Category "Portfolio"

Impressions from FotoFest

- - Art, Portfolio

by Jonathan Blaustein

My feature articles run long. Have you noticed? If it’s not a book review, you can count on me to get verbose and intricate. Conversely, I also love to rebel. So let this be the first brief feature piece, a quick recap of my time at FotoFest (Session 3) this past March.

I suppose I could start with my objectives: to meet with and show work to international curators, and also to get to know some of the curators and collectors in the Houston scene. Unlike my previous visits to Review Santa Fe, this time I was not out to make friends. Just to take care of business. (And I assumed I’d get to hang out with a few interesting photographers as well.)

The trip was a breeze, less than 2 hours on a plane from ABQ direct to Houston Hobby, the Southwest Airlines hub. It’s far closer to downtown than George Bush/IAH, and very efficient, so I’d recommend you use it if you can. It’s an easy-but-not-cheap cab trip to the Downtown Doubletree, where the FotoFest is held. I was told by some colleagues that it’s best to stay there, if possible, and I’d concur.

Upon arrival, I spotted Kurt Tong and Dana Popa in the lobby, both in from London, departing from Session 2. After a quick hello to them, I looked down, and my suitcase…was…gone. Rather than freaking out, like I might have in the past, I sprinted outside and rummaged through the back of the first cab I saw. There is was. So let that be a FotoFest lesson for you: keep your eyes on your business.

How can I condense four solid days of 24 meetings, both official and otherwise? It was exactly what I was hoping for, and perfectly run. Efficient, friendly people in charge, with co-chairs Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss offering warm greetings at the first evening’s cocktail party. These people have it down. Clocks are set to FotoFest time, so you always know when your next review will run. Extra reviews are called out, and despite the first-come-first serve notion, I never saw it be anything but smooth.

The reviewers hailed from all over the world, and so did the photographers. (As an example, I met with reviewers from England, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Korea & Argentina.) I was impressed to walk by tables of people and not hear English. FotoFest is also not juried, so the quality of the work ranged pretty heavily. I saw some things that were amateur, to be blunt, but so what? Those people were there for their own reasons, and seemed to be having fun.

Houston is a cool place, too. That’s one thing that caught me off guard. Here in New Mexico, we often have a bad opinion of Texans, though we tend to see more folks from around the Dallas area anyway. But Houston people were down-to-Earth, and the place had a distinctly Southern Vibe. Not a lot of TX accents either, which seemed strange.

Downtown, where FotoFest is located, is a big, wealthy grid. Buildings are like mini-cities, with built-in food courts, malls, and air conditioned skyways between them. I totally want to go back and see how many city-blocks I could cover by abusing those things. (Sorry, off-topic.)

I said I’d be brief, right? I was able to meet some wonderful people from the Houston museum, non-profit gallery, and collector scene. Kind, interesting professionals who work with one another to keep their community lively. Judging from the water features running along the gleaming Light rail tracks, and the ridiculous number of super-extra-double-shiny-skyscrapers, it’s not hard to figure out that there’s a lot of “funding” in this town.

From what I saw, Houston supports the arts, and the arts are happy in Houston. I was able to visit the Menil collection, which is free, and brilliant, but not the MFAH or the Houston Center for Photography. Both are thriving institutions, and it seems like there’s a long list of other museums in town too. (According to the plaque in the airport, at least.) I went on a brief gallery bus-tour via FotoFest, but didn’t see enough to get a sense that the galleries are equally hopping.

I’m not going to name drop my reviewers this time, but I will say that the people I met were professional, smart, honest and curious. (No attitude.) Very few of them had seen the portfolio I had with me, despite the fact that it has been around for a few years. My new work, debuting this week, wasn’t quite ready, so I didn’t bring it. I purposely wiped it off the Ipad, so I wouldn’t cave to pressure and show un-finished work. Plus, the impending project seemed to offer me a great reason/chance to follow up.

I think I got a lot of value out of the FotoFest experience, even though it does cost a fair amount. Lots and lots of conversations with people from other places. New connections, new opportunities, and untaxed beer. Highlights included an evening stroll through the streets with a few friends, and mugs of cold cheap Modelo Especial at an outdoor restaurant on a balmy night. And, of course, the Monday evening party, hosted by HCP at Cadillac Bar, a Texas Honkey-tonk, replete with a dancing Mexican Elvis not-quite-impersonator-house band.

