In the world of fine art photography, there is an unavoidable step you need to take. It’s quite distressing as well as rewarding. It’s called a portfolio review. It was a first for me, I didn’t walk out unscathed but was also challenged to explore and have fun with my work as a visual artist.
I seem to experience a lot of first these days, learning to make videos and taking myself more seriously as an artist. Up to now, I had never shown my work “The Silent Heroines” to seasoned professionals. It’s a step, I was ready to take even if I knew, I had to be prepared to hear what I didn’t want to!
I remember from my MA in Fine Art Photography studies, hearing about my work not being good, and walking away with a bruised ego a number of times. It’s only later that you realise that it was all for the greater good. If you feel someone challenges you, remember it’s always because they can see potential that you can’t see yourself. If it happens to you, care for your bruised ego, then let it go and be open to new possibilities.
What to expect from a portfolio review?
This was my first portfolio review so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I did the portfolio reviews online via the Belfast Photography Festival. I do think being online, helps to take the emotional side of it away. I heard about photographers walking away from their portfolio reviews crying and you might wonder why do we put ourselves through such pain? Ah mais there’s a reason for it. As an artist, you’re emotionally attached to your work and can’t always see what’s not working or missing in your artwork. Putting yourself through the reviews is a great way to open your work up to new possibilities and see it evolving in a direction you didn’t even imagine! How exciting!
The other challenge is to choose the right reviewers. And it does involve a bit of research to find the best match for your needs. The idea is to get a number of different eyes on your work to help you advance your projects and get fresh ideas about your work.
Make sure to prepare beforehand, get your portfolio ready and share it online via a folder. Be ready to talk about your projects, the why behind them and the message you want to convey. Work on the questions you would like to ask your reviewer and what type of help you’ll need from them.
The review itself, be ready for the heavy stuff
I had booked 4 portfolio reviews and I was nervous each time. I think being online definitely helps to take the intensity of the process away. Still putting your work in front of an expert and asking for honest feedback is still nerve-wracking. And I will be honest. You know already what they’re going to tell you don’t you? These doubts you’ve been having about your project? Is it working, is the message coming across? They will tell you exactly what you don’t want to hear. That’s the heavy stuff over.
The review itself, the great stuff
Hold on in there don’t just give up because the best part is yet to come and it will be amazing. Now that you’ve been talked out of what’s not working or could be improved in your work they will come up with a whole new number of possibilities for your project, you didn’t even think about. i.e turning your project into a photography book, changing the context or creating more of a context. Extending the story, writing to accompany your photos.
They will also share the work of other photographers you didn’t even know existed that will inspire and you make you think differently. They invite you to be more creative and start playing. I walked out of my portfolio reviews inspired, inflated and excited about what’s next and where I will take my “Silent heroines”.
Want my honest opinion? Go for a portfolio review! Don’t just hang onto the harsh stuff as an excuse to give up because yes you might feel this way. Be excited instead about what you could create and move on from there.
A portfolio review is also a great opportunity to network and get acquainted with the VIPs in the industry. Don’t be shy and go for it! Once the reviews are over don’t forget to follow up and share your new work after their recommendations and make sure you say thank you.
Share your portfolio review experience in the comments and/or share why you would like or not have a portfolio review.