This blog post contains nudity.
In 2007, after attending a few meetings of my newly joined camera club, I got under the impression many people were showing over and over again the same pictures. It was almost if they had stop shooting at some point in their lives, thinking they had enough images. It was again a personal impression.
This is when I dropped the idea to 2 club’s executives that something should be done to force people to shoot new material and showcase their new images. I explained the idea, based on the Naked in the House original competition. One of the executives, who was familiar with Naked in the House even said that maybe one day we could have a nude model and a reveal in an art gallery like they do. I really liked the fact they were receptive to the idea, until they said: “You need to drive the project.”. Not quite what I had in mind. After all, I was just the new kid around.
In May 2008, the 10X10 challenge was born. 1 camera, 1 lens, 1 model, 30 minutes, 10 shutter releases. Sounds crazy in this digital era. Digital files are virtually free so why limit yourself to only 10 shutter releases? Unless you push yourself to slow down a bit, think about what you are doing and why you are doing it, you will drive by the important stuff without noticing it. When I look back at my film photography, I had a better “good images” ratio per rolls than today on the same number of clicks. The virtually free images notion sank into our shooting habits to a point where we think about the “what we are doing” and “why we are doing it” while sitting in front of a computer screen. Let’s face it, it is then too late to recompose and reshoot.
Since May 2008, we held four 10X10 challenges. Two of these challenges involved a clothed model (I could not propose a new concept involving nudity; what would they have think of me?) while the last two involved a nude one. I think the nudity was getting imperative for the challenge survival. Although the participant’s interest was still very present after the 2nd 10X10, the images being captured were too much on the safe side. We were getting too many “Sit here and give me a big smile!” images. I am not saying it was bad; there were many good shots taken of a nice smiling girl but, given the opportunity, I was really hoping people would step out of the box and set it on fire! Having a nude model made it a bit more difficult and awkward to tell her “Just sit and give me a big smile!”.
So back in May of this year, Richard Bonomo, Drew Patterson and myself spend a whole weekend in Alexandria, Ontario, to hold the 4th edition of the 10X10 challenge. The place was great. It was the old parish house, kind of abandoned for a few years before being rescued by Aino Luther who gave it quite a lot of TLC. As it stands now, the house itself is a piece of art. The whole building is converted into an art studio and exhibit hall. When we saw that place a few months before, we knew we were in for an exciting ride. Over the weekend, a number of photographers and visual artists came, one after the other, to capture images of a nude figure. After 34 hours of work, the weekend was over, we were heading back home and started to work on the exhibit.
For the 1st time, we were able to hold the exhibit in an actual gallery. We had such a big vote of confidence from the city of Dollard-des-Ormeaux. Without seeing the results beforehand, they let us hang 31 images in their gallery. Normally the curator would go through the material first before putting anything on their walls. Not this time.
The exhibit was held in the Galerie de la Ville of Dollard-des-Ormeaux. One side of the room showed the visual artists, the other side showed the photographers. The week before the exhibit, the photographer came one by one to decide which image deserved the 1st, 2nd and 3rd position (the visual artists were not competing). The feedback I was getting from the photographers was great. It confirmed what us, the organizers, were feeling toward the images and the fact the level of photography seen in the 10X10 was improving over time.
On September 8, we held the vernissage and video presentation of the 10X10. The video was presented in high definition and gathered great feedback. The photographer participants were expecting this type of video coverage but this was all new stuff for the visual artists. After the projection we walked into the gallery where all the images were displayed. Walking through the crowd , I had the occasions of talking with a few of the participants. The discussions ranged between the very casual “thank you” to “Oh my God!”; so much positive comments that left me speechless. I never put that event together to get attention from anyone. If it was possible, I would watch it from a distance. I do this to get people active and presenting new material, not to get praised. I don’t normally live the moment as we are normally talking about the next 10X10 during our reveals. This time, no future plans, no next 10X10 discussions, only the moment. Being in a gallery with a nude figure exhibit, felt like we reached a far and away destination imagined 3 years before.
This 10X10 has been exhausting, not only physically but mentally too. We dealt with tight deadlines, long traveling distances, politics, processes, technicalities and more. So much stuff no one would agree to be subjected to. For the 1st time in all 10X10 history I said “it’s all over”, ”I’m done” , “that’s it”, “screw this”, “no more”. The idea that this was the last one was kind of a relief. We took it that far, let someone else come up with something. My wife was happy with that idea but so many people are expecting an announcement for a future 10X10, maybe we should not close the book that quickly. Maybe wait a year before the next one rather than doing 2 per year. My wife was “ok” with the idea. With the feedback we were getting last night, I would feel like letting down some people, the ones who kept me going for 4 10X10s, the supporters, the die hard fans.
For a reason that escapes me, while drinking my usual Guinness pints at Kelly’s pub and discussing with Richard last night, possible models were discussed, potential locations were explored, short timelines were looked into….
Sorry honey, maybe it was simply just a pit stop…