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Palm Springs Portfolio Reviews at PhotoPlus Expo 2010

Portfolio Review, what to expect, what they can do for you.

PhotoPlus Expo October 27-30th New York

Throughout a life long journey artists will eventually ask themselves if they would make it in New York.

Like crooner Frank Sinatra sung:

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it: New York, New York.
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,
It’s up to you, New York, New York.”

The thought crossed my mind many times, yet there were always reasons justifying not trying my hand.

With changes in the market, the moroseness of the Paris market in particular, had me seriously thinking of looking elsewhere for work.

Discovering markets outside where you live can be a challenging experience to arrive at an efficient schedule. Getting to see everyone in one trip is not going to happen and even contacting the people is a dauntingly difficult task.

Being a faithful reader of PDN (Photo District News) since starting out in photography, I read the posting for a competition for all photographers with the categories I would fit into. Even more interesting, was the list of jury members; Jed Root, Hali Tara Friehling Details magazine, Mazdack Rass from the Milk Group, Nadine McCarth Allure Magazine, Vince Aletti adjunct curator, Year of Fashion ICP & curator, 
2010 New York Photo Festival, Steven Torres, Mathew Jordan Smith (great photographer), and Jennifer Kim Teen Vogue. These are exactly the people I would want to show my book to if ever in NY, so I sent my pictures up on-line so they’d see them.

Delightfully surprised, not only were my pictures put in front of the people listed above, but they chose me as best, and winner in the “beauty” category!

This prompted me to follow up on this excellent opportunity. Combining a trip with the infamous gathering at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo and seeing some people in NY was the ideal occasion. Upon further research on of the big new features was the Palm Springs Portfolio Reviews held at the show.  Looking at the past reviews on I had a good idea that this was the perfect mix of reviewers to answer all my questions, all in the same place and same time.

This was the first time I had experienced anything like it. The origination must be colossal for such an event, but the entire staff did a tremendous job. There were only pleasurable exchanges, which is extraordinary considering the stakes and pressure of making it happen. The participants awaited patiently their timed reviews while having some moments to talk to one another while waiting. Many organized 10 reviews, thus were there for two or even three days. We were just as curious to know why we were there as to what we had to show.

Here are some points about the reviews, reviewers, and what a portfolio review could do for you.

Do the reviewers really look at your pictures?

Most do, some don’t look very long. The good news is for those who continued talking while turning the pages and looking at me rather than the images, they come back and flip through again at least once. This could be because the reviewers may be in the habit of looking at books alone or with an agent, not with the photographer.

Try to pick up clues on which pictures stop them, which ones delight them, which ones put them off. The flow, and feeling is quickly picked up if good, and quietly dismissed if not. When the presentation is finished and the reviewer reader to answer your questions, go back to the ones that they liked. Ask why these were the ones that stopped them, and why the ones that put them off did. The rest of the book is filler that has to be checked continuously for justifying it’s volume compared to the great, good, and bad ones.

What do reviewers’ comments really mean?

You have to know that each reviewer will have their own view relative to their experience and their respective domains of expertise. How ever close the target reviewers are , they may offer opinions that are valid for what they do , not necessarily what you want to do. The closer your goals towards the reviewer’s field of expertise, the further it raises the validity of the comments, and value of the comments. The comments will be directed by the very questions you pose, and the quality of the questions of course. If you don’t ask anything, then the reviewer is only going to critic your portfolio thus you will miss the chance to expound on the potential of your work.

Many comments will be relative to the scenario if you were to ask the reviewer for work what they expect you to have to do so, even if you didn’t expressly ask. These days keeping all options open is a good policy. This is invaluable advice for all, and if taken seriously, you are opening doors and fast. As visual artists we often forget one powerful tool that is the mighty pen. If you note some of the important comments made by the reviewer, they will likely write down a few themselves. So much is said so fast, yet the few notes you write down will be the ones you remember.

Are the reviews long enough?

You’d be best to reduce the number of pieces or pages shown to a minimum. If the presentation is short, to the point, then the rest of the time is the most precious time you could ever have with a expert in person face to face. The reviews are in as much a chance to talk about directions, news, feeling out the industry as much as your actual book.  If you do well the book can always be sent to the reviewer at another time, yet your face time with that person is an opportunity to start a relationship beyond what just another book can be.

What can I take home from a portfolio review?

You’ll be armed with a bevy of tips, new directions, leads, a new energized feeling. After all it’s a moment of many feelings, many personalities, thoughts and expressions. Although it is possible it is unlikely that you will be signing with an agent, have a gallery expo, get an assignment on the spot. All those things are built upon the relationships you may create starting with these reviews. Exchange business cards, offer a leave behind, a bribe, cookies, seriously listen for ways to follow up.

Chrysler Building NYC

Robert Bacall of Bacall reps, ” What are you doing right now for promotion, blogs?, leBook?, mailers?, Skype?”

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2 thoughts on “Palm Springs Portfolio Reviews at PhotoPlus Expo 2010”

  1. Michael Gottlieb

    Thank you for your insights on the review process. I have only done something similar once at the end of school. The reviewers were various local photographers, artists and gallery curators. I did take some notes although I found it hard while trying to concentrate on the discourse. While I came away with some new insights, I felt a bit confused because there didn’t seem to be a consensus of which direction I should head with my work. Maybe when you get to choose your reviewers, the whole exercise becomes more focused.

    Thank you for the link as well. I have some studying to do.

  2. Hey man,
    I found this blog through your modelmayhem and I must say I love your work!
    I may be completely off the hook by I do believe we have something in common: a fascination for Miles Aldridge. I can see it in your work! I, too, use a lot of colour in my fashion photography and I am saving up to buy a rainbow of gels.
    Andy xxx

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