Archive for March 9, 2007


Many of you will be fortunate enough to attend one of the upcoming Portfolio Review events I mentioned in my last post, “Portfolio Review Season BEGINS!”. I encourage all of you to consider participation, and consider that both an OPPORTUNITY as well as an INVESTMENT.

The following is a short handout that I have shared with those attending portfolio review events. By posting it here, many of you considering attending will gain perspective on how to prepare, and hopefully will taking the step to apply/attend!

in order to make the most of this opportunity to share your work with others!


SET GOALS: consider in advance what results you are seeking from this investment.
Are you simply seeking advice/guidance/information, be it on clarity of content, print quality or editing/sequencing, or, are you hoping for a discussion on marketing the completed work? Are you seeking representation for the work? Do you wish to place an exhibition of a completed body of work with a gallery or institution? Are you hoping to secure a publishing contract? Be clear about what you want, research the professional biographies of the reviewers and concentrate on making the most of your time with them towards your desired end results. Be sure to clearly communicate these goals with each Reviewer at the start of your session(s).

TIGHTLY EDIT your work to present to Reviewers, remembering the specific amount of time you will have together. I suggest you bring 20 images to your review session. This is just my suggestion….I find with more than 20, we don’t have time to talk about marketing the work – we’d spend the entire time looking, and little time talking. There is no “set” number of prints to bring, and the decision will be different for everyone, according to where your body of work is. If the “A” edit of a body of work is larger than 20, you may wish to bring an expanded group to the event, should the opportunity arise to meet and show work to Reviewers or to other photographers outside of the event’s review structure. If you have two on-going bodies of work, bring small selections of both and when appropriate, based on your research on the professionals reviewing work, show both work to selected or to all Reviewers accordingly.

PRACTICE your presentation – keep it short and simple! Don’t make the mistake of talking the entire time… Be mindful of the time limit with each reviewer; you will want ensure time within the session to receive feedback!

When presenting your work at the event:

PRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT: print images the same size/paper. Protect the work but not to such an extent that it takes too much time to wrap/unwrap each print.

EASE IN HANDLING will maximize your time to talk with the reviewer, so select a box/book/portfolio that will allow you to show the photographs relatively fast. The size of tables you will presenting on are likely to be standard folding tables, so don’t assume you will be able to bring 20 oversized prints and actually be able to present a large group in 20 minutes. If you have any questions about a special area that may be available to share larger work with Reviewers, call the organizers to inquire well in advance. Consider bringing several samples of larger prints rolled in a tube, with a more complete group in a smaller size. Accept the fact that your work may show some “road wear” by the end of the event; you are there to show work to as many Reviewers and peers as possible.

TAKE NOTES during your session, whether you bring a tape recorder (always ask permission to record for personal use) or make a binder with a page dedicated to each Reviewer at the event, with their bio and your notes for that specific Reviewer. Some photographers print out a sheet with thumbnails of all the images they intend to share, to note which images each Reviewer responded most strongly to. It is difficult to presenting work AND to take notes at the same time, so come up with a system that will work best for you. Whatever note taking or recording format works for you – do it! You want to take home as clear a memory of each discussion as possible.

– Design/produce a simple promotional piece that will serve to remind the reviewers of your work as well as providing your contact information. Reproduction of several images from your body of work is suggested (they will see many photographers during review events– it never hurts to remind them visually of your work). Make sure it is small enough for them to file in a traditional (8-1/2 x 11) file folder, if you have any hopes of a Reviewer retaining it and contacting you in the future.

I suggest that you never assume that a Reviewer would like to retain more than simply a card – ask first if they would appreciate additional materials you can provide on site. Don’t burden a Reviewer with a bulky packet to take home from the event – offer to mail it to them at their office after the event (at your expense). Do not assume that you will get anything returned to you unless you include a SASE. If a Reviewer encourages you to stay in touch and keep them apprised of your work, ask what format they prefer your communication to be in – paper or email? Image sent via CD-Rom or examples of images in print? When you have the chance to learn their preferences, always ask, and make note of this for your records.

