn't read any previous vlogs my son is 6 and autistic) but since I've been able to spend more time at home his speech has come on leaps and bounds, and I'd like to think it's been in no small part he's got a much more settled home life now, and spending much more quality time with both his mum and dad at the same time rather than separately which was the case about 80% of the time previously.

So to finish on a positive note, things are going well - long may it continue! If you're reading this and are visiting the Lake District in the near future do pop in and say hello, it's been fantastic to meet so many people I converse with on Social Media and hopefully that will continue :-)

Until next time folks 

Stuart