NOTE: See recent post specifically on Fotofest Reviewers, educational offerings and registration details.
ASSESSING THE VALUE OF ATTENDING PORTFOLIO REVIEW EVENTS
Photographers frequently ask me about the value of attending portfolio review events, which events to attend and why. The offerings are vast and the investment of time and money varies. Many of you have read a more generalized version of my opinions on the topic on this blog at this time last year; as registration opens tomorrow for “The Meeting Place” during FotoFest 2010 Biennial, I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on that article, and contrast and compare the upcoming portfolio review events and I am aware that many of you are weighing the value of attending so I am taking the opportunity on a long travel day to give you an overview of my opinions on the subject portfolio review events.
Do I think attending a portfolio review event has value for photographers? ABSOLUTELY; it has value for the Reviewers, as well.
Will each and every photographer benefit from sharing their work at these events, no matter how resolved their body of work is at that time? YES. Reviewers can provide creative guidance for works in progress, as well as appropriate marketing advice for completed projects.
Can investing in attending a portfolio review event aid in the process of moving your career to the next level? WITHOUT QUESTION. But to do so effectively you must continue the dialogue that has begun with industry professionals at the event.
Will every single appointment be a match made in heaven? NO. But responsible Reviewers will find much to share with you about your work, regardless of whether it fits their gallery, their collection, their exhibition and/or publication program. Know too that you can ask them questions about their area of our industry, from market trends to pricing and editioning your work, to asking for suggestions of whom they feel would be interested in your photographs.
From my perspective, there are three main reasons you should bring your work to a portfolio review event:
First: the process of preparing to attend the event will be of value to you.
Writing about your work will most certainly help you clarify your intentions with current or completed works, and in turn to speak about your work. Editing your work for a series of 20-minute reviews session is a challenge and the task can be daunting, as there are only so many photographs one can share in 20 minutes. Knowing what your goals are will help you in your decisions towards preparing to be a participant.
Second: presenting your work to industry professionals and peers alike will help you to better know your own work.
This is an experience that can’t be matched. The standard model is a 20-minute session with each Reviewer; the number of sessions you have depends on the length of the event. The number of times you will share your work goes beyond these formal sessions as you will share work with other photographers outside the proper scheduled sessions, too. Through having a rich dialogue about your photography, your clarity about, and commitment to your bodies of work, your presentation to your target audience, your explorations toward desired final print(s) and in what format to display the work – all this and more comes from attending a portfolio review event.
Third: beginning professional relationships is key to your long-term career.
Portfolio review events provide an opportunity for you to to share your work and ideas with your peers and industry professionals, be it discussing craft or intention/audience that you devote your twenty minutes session to. It is of course your responsibility to follow up with those Reviewers who encourage you to keep them posted on the evolution of your project. (Ideally, when concluding your session with a Reviewer, ask if they would like you to keep them apprised a to the development of the work, upcoming exhibitions and other news of note, and if they say yes, then ask the most important question: in what format would they prefer to receive this information and/or image updates: in print, on line via links to view the work on your website or those of others, or on CD-Rom.
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss, founders of FotoFest for bringing the Portfolio Review to our community; March 12-April 25, 2010 will be the Thirteenth International Biennial of Photography and Photo-Related Art which continues to be a catalytst to creativity and a conduit to international dialogue about photography. Hats off to FotoFest! You and your colleagues have set a strong example for which we thank you, and know that we look forward to being in Houston during the spring 2010 Biennial, most certainly – to share work, view exhibitions, and meet colleagues from all over the globe.
“The Meeting Place” portfolio review event occurs within the FotoFest Biennial, and continues to be unique among portfolio review events in this country. Each of the four 4-day review sessions will be host to a broad cross-section of industry professionals from many countries, as The Meeting Place features the largest number of Reviewers from other countries.
Additionally, FotoFest has the most comprehensive educational offering of all portfolio review events. I can tell you that discussions surrounding what content is most relevant to bring to you during The Meeting Place have been occurring for over a year, and all three of the seminars will be of value to participating photographers and Reviewers alike: March 16, March 21 and March 28 will each feature a different topic and a different slate of speakers; the public is invited to register for these events as well.
When you apply for The Meeting Place in the next six weeks I urge you to take into consideration what the theme of the public education seminars is that falls just before or just after that desired session, and plan to arrive a day early or stay a day longer to attend.
Tomorrow, June 1st, registration for The Meeting Place at FotoFest 2010 opens, and continues through July 13; click here for complete registration details.
Learn more about the educational seminars and symposium offered to participating photographers and to the public here.
Sign up for the FotoFest newsletter here to receive word of the forthcoming exhibitions selected by guest curators and FotoFest Participating Spaces that will be on view during the Biennial.
As the number of portfolio review event offerings has increased, occurring now in every season and in nearly every region of the world, some organizations have decided to require submission for consideration by a jury before allowing acceptance. I believe “Review Santa Fe” was the earliest to transition to be a juried event with PhotoAlliance’s “OUR WORLD: A National Juried Portfolio Review” requiring acceptance by jury from its inception in 2007; the 2008 and 2009 Co-Sponsor was Orion Magazine. The 2008 the portfolio review component of “Atlanta Celebrates Photography” required submission of a portfolio for the first time in the ten-year history of programming. Both of these events are smaller in scale and take place over fewer days than FotoFest.
