Our World Portfolio Review – Part 1

The San Francisco PhotoAlliance portfolio review was held the weekend of March 12, 13 and 14. This is really a terrific event, but one I was planning on skipping this year. That is until I got an email from Thom Sempre looking for a few more photographers and portfolio’s for this juried do. How could I say no? I love this event – it is held at the San Francisco Art Institute and the location alone is enough to make you want to attend. The institute is situated on a hill with sweeping views of the bay. Add to that two sparkling spring-like days and it is hard to pass up. But for me, the real draw is how it is run. PhotoAlliance is pretty much an all volunteer organization. They put on lectures, do occasional workshops and sponsor other events. But what really makes it stand out is how much of a family feel they bring to it. On Friday before the reviews started, both reviewers and reviewees gathered for a presentation by photographer Paul Fusco and his new work. Before the lecture, we were invited to a chili feed. Linda Conner provided a batch of her famous chili, but there were several other concoctions as well. We all sat together and got to know one another. Very informal and fun.

This review gives participants 10 twenty minute reviews over the course of the two days. Several others give you only 8. They guarantee 5 of your top 10 choices, but I got 9 of my 10. Things are informal and getting unofficial reviews is encouraged. I managed to get the one reviewer I didn’t get by choice just by asking her if she had time. This review may not have the sheer quantity of top reviewers, but there is still a great selection and I think lots of opportunities that some of the other reviews don’t have.

Day one of the actual reviews started off really well for me. My first review was 20 minutes with Chris Bennett from Newspace. Chris related to the work well. He liked the idea and the way I presented it. He was the first to comment on how well the sequencing tied the images and idea together. We had a great conversation and he offered to consider the work for the upcoming 2011 exhibit schedule.

I have to say that much of the credit for the sequencing goes to Stella Kramer. Stella is a Pulitzer prize winning photo editor who I met with to talk about this very thing. She recommended a number of changes to both my sequencing, and which images I included in the 25 print portfolio. I really had my doubts as to how effective the changes were. She did show me some new relationships between images I hadn’t noticed before and really liked. I was actually uncomfortable with some of the images she wanted to include. But she’s the expert so I decided to just go with her choices. I’m glad I did. I showed a portfolio of 25 images and it was tight man!  So I am now a firm believer in getting knowledgeable outside help. It gives a fresh perspective which leads to new insights and better understanding of one’s own work.

Next up was two reviewers from the Palo Alto Art Center. While both liked the work, it doesn’t seem to be what they want to show right now. There was a good suggestion to look to the Nevada Museum of Art as a possible match for the project. They are putting together a large scale “human impact on the landscape” type collection. So I will be investigating.

I also spoke with Christopher McCall. Chris is a photographer and educator and Director of the Pilara Foundation. The foundation is close to opening the largest exhibition space in the US dedicated solely to contemporary photography. We talked about the new space and it does sound exciting. Chris was interested in the work and I am hoping to get involved in some way.

Last up for the day was Adam Weintraub from Blue Earth Alliance. They are dedicated to educating the public about endangered environments, threatened cultures and other social concerns through photography. This was kind of a longshot for me. While my project deals with impact on the landscape, it’s not really in the way that Blue Earth approaches the issues. But Adam was helpful in one big respect. I had, over time, gotten away from the primary way in which I spoke about the work. I was talking more about the marks in the landscape instead of what the project is really about – communication. Adam was direct – a bit gruff – but in a constructive way. He outright said it was about communication and not landscape and that is how I should characterize it. He was right. I’d moved too far away from my original talking points. Making this change in emphasis made a huge change for day 2. End of Part 1.

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One Response to Our World Portfolio Review – Part 1

  1. David,
    Thank you for the kind words. I’m really glad you went to the portfolio review and that it was as helpful as it was. When you have a strong body of work to present the experience of sitting with reviewers and showing/talking about your work can give such valuable insight.

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