It’s so hard to find people to take over a gallery. When we started it was easy. It was 2010. It was difficult to get a job. Lots of students didn’t get part time jobs and they volunteered instead. Actually, it was probably the best thing you could do if you wanted to get a job. You could show you pulled your socks up or whatever. You could claim to have some experience managing people. Other people wanted longer hours in paid jobs but could only work part time. We had some time. I worked part time (four days a week) and spent another 20 hours or so emailing photographers, being at the gallery, curating shows, writing PR, changing light bulbs, sequencing, writing legal paperwork. You name it. Exhausting stuff, but we were young (-ish) and ambitious (-ish). Now that the gallery is set up it’s all easier. There are lists for PR, designers, the legal paperwork is sorted, the brand, etc. You’d expect to find people to help.
Sunday before last we met up with a guy that answered our call for help on Twitter. We explained what running a gallery is: literally running a gallery. Sounds daunting but it’s easier than working at a hotel reception because it’s more fun. And people invite you to give talks about it. You can go to exciting places like Liverpool expenses paid.
An aside. I really like Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. I’ve been there once for a show and it was great. I thought that being a fan of Kohei Yoshiyuki their show of The Park would be sparse and disappointing. Instead it was great, full of content and massive immersive prints shown in the dark.
Back to the Sunday before last. We met at this new alternative cafe that shows photography called Little Man. Great that we have an interest in such a democratic medium. You can just bang prints on a wall of a cafe and you might be doing a better job than the Tate. The interesting thing was the beer we had.Pipes brewery in Cardiff had to change name for legal reasons, but when they started they hit a niche. We hit a niche back in 2010 as well. In Cardiff I had a reasonable access to photobooks (via online shops and occasional visits to London) and photography on the web. But exhibitions were hard to come by. We had Ffotogallery which was doing a good job at arts photography (mainly-ish). But in a way that was like being in a town that has only one cinema and doesn’t always show what you wanted to see. We craved to see more photographers we saw on the web and in books up in print. Some personal documentary, some photobook bestsellers that didn’t seem to show up much in the UK, a few controversial types. Pipes beers were a bit of the same.
If the reader doesn’t know much about the UK beer scene, here is a summary: there is a strong tradition of British beer (you get plenty of this), a lot of poor commercial lager (even more of this) and more and more American influenced craft beer (back in 2010 this was on the up but not like nowadays). Pipes didn’t really specialised in any of these. They are the only British brewery that I know that has brewed what I had that Sunday in Little Man: a German Doppelbock. German beer is pretty scarce in the UK, mainly because imports are dominated by Pilsner and Weissbier. Pipes insted has featured the likes of a regular Helles, smoked lager, Altbier, Schwartz, Berliner Weisse, etc. They aren’t madly popular in the UK, but you just can’t get them anywhere else. Lots of people do actually like them. Beer, like photography, is democratic. And if you don’t like your scene you can brew your own.
So on Thursday (day after tomorrow) we are catching up again in a pub. Bringing photography, beer and diversity in each back together. We need to talk with the volunteers, we need to get people to run a gallery (please, give it a go) and we need people to curate shows. I usually aim at people in the 20-30 age range because they are foolish enough. But universities make them conservative and they seem to have the wrong expectations. Think it’s once in a lifetime that you are foolish and you get to follow your dreams. They are nothing particularly glamorous, but you can go to bed at some point in twenty years thinking to yourself, “you know what? I did put together a wicked show of Japanese photography”.
(All the photographs of the gallery come from memory lane and have been taken by a variety of photographers. You can find the credits of each on the TFG Facebook page.)