Who do I think would benefit from going to the biennial event? To start, anyone who can afford it as a cost-of-doing-business. I don’t mean to harp on the expense, but we do have a broad audience here at APE. I don’t think FotoFest is realistic for most student photographers.

Beyond that, photographers who have a solid project and want to get it front of a bevy of global decision-makers, all in a brief period of time. Or perhaps others who don’t have a strong community, and want to get insightful feedback on some less- developed-work. I wouldn’t do that myself, I don’t think, but could see that being worthwhile for some. Given the well-oiled grind of a four-day-event, I’d definitely suggest that people be on top of their game

Get Your Portfolio On

- - Portfolio

The proliferation and acceptance of iPads as photographer portfolios is a great thing. Not only is it inexpensive compared to printed books, you can include motion and depth on subjects that your client may be interested in. That being said, the printed book is still a source of familiarity for those in the hiring position and a great way to start a meeting off on the right foot. I was on a panel recently where photo editors said “if you can’t make nice prints don’t bother with a printed book” and I have to agree that while the selection and sequencing of images are super important the quality of the prints can make or break the whole presentation.

Photographer Zack Arias describes the process of updating and printing a new portfolio and it’s a good read for anyone who hasn’t done one yet:

A printed book is a thing to take pride in. There’s something tangible about it that holding an iPad doesn’t compare to. Note that I’m a big believer in electronic forms of showing your work. I walk into every meeting with a print book AND an iPad. The book is the best representation I have of the work I do. The iPad holds expanded galleries of work that support the book and hold other galleries of work that don’t find their way into the main book. Things like personal projects, travel photography, video, etc. Eventually I want to have a series of print books that show a range of the work I do.

Read the rest here.

Portfolio Bootcamp

- - Events, Portfolio

September 23 – 24 Santa Fe’s, CENTER has a retreat-style workshop called portfolio bootcamp that I will be participating in. This is a weekend intensive workshop aimed at photographers of all levels who want to get their portfolios in great shape. If this interests you go here for more information on the event including a list of presenters: http://www.visitcenter.org/bootcamp

I’m personally excited to hear Robin Fisher-Roffer, of Big Fish Marketing who’s giving a talk on how to stand out and get noticed. She’s a nationally recognized branding expert so I’m sure she will have some great ideas for this. Besides that there will be lots of intensive portfolio discussions and 1 on 1 time to work on books. Even though everyone is hiring off websites anymore, a well crafted book can be an excuse to meet in person and is still a real deal closer.

Real Secrets Behind Building A Strong And Successful Portfolio

- - Portfolio

Over on Monaco Reps new Look Here blog there’s an interview with Claudia Monaco on the real secrets behind strong portfolios. I’ve pulled my favorite bits to whet your appetite, but you’ve got to read the whole thing (here).

  • I prefer to have at least 200 images to work with when I’m putting together a portfolio.
  • when a client takes a look at it, from page one to whatever, it is clearly one vision, one eye, one style, one artist. In order for many artists to get there, they need to experiment a bit by doing many things before they wind up with a cohesive vision. Here at this agency, I don’t consider repping someone unless they are already at a certain point of that arc of development.
  • a portfolio – which I would like to say right now is NOT a coffee table book, it is not a personal expression. It is a tool for getting assignments. Period.
  • The reason it’s a really strong portfolio is because its foundation is stories.
  • The layout of the portfolio takes much longer than the edit of the images. Depending on the photographer it can take weeks.
  • The use of white in a portfolio should be consciously made, and done sparingly.
  • There has been a shift over the years towards concentrated portfolios; twenty years ago, that was not necessarily the case. Things have become more and more limited in terms of what people want to see in a portfolio.
  • As impressive as technology is, nothing beats the tactile quality of a portfolio, the turning of the pages and the paper, is often a wonderful experience, like opening an envelope with expectations.
  • You have to be able to do things as quickly as possible. So we reintroduced acetate pages back into our portfolios. I have to say I feel much better about our books now. The turn around time for new work can be one day.
  • Our Video in Print pages are actual pages with a video screen embedded into the page:

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Photographers And Their Effing iPad Portfolios

- - Portfolio, Working

I’ve heard more than one Art Buyer and Photo Editor comment that if they see another iPad portfolio they’re going to scream. Of course, for photographers the allure of a $500 portfolio is too much to resist, so it’s good to keep tabs on this as it surely evolves. I firmly believe the iPad makes a great supplement to the traditional portfolio and as more photographers add motion, it becomes essential for showing that work. And as a way to show depth or recent material that can impact a hiring decision what a money saver this will be. I don’t think we will find many photographers that don’t have one handy on set, at lunch, at an event and even walking down the street; loaded with all kinds of portfolios of their latest work.