Consider this experience the chance to begin relationships with professionals who respond positively to your work.

I hope your investment in attending a portfolio review event will move your career forward towards your goals.

© 2007 Mary Virginia Swanson. An expanded version of this article is feature in my book “The Business of Photography: Principles and Practices” “available on my website at:

NOTE: I will be giving a seminar called “Presenting Your Work to the Fine Art Community” on April 28th (1-5 p.m.) at the Griffin Museum in the Boston area, during which I will go into greater detail about maximizing your investment in attending portfolio review events – before, during, and after participation. Registration for my workshop is open now.


Comments (1)

Portfolio Review Season BEGINS!

This weekend begins an extraordinary run of Portfolio Review events around the country. For some, entry deadlines are past, others, still ahead on the calendar (all will sell out!). Regular readers of this blog will be aware of these events, but I thought it would be helpful to compile a roster for you to reference. There is no greater way to begin relationships with industry professionals than attending these event. I’ll share advice for participants on making the most of their investment in my next post.

Here’s the roster of porfolio review event ahead on the calendar:

March 10 & 11th, San Francisco:
One World Portfolio Review, PhotoAlliance; applications are closed (juried event).
Kick-off event “Our World: New Orleans” is part of PhotoAlliance’s Spring Lecture Series (open to the public).

March 18, Brooklyn, NY
Third Annual powerHouse Reviews; applications are closed (sold out).

April 25th (April 23rd for members) is slated to be the day REGISTRATION OPENS for the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s “NYC Reviews” which will be held on June 4th and September 29th, both in NYC; only 12 photographers will be accepted into each one-day event on a first-come, first-served basis. Information on these two special days will be included in CPW’s 2007 Workshop schedule, which will be available any day as a download from their website. On their home page you can sign up for email updates.

April 12-15, Portland, Oregon:
PhotoLucida (biennial event); applications are closed. Portfolio Walk” of all participants work is open to the public on Thursday, April 12 beginning at 7 p.m. at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art); check this link for other events (including lectures by artists on Saturday night) that are open the public during PhotoLucida. Sign up for e-updates on the bottom of the event home page.

April 29th, Boston, MA
Annual Portfolio Review Day (1-4 p.m.), Photographic Resource Center at Boston University. Reservations open on Friday, March 16th, 10:00 a.m. EST. See the website for details.

May 11th, Winchester, MA (near Boston)
Second Annual Portfolio Review Day, Griffin Museum. Registration details to be announced; sign up for e-announcements here.
Kick off event: Second Annual “FOCUS” Awards, May 10th.

May 18 & 19, Santa Fe:
Review Santa Fe (annual event), sponsored by Center; applications are closed (juried). “Portfolio Sharing” of all participants’ works on Friday evening, May 18, will be open to the public; watch the website for details.

SUMMER 2007: Registration for “The Meeting Place” international portfolio review event at Fotofest 2008 (Houston, March 7-20) will open during the summer; click here to join the e-list for updated information. Many events during Fotofest will be open to the public; a reminder that the first phase of applications for exhibitions at Fotofest ’09; application deadline is April 16th. Be sure to learn if your work may fit the topics for 2008 exhibitions: CHINA and TRANSFORMATIONS.

October 6, Atlanta:
Portfolio Review Day, 9th Annual ACP Festival (Atlanta Celebrates Photography).
Registration date not yet announced; sign up for the ACP Newsletter here.

These are the Portfolio Review events in the US that I am aware of as of this posting.

One of my favorite events occurs in the UK:

July 26-29th, Birmingham, England:
Rhubarb-Rhubarb” will beheld July 26-29th in Birmingham, England.
The unique aspect of Rhubarb: you book your own schedule of meetings with professionals. Popular Reviewers are booked quickly so keep a close eye on the website for the opening of registration and BOOKINGS for Rhubarb, anticipated within the next few weeks.

NEXT: Advice on making the most of your investment in attending these events!

Leave a Comment