29 June 2009
I’ve participated in a number of portfolio review events over the past year, including five days at FotoFest in Houston, four days at Photolucida in Portland, Oregon, one day powerHouse in Brooklyn, and most recently, three days at Review Santa Fe. I declined an invitation to the powerHouse/NY Photo Festival reviews, but I’ll be going to Rhubarb-Rhubarb in Birmingham, UK at the end of July.
Portfolio review events can be very rewarding for photographers and reviewers. Of course, it is only the photographers who have to decide whether or not it is worth the price of admission and travel.
The multiple-day review events are carefully structured to create a comfortable, communal atmosphere and a strong support system for artists and reviewers. They offer photographers a great opportunity, not only to meet face to face with curators, gallerists, editors, publishers and collectors, but to share their work with other artists from around the country and the world. The organizers of these events solicit the help of their local arts communities to share in the festivities by arranging exhibitions, talks and parties which contribute to the overall experience for the review participants.
The great advantage of these 3-5 day events is that over the course of days and nights, artists forge friendships, compare notes, exchange ideas, share experiences, discuss reviews, re-edit their portfolios and build networks. What may not be so obvious to the artists is that reviewers take advantage of this time in much the same way. They discuss the artists and their work, exchange thoughts, question and challenge each other about projects they’ve seen. They also make recommendations to each other.
I always find these events to be inspiring and informative. The standard 20 minute review session is a great introduction and often quite rewarding, but I also enjoy meeting artists away from the review table and getting to know them better. You can learn a lot more by sharing a beer than reading an artist statement. I also go out of my way to meet the other reviewers. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the most knowledgeable minds in the photography world at the reviews and I’m grateful to them for sharing their insightful thoughts.
Though many artists come to reviews with hopes of securing gallery representation, book contracts or museum exhibitions, others come simply to gauge interest in a current project or to seek advice from experienced editors. Due to the poor economy this year, the success stories may not have been as obvious or immediate, but I was introduced to some great new work that I will not soon forget. Most of the people I spoke to reported positive experiences, and I have no doubt that opportunities will arise for many of the artists. I will certainly be doing my best to help.