The Photoshelter Blog has a post where 3 photographer talk about how they’ve incorporated the iPad into their portfolio presentation. I liked Darren Carroll’s solution of incorporating it into custom made Brewer-Cantelmo books containing high impact prints. The other two photographers, Steve Boyle and Shawn Corrigan have cool iPad only portfolios that are worth checking out as well.

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PhotoExpo 2010 – Portfolio Reviews

- - Events, Portfolio

As a follow up to my post entitled Pay For Meetings?, where I looked at the NYC FotoWorks portfolio reviews taking place at the same time as the trade show, I asked a few photographers who attended to give us their feedback:

Terence Patrick:

Thanks for the post a few weeks ago on the NYCFotoWorks portfolio review. I would not have heard about it otherwise. I’m really glad I went and even though I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted, the feedback from those I did see was tremendous. An assignment offer was given on the spot and lots of great contacts were made. For an event of its size, it was very well run. Totally worth every dime I spent!

Kevin Steele:

I didn’t pull the trigger to do the reviews until 2 weeks before, when I realized that a possible assignment was not going to happen the same week. I was still able to get a deal on airfare from the west coast and I have a cousin and a place to stay in the city. I felt the timing was right to get feedback as well as get my work out there after recent awards and a year in which my book has changed almost completely as I focused on where I want to be next. I compared both the juried NYCFotoworks and the PDN/Palm Springs reviews at PhotoPlus Expo and decided to do a set of of 14 editors/5 ABs on Thurs/Friday at Sandbox studios with NYCFotoworks and then the Saturday with 5 more at the event at Photo Plus Expo. $990 + $250.

I made my selections and have to say I was pretty happy with who I was able to see at both events. I prefer how NYCFotoworks handled the registration and selection process although I wish I knew the final schedule sooner. There were some cancellations and rescheduling and I was able to secure an agency AB when a magazine PE could not make it which was better for me. But one reschedule caught me as I did not make note of the change and was out on a break, missing my time slot. During the events I also met with a rep and an agency AB who wanted to see my book in the hallway outside of the schedule. And an artist adviser was on site at Sandbox for free 20 minute consults (smart for her as a great way to market herself). I did not go in expecting to find work – having launched a direction this year I wanted expert advice and critical feedback on my work, my edit, my style, my strengths and weaknesses. I was really surprised that some of the most helpful sessions came unexpectedly, from those reviewers who were near the bottom of my preference list. And that some of those on the top of my list did not provide a critical level I expected. But all in all it was well worth it – it did result in a magazine request for an image to run and one AB said I made her day after she saw an image and realized I was the one she could pitch for a client meeting the next week for a 2011 project.

Fifteen or less minutes (as changeovers were every fifteen minutes) at Sandbox was too short. On Friday evening I had 5 sessions that were back-to-back. What I appreciated were the reviewers who would ask why I was there and what I wanted and then would flip through the book very quickly, close it, open it again and go more slowly, sometimes making a third pass even slower. The sessions at Photo Plus Expo (on Saturday) were 20 minutes and seemed to be less hurried – both in that the extra 25% helps as well so a little overage was OK and everyone was cleared from the room before the next review session. That is in contrast to NYC Fotoworks where I was more than once in the awkward position of standing at my next reviewer’s table while the photographer from the last session was still wrapping up.

This is the first time I have done these “speed dating” sessions. I will usually block a week to visit a city and get appointments (LA, SF, NY). The last time I was in NY I had ten agency AB and editorial PE meetings in five days – and that took a good part of two weeks of preparation: calls, emails and more emails, and a lot of dead time “on call” and leaving voicemails during the visit week.