If an organization declares that it will require entrance determined by a judging process, I am admittedly happiest when you, the applicant, have full knowledge of the names of members of that all-important pre-screening team; this, combined with some thoughtful research on your part can aid in your decision as to invest your time and money in applying for that event. Personally I feel there are enough of you ready to participate in these events that are aware of deadlines who quickly fill the roster, and find the level of work very high regardless of any pre-screening process in place.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb’s International Portfolio Review is unique among events in that participating photographers select their own personalized roster of meetings during the event. Bookings opened May 12; see my earlier post about Rhubarb here.
The next step towards making your decision to apply to any review event is to look carefully at the Reviewers that have been asked to participate. An increasing number of events are inviting a diverse group of reviewers, going beyond professionals from the fine art arena to include influential photo editors, photo researchers, graphic designers, corporate art consultants and others who bring opportunities for your work to be seen in multiple markets. I applaud this effort and encourage you to try to schedule a session with an individual whom you are not as likely to secure an in-person meeting outside of an event such as this. If you are interested in learning more about marketing opportunities in areas outside the fine art arena, I encourage you to seek out portfolio reviews which offer a diverse range of industry professionals. Note: depending on the event, you may be allowed to make a “wish list” of participating Reviews to meet with, and in some cases, learn your schedule in advance of the start of the event furthering your ability to prepare.
Geographic location too could be the reason you register (or apply) to one event over another. I encourage you to get to know your local photography community, and to introduce your work to others beyond your local area. Every event will do its best to invite professionals from all parts of the country as well as inviting a strong contingency of regionally-based reviewers, too. For example, if your work is well know in the east, you might consider attending a review event in the west.
A strong educational component offered in conjunction with the reviews is another plus from my perspective. If you are committing time and resources to travel to industry gatherings such as these I want you to be able to gain insights from professionals and peers in attendance in the form of lectures, seminars, panel discussions, symposia and more. When weighing your options, related educational offerings may be a factor for you in putting an event in your “plus” column.
Introducing your work to individuals from multiple markets is a growing focus of some events, while others invite a majority of reviewers from the fine art community. Many publishers, for example seek invitations to attend JURIED events as they would prefer to see work that is more fully developed. Study the list of the reviewers who have been invited to all events, and this should be a strong factor in weighing the value of your attending that particular event.
If you elect to attend, the process of considering your work in this serious manner, planning to capture the experience of discussing your work with industry professionals for further study when you return home, and determining how to best provide a visual reminder of images presented for the Reviewers (i.e. preparing a printed piece or CD-Rom sample with your imagery to share with others attending) are activities that in themselves will lend clarity to your work and its potential to speak to your targeted audience.
My enthusiasm for your investing in portfolio review events grows as I become increasingly frustrated and in fact pessimistic about the value of entering many exhibition and/or publication competitions. The reproduction rights often demanded from the winners, and more often now from those who simply apply, are unnecessary and unfair. The physical space and the circumstances at the actual judging of the work can vary, possibly occurring within a physically environment that may not lend itself to optimum viewing of your work, or judges working remotely without a dialogue, or so few examples of your work presented that we can barely get to know your work. (My most interesting judging experiences of late have been being part of a team judging the 2008 Photography Annual for Communication Arts Magazine for three days straight, and reviewing entries for Critical Mass in the solitude of airplanes, with weeks to consider and re-consider the submission (ten images each). I also feel strongly that in this time of economic challenges, conducting research, making new work and meeting with industry professionals and your peers is the best use of your time, offering a rich dialogue from which to grow, rather than pursuing galleries for representation or collections towards print purchases in this economic climate.
So I encourage you to join the e-newsletters for each of the organizations offering review events, carefully examine the offerings and mark these dates for application and for the events on your calendar. Many of the review events that accept registration on a first come, first served basis sell out within hours (book the event hotel early as well – it too will sell out). Be aware of cancellation policies as many ask to you commit several (or more) months out from the date of the event.
UPCOMING PORTFOLIO REVIEW EVENTS that you can register for:
JUNE 20: En Foco (www.enfoco.org, held in NYC); limited spaces are available; registration accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
JULY 30 – AUGUST 2: Rhubarb-Rhubarb International Portfolio Review (www.rhubarb-rhubarb.net, held in Birmingham, England. Registration is completed by the participants, who sign up on a first-come, first-served basis.
Note: As of this writing, many of the reviewers are fully booked.
The one-day review and portfolio walk event is held during The Month of Photography in Atlanta, which ACP coordinates. The programming is rich – see the offerings here.
Registration accepted on a first-come, first-served basis (date registration opens TBD).
REVIEW EVENTS PLANNED or ANTICIPATED through Spring 2010:
March, date TBD: “Our World” sponsored by PhotoAlliance and held in San Francisco; acceptance is determined by jury.
NOTE: Applications for registration are accepted June 1 – July 13, 2009
Session 1: March 12-March 15
Session 2: March 17-20
Session 3: March 24-27
Session 4: March 29 – April 1, 2010
March 28 – April 2: Palm Springs Photo Festival
Portfolio reviews are offered with a broader Festival week; applications accepted on a first-come, first-served basis
I look forward to seeing many of you at these upcoming events!