Thursday, May 2, 2013

Getting Out...Part II

This week I'm in Palm Springs for Portfolio Reviews. You see these events advertised everywhere now, they've become a new industry...and I guess I have mixed feelings about them. In the past I've attended two other reviews: Photo Lucida, in Portland, is the best of the smaller regional reviews, Fotofest, in Houston, is an enormous, overly intense experience. Each time I attend one of these events I'm struck by the same's exhausting (and not part of my nature) to get myself out among so many strangers, all of us trying to make connections.

Over time, I've gotten used to the format of the experience and that has helped. My presentation method has been slimmed down to an easily carried portfolio box. The prints are standardized in terms of the size of the paper and how the work fits on it - basically removing any unwanted distractions. I've got a business card and a solid promotional leave-behind. The "review" is a 20 minute slot during which you've got to find the table, introduce yourself, unpack your stuff, give a short description of the work, have them turn the pages/flip the prints, answer their questions, take a few notes, ask your questions and pack up when the buzzer rings. Fun huh?

I decided to put myself through this process because I felt it was time for this new body of work to leave the studio and start its path into the world. However, now that I'm here, that old uneasiness returns. Part of it is the monetization of what used to be a fundamental part of the art-making experience - talking about your work with curators, gallerists and collectors. That conversation and relationship was a part of how artists developed and how the art world saw itself. I'm left with so many questions: what if your work doesn't benefit from being summed up in 20 minutes...what if it's better to look at all the work laid out at once...what if they've already seen 10 people and their brains are mush?

On the upside, I've met many great photographers in just a few days, which is one of the best end results of these experiences - that connection to a greater group. The Sunday afternoon event was an open portfolio review where all the participants got space to show their work and I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around meeting people whose work I liked and discussing it with them. There was a real mix of expertise levels and that was interesting as well.

So, is it worth it? I don't know...sometimes it's about movement...even when you don't exactly know where you want to go. We'll see...

Here are a few of the photographers I met:

Torrie Groening: she had been a print maker for over two decades and the work I saw was mixed media with layers of painting and photography - you can tell she has a strong sense of how to work with color. I loved the delicate quality of the work. She had traveled from Vancouver, Canada

Wendy Sacks: interesting body of work featuring photographs of children semi-submerged in water. There was a lush quality to the prints and I especially was drawn to the reflections that created patterns throughout.

Bobby Lee: he had both what I would call commercial/glossy fashion style portraits as well as a beautiful set of subtle landscapes. Additionally, he had hand bound his portfolio with pull out pages...very impressive.

Adam D. Gerlach: he was from Santa Barbara (Brooks Institute) and had a beautiful set of black and white intensely dark landscapes. Stylish work, abstracted with good design.

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