Exhausted. Drained. Brains scrambled
My first portfolio review was an intense experience. Ten twenty-minute review sessions over the course of a weekend may not sound like much, but trust me it is. I’d compare it to a weekend full of job interviews.
The PhotoAlliance review has a sort of hand-made feel to it. It’s well organized, but still manages to feel a little impromptu, as if everything is about to go off the rails, but somehow finds a way to hold it together. Everyone gets to their allotted place, volunteers ring their little Tibetan bells to signal the changeovers and everyone massages their schedules to make it all work.
Food is volunteer-provided and often home-made.
The San Fransisco Art Institute (SFAI) has a spectacular location in a residential area just a few blocks from the tourist Mecca of Fisherman’s Wharf, with panoramic views across the Bay to Alcatraz and beyond. The weather was spectacular too – with bright blue skies and several surprise sunburns on Sunday!
The building itself is a fascinating labyrinth of studios, open courtyards and corridors – feeling like something between a mansion and a warehouse. The style is a strange mixture of mission and modern (though it contains a wonderful original 1931 Diego Rivera mural) and because the entire thing is concrete, it has a habit of constantly surprising. I did have a small camera with me, and although I found the SFAI full of inspiring surfaces and compositions, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I could have.
Perhaps the most enlightening aspect was seeing all the other photographers’ work – as varied a collection as you can imagine. I tried to glean what kind of things the reviewers were saying to them but most were (understandably) a little coy – or perhaps, like me, a little shell-shocked. Quite a few of us were there for our first portfolio review.
It was also fascinating to see the mix of photographers themselves. For example, you could distinguish in a nanosecond, the art school educated types from those who came to photography from other backgrounds. I’ve decided art school must involve alien abduction and reprogramming. They seem to speak another language and some have extraordinary aspirations for what seems (to me) relatively unremarkable work. Some of the most inspiring and moving pictures I saw actually came from those who fell into photography almost by accident, driven by an esoteric obsession or unique access to an unusual subject.
Ultimately, for me, it was a great experience and one I will gladly repeat (…although not quite immediately!). I came away encouraged that the next step is within my reach and with some very specific ideas about what I need to do next, both from a creative perspective, and in terms of how to package and present my work.
A huge thanks to all the organizers, volunteers and participants for a wonderful weekend!