by Laura Yurs
This month at O+U, we’re jumping on the “You Are Awesome” train and sharing/celebrating a little bit about ourselves. Perfect timing as I’ve recently (as in, yesterday) accomplished a goal that I’ve been successfully avoiding for two years. Yesterday, with the help of my very good friend Kelley, I spent the afternoon hanging several of my photographs at a local coffee shop.
I am a genuinely introverted, sensitive soul and so much better at encouraging others than I am of heeding my own advice. It is HARD to put yourself out there. I’ve loved the IDEA of having a show. I’ve loved TALKING about having my work on display. Actually doing it? Scary as all hell. Truthfully, walking into that VERY FULL coffee shop yesterday with all of my photos felt like the equivalent of walking in there naked. VULNERABLE. “what will people say? what will they think? is my work good enough? am i good enough?”….the usual dark questions that keep us from doing what we need to do. I’ve been reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and have loved it. He speaks about the importance of doing the work that you are most terrified of. Yesterday, for me, was terrifying and also, much needed self growth.
I love this coffee shop. It’s close to my alma mater and each month they feature a different local artist. Over the summer, I took a deep breath while ordering my coffee and blurted out that I was interested in displaying my photography. I was not eloquent. I blushed. BUT, I did it. And the barista was kind and gave me the email address of the manager. A few days later, I emailed my request with a link to some of my work. A few days after that, I received an email indicating that I was on the schedule for November! Super excited and super nervous at the prospect.
A few people have asked how I chose the images, etc. and I wanted to share that it was a process for me. I knew I wanted it to be b&w street photography and so I began by going through all of those images. I narrowed it down and shared with a small group of friends. I considered those perspectives….narrowed it down again. I set it aside for a few days and then came back to it. I’d try to visualize it while sitting in the coffee shop. I narrowed it down again and then ordered the prints. I don’t order prints very often and, when I do, I always kick myself for not doing it more frequently. There really is something about holding them in your hands…truly. I bought frames and mats at a local art store and assembled everything. I signed the prints front & back. And in the middle of doing all of this, there was a lot of panicking and praying and thoughts of canceling all of it and emailing friends and conversations about why this is important to me and excitement and happiness and vulnerability and wine/bourbon/beer/coffee/cupcakes and swearing and crying and joy and….you get the idea.
My friend and I worked for a couple of hours hanging everything. She was an amazing source of support and I can’t thank her enough for holding my hand through it. I would highly recommend having someone help you hang your work. Shared experiences are good and I love knowing that when I look back on this day, I’ll think of her. As it worked out, I wound up not displaying two of the images. Once I saw everything up on the walls, I felt that two of the photographs didn’t work as I’d imagined. So, I wound up using eight images and feeling AMAZING when I stepped back to take it all in….
Displayed in the afternoon light, my muse. I photographed this woman on the Brown Line in Chicago. I don’t know her name or anything about her…except that I adore her. There is a quiet beauty in her face that drew me to her….an unspoken strength. When I considered displaying my work, this was the first image that came to mind.
After the work was completed, I sat with my coffee and watched people come and go…while my photographs hung on the walls. Sublime. I listened to a father and his kids talk about what they liked about a few of the photos. I used my camera to document the moment. I chatted with people. After my husband and kids arrived, I overheard my son saying to a table of women, “My mom took those!!”
I’m certain there are 999 different ways to go about displaying your work at a location/gallery. Each decision is personal. Each decision feels monumental. This is how I went about facing my fears and walking into the light. This is how I managed to do the thing that terrified me the most. I hope it helps those of you who had questions. If not, message me. Thank you a million times over to those of you who encouraged and inspired me! I hold you in my heart.
Yesterday, I arrived with 10 prints framed and ready to go. I arrived with butterflies in my stomach. I arrived feeling compelled to face my fears. And I left there a stronger woman….a rebirth.