Published on https://explorenation.net blog on photography
Photo by Naohiko Tokuhira
A plethora of thoughts on one’s work could cause a mild concussion. Left unresolved, gives way to a splitting headache. Here is a little guide to ease the pangs of insecurities and host of questions before a portfolio review.
What is a portfolio review ?
One of the reasons of showing your work in prints is to give an overview of your entire project to the reviewers. At best you could get a different perspective of your work. Having the flexibility of loose prints on hand allows the reviewers to edit the work. Think about it this way, a portfolio review can be a space to further push the photography series to another level or it could be a mini interview for your work to get published or shown in a public arena.
Printing the digital images
The first time I held the prints from my Fujifilm 5100 in 2011, excitement weld up despite having seen the images on screen numerous times. There was no thought about paper texture nor colour calibration. Looking back it was a process that I had to go through. So the lessons that I learnt, it always pay to have the monitor calibrated to my regular printer. After all the time spent editing on screen, it’d be a shame to have prints that is subpar.
Look into the crystal ball and imagine where your work is going to be shown. Once there is a clear idea of where your work would be shown, find out about the reviewers and think if your work would be beneficial from their perspective. A reviewer who comes from a gallery or art magazine views your work differently from a reviewer from a journalistic or documentary background. With multiple lens viewing your work, there is bound to be divergent viewpoints.
I’ve always found it easier to communicate through writing or photographs instead of talking about it. Somehow I get tense and stiff especially when there are a barrage of questions or suggestions. I learnt the hard way that it is important to be able to speak about the project as not all reviewers would read the written statement and sometimes what can seem to be a grilling session with reviewers is a process to delve deeper into the subject of the project. So to start with, I introduce myself, pass calling cards and give a short summary of the project that I am showing. In general about 2 or 3 lines. Nerves got to me on my first review and thankfully I wrote short notes with main points on each project. The notes was a good reminder on the points I wanted to highlight during the review especially since 20 minutes is all the time we have.
The 6 reviewers in alphabetical order are Didier Brousse, Yosuke Fujiki, Natalie Matutschovsky, Taj Forer, Takeki Sugiyama and Yumi Goto.
I brought 2 working series with me to be reviewed, both still work in progress. The first set of photos were from work done at the Exposure+ Mentorship programme in early 2013. The documentary set is called Pockets of Verdure which explored the interactions of the residents of Klang Valley through their gardens in public spaces. Composition of the work was distinctly flat.
The second set of photographs is a set of self portraits exploring what it is to be a woman in relation to my own body and experience living in Malaysia.
Summary of review sessions
Pockets of Verdure – Composition can be worked on. Some reviewers appreciate the flat perspective and some do not. The idea of the work is interesting but visually it can be improved upon.
Self Portrait – Colours are nice but too few images to have a clear idea of what the project is about. Lots of questions were asked ranging from the size the pictures to feelings about the projects. Since it is from the viewpoint of my ideas of what being a woman is about from the perspective of being a Malaysian, the work can be viewed differently in a different cultures. There were some suggestions on content and I found it helpful to move forward with the project.
Language – As the reviewers are from all over the world, English is not always the reviewer’s first language. There were instances where language was a barrier and some communication was lost in translation. Keep in mind to keep it simple in future.