As a result of all of this I have had face time with an incredible number of editors, reps and agencies that have seen my work now and I can follow up with a level of familiarity that would not have been there otherwise. Some images are now axed from the book, the sequence edited and my direction affirmed while a future personal project has been inspired from one of the reviewer’s prompts.

Brian Stevenson:

I had some apprehension about the review events value to me before I went. It’s not inexpensive and since I don’t live in NY it was a big commitment for me to make the trip. But, I felt like if I made the decision to go, I should do everything I could to make the most of it. I ended up purchasing a pretty significant package of reviews and I balanced my reviewer requests fairly evenly between editors, art buyers, and agents.

The list of attending reviewers was pretty impressive. I signed up early and I ended up being scheduled with most of the people I really wanted to see. When the two day event began, there were also opportunities for me and all other photographers to meet with both photography consultant Colleen Vreeland and a representative from Corbis without incurring any additional costs. I signed up for both additional sessions.

I did my homework before the event. I read everything I could find about the people I was meeting with. I made lists of the art buyers’ most relevant clients. I checked everyone’s resumes on LinkedIn to find out where they’d been before they arrived at the jobs they hold now. I looked at recent copies of the editors’ respective publications. And I looked at the work of all of the photographers who are represented by the agents. I think I was as prepared as I could have been and I think it made me more confident going into the reviews.

Each scheduled meeting was 15 minutes long and the organizers of the event did a pretty good job of making sure the transitions occurred on time. Things got a little backed up throughout the first day (mostly because a couple of the reviewers arrived late) but it didn’t result in anyone being denied meetings. There were one or two reviewers who neglected to show up at all but in those instances, I believe the organizers did everything they could to reschedule photographers with other reviewers. All in all I’d say the event was well run.

I hadn’t attended a review event like this before and I was concerned that reviewers might be so overwhelmed with the number of people they were seeing that they might become disengaged after a few reviews. But, my schedule on both days was pretty spread out and the people I met with seemed genuinely invested in the process throughout the day. I received a lot of positive feedback about my work as well as some valuable suggestions regarding the editing of my portfolio. The agent meetings were helpful to me, not because I expected anyone to sign me to their roster, but because I was able to discuss some specific questions I had about tightening up bids and writing treatments for commercial jobs. I think the 15 minute review times were appropriate since they’re about on par with what I think most photographers can expect in meetings they set up on their own outside of events like these.

I met with a lot of people in the two day period. I doubt I could have arranged to see half the number of people on my own and if I had it would have taken days or weeks of repeated phone calls and emails to make happen. I also would have had to spend more time in New York (I love NY but, of course, it costs a fortune to be there) and I’d have had to do a lot of running around to see everyone. My time is worth more to me than the money I would have saved by trying to set up so many meetings on my own and, again, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to arrange meetings at all with some of the people I saw at the event. I made some great contacts and I enjoyed the process.

Update: Jasmine DeFoore gives us portfolio review do’s and dont’s from the PDN/Palm Springs Review (here).

Chris McPherson stopped by to show his portfolio

- - Portfolio

Someone mentioned to me the other day that Chris McPherson was red hot at the moment, so I thought I’d do what I normally would have done when working at a magazine and called Deborah Schwartz to get his book in for a look. Only this time I shot all the pages and posted them here so you could have a look too.

Editorial book:

See a full frame slideshow (here).

I have to say that is one, well put together book. Excellent pacing, juxtapositions and the whole thing hangs together nicely reenforcing his style and vision.

Advertising tear book:

See a full frame slideshow (here).

Portfolio Review

- - Portfolio

Photographer Don Flood came in to show me his portfolio which was a bit of a surprise because we’re a men’s magazine and Don mostly shoots women. I usually try and avoid these live portfolio showings unless it’s someone I know I’m interested in because they can be a bit awkward when you’re not sure if you can ever give the guy any work or even worse when the work sucks. Anyway, Don’s portfolio viewing was easily one of the best I’ve ever had because he’s super nice, talented and quickly ended the meeting and left. The ending can be the worst part because that’s where there’s sometimes a little extra selling on the photographer’s part but usually all I’m thinking about is all the shit I’ve got to do at the moment and furthest from my mind is future assignments. Don quickly wrapped it up and got the hell out because he probably knows like I do that it’s all about the photography and if that doesn’t pass the test everything else doesn’t matter. I hope I can find an assignment for him.

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