This is being written halfway through my journey to Photolucida, a photography portfolio review event that happens every 2 years in Portland, Oregon, aka City of Beards. I’m in my quaint Motel 6 room on a Saturday morning, with my free coffee and convenient store blueberry muffin by my side. It’s a small lull during days of presenting work to reviewer and fellow photographer alike, and looking at other people’s stuff, and having a table at the Portland Art Museum with over 400 attendees. In a couple hours I’ll be hopping on the bus with my portfolio and jetting downtown for 7 reviews, which is quite a high number even if you consider they are only 20 minutes long.
Because I have another photography event immediately after Photolucida, I had to start the trip with a 4 hour drive from Phoenix to Palm Springs- time to work on the “elevator pitch,” I thought. That didn’t happen. On the flight from Palm Springs to Portland I thought, “I better work on that elevator pitch.” A few scribbles later and I felt like making music for a video project. I landed, made my way to my hotel and then the opening meet-and-greet of Photolucida, still pitchless. Maybe it would come to me in a lucid dream.
The first full day of the event had 4 reviewers scheduled with roving reviewers on deck. The photographer attendees would be comparing notes, who’s good to talk to, who’s a meanie, swapping or waiting on deck to get to those reviewers who are the tastemakers of the photographic art community; gallery owners, book publishers, critics and gadflys. The process was suprisingly smooth compared to my single previous portfolio event in 2008. We’d used a website to order our reviewer choices, recieved a schedule that closely matched that, and waited in a hallway for our turn at 20 minutes of their time.
Even before reviews began, all us photographers began eyeballing each other’s portfolios and it was immediately obvious that it was complete, singular bodies of work people were presenting. Their portfolio boxes were immaculate, hand crafted and full of 40-50 images. There were exotic scenarios, focuses on Indonesia and Viking artifacts and Bosch paintings. Highly personal work about aging and unusual neighbors. Of the few people I saw who used models, they were shooting with friends, neighbors who would work for free or trade for photos and those pictures were stunning as well as personal.
One reviewer whom I greatly respect bluntly told me “the art world doesn’t like models, they like real people. Models are considered for commercial work.” I’m still turning that around in my head as to whether it’ll change me or not.
As for me, I brought my “Sketches” series of xerox transfers as a unified body of work and an amalgamation of my “Pop”, “Scream Queens”, “Secretly”, “Instax” and “Scrutiny” series that was similar to what I’d been presenting in my last few exhibitions and I felt worked together well despite coming from separate series. In contrast to the other photographers, I felt like I had a small sampling of work that didn’t have depth, leaned hard on a cheesecake factor shot with impersonal professional freelancers who I’d often compensated well for my smutty, silly projects.
What did the reviewers think? Find out in part 2…
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