Being able to exhibit one's work is a terrific opportunity for a photographer in a number of ways. But deciding what type of exhibition one wants, what its purpose is, can be difficult. Sometimes the space or location determines what photographs one exhibits. Or maybe it is a way of testing out the success of a new project or style. At other times it can be purely a mercenary exercise in the sense that the photograhs chosen are those one thinks are the images most likely to sell.
Whilst selling one's work, knowing it will grace a wall in someone's house, can be very gratifying (and economically necessary!), having an exhibition purely for commercial purposes I have found to be the least satisfying, even when a significant proportion of the images have sold.
Photography's potential has been expanded so much by the advent of digital technology that what I enjoy most about exhibiting is showing new, experimental work, often deliberately placed alongside more traditional images. Again, how successful this is, in part, is determined by the layout of the exhibition space...too unsubtle a juxtaposition of two images can kill the impact of both, whereas a small physical barrier of some kind can allow each image to work both autonomously and in contrast to each other.
If one chooses to exhibit irrespective of sales then I feel it is important to make sure those who view the exhibition have the opportunity to feed back their comments. Accompanying patrons around the exhibition (as long as they are happy for such company) can be fascinating and enlightening. Having a visitor's book in which people are encouraged to write a short comment can also be illuminating.
Finally, how one titles each photograph is also important. Too obtuse a title can put off the viewer before they even have a chance to take in the image fully. A witty title can enhance a photograph's comic potential. A subtle title can make the viewer look more closely by giving the image an unexpected perspective or context. In the case of ongoing projects where the intention is that each image should build on the previous one, a sense of the project's progression and development can also be helped by astutely chosen titles.
Visitors to exhibitions often want space in which to make up their own minds and have a privacy of reaction to the images before them, as well as some interaction with the person who has created those images. I make it clear that I value constructive criticism rather than just praise or rejection, for an exhibition is one of the best ways to assess whether that latest experiment is creating the anticipated impact or not.