Very often I hear from my artist friends how much stress they feel about any kind of appearance in front of an audience or the media. Interviews, radio programmes, Q&A meetings, exhibition openings.
I admit that this used to stress me out too. Now I recognise this as a regular part of my photographic adventure and I enjoy these moments. I treat them as moments of reward and recognition rather than an unpleasant obligation.
So how can you help yourself during such appearances and stop stressing about them?
First of all – you know best!
I always talk during interviews or openings about my photography, my inspiration and the feelings that accompany me in this creation. Then who knows this better than myself?
Realise that you are speaking on subjects closest to you, which you have probably been with for a long time, which are a result of who you are. So you are not reciting learned things like at school, you are talking about what you do and feel.
Secondly – be prepared!
The way to reduce your stress is simply to be well prepared.
At the openings of my exhibitions, there is space to thank the people involved in the project and organising the exhibition, but also to talk about what inspired me to create photographs. It’s not about telling what’s in each photo, it’s about inspirations, anecdotes, behind-the-scenes situations – all the things that made up the final result (honestly – I don’t like the words “I’m not going to tell anything because the photos speak for themselves”, I consider that a vernissage blunder). Believe me, people are interested, they came to meet you and hear about what you do! And exhibitions, Q&A sessions or interviews are just for talking about it more.
And please omit the phrase “I’m stressed”. I know it’s a bit like defusing a bomb, but maybe replace it simply with the sentence “I’m glad you’re here, thank you”.
Thirdly – notes!
If there are a lot of threads I want to cover, I have no problem preparing a short extract for myself and using it. I’m keen to say everything I want to say, fluently and syntactically, so I’m not shy about using the help of notes. Especially during the opening of an exhibition, this is useful – there’s a lot going on and emotions run high!
Fourth – practice!
You can also practice this kind of speech. Ask a friend or family member and speak to them. I admit that I have never used this option, usually thinking about what I want to say and possibly preparing notes is enough, but I know that some people need it.
Fifthly – backup!
When I go to a Q&A session where I show photographs and video, I always have this material on more than one medium. Sure, I always have an agreement with the organiser in what form I want to show my material, and the organiser has to prepare what I need, but.…
Sixth – listen, watch and make conclusions!
Every interview I’ve given, I’ve later auditioned. While I have an easy way with words, feel rather at ease and joke around, I tend to overuse certain words or an interlude like ‘yyyyy’. So I try to analyse this and learn lessons for the future.
However, after the opening of an exhibition or a Q&A session, I always ask my friends how it was – whether I spoke coherently, whether it was light, pleasant and with a sense of humour. There’s a lot of emotion at an opening, so I don’t record everything, rather I flow. So it’s good to have feedback.
And finally, I invite you to listen to / watch two recent materials featuring me (sorry, only in Polish):
- the interview I gave to Ewa Niewiadomska on the programme Pozytywka on Radio Katowice HERE ,
- and the video Q&A session hosted by Antoni Kreis and in the Katowice Gallery of the Association of Polish Artists Photographers HERE.
– a visit to Radio Krakow Kultura with Monika Stachnik-Czapla, curator of Siła Fotografii, and Zbigniew Grzyb, director of the Nowa Huta Cultural Centre in Krakow. The conversation took place as part of the promotion of Siła Fotografii. My exhibition Beautiful People was part of this festival. 2022.
– the opening of the One People Story exhibition in Veszprem / Hungary, which is the result of an artist residency as part of the European Capital of Culture Veszprem – Balaton. At the opening I was accompanied by the curator Martyna van Nieuwland and the translator Mr Schaffler György. 2023.
Photo author: Pesthy Márton.
– conversation with curator Katarzyna Lata as part of NOC-K – VII Katowice Gallery Night. My exhibition Beautiful People was presented at the Pusta Gallery Katowice Miasto Ogrodów. 2021.
Photo author: Kinga Hołda – Justycka
– opening of the exhibition CZĄSTKI / JOANNA NOWICKA / MONIKA WACHOWICZ, Korez Theatre Gallery, Katowice. 2017.