Making an Exhibition of a Theatre Audience: Research Through Photography
Rachel Nash and Will Garrett-Petts observe, “There is relatively little about…research through visual art (where artistic practice becomes a vehicle for producing and presenting new knowledge)”. This paper is a case study of a photographic exhibition employed as both an end in itself and a means to enhance the profile of a project of which it forms a part and thereby generate public involvement in our research. As part of our CURA research on professional theatre as a builder of community in small cities, James Hoffman and I engaged audience members of Western Canada Theatre as subjects in a photographic exhibition shot on the theatre stage, shown in the theatre lobby, and documented in a catalogue. This paper will explain and analyze the processes of recruiting, photographing, and interviewing the subjects. It will also describe exhibition and catalogue preparation and provide the theory and rationale behind our attempts to incorporate visual research and other unconventional approaches into our work as we reach beyond traditional surveys of theatre audiences.