Portfolio Reviews – Is this for you?

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Aphasia (Memory Pods) copyright 2016 Douglas Stockdale

Last week I triggered a bit of a discussion on FlakPhoto’s Facebook group with the announcement of the Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) 2019 Exposure an event that includes portfolio reviews, talks, seminars, workshops and now a book competition. The FlakPhoto discussion went quickly sideways and was really off-kilter; a shallow focus only on the cost of a portfolio review versus a balanced discussion about cost/benefit (the value proposition) of attending such an event.

So first, what is a portfolio review for photographers? It is meant to be a meaningful discussion between an artist/photographer and an industry professional, which could be a museum curator, magazine publisher, or gallery directory as examples. The artist/photographer has a body of work that they have assembled for evaluation that they would like to have feedback on (part of the preparation for this event is for the artist/photographer to predetermine what exact feedback they are seeking for the person they selected to spend 1:1 time with). At most portfolio events there is a very limited amount of time, usually about 20 minutes, for the evaluation/discussion.

I have spent time on both sides of a portfolio review table attending my first portfolio review as a participant in 2008 at the Palm Springs Photo Festival with a body of work from a project that I was working on in China. Re-reading my write-up from this event it appears that not much as changed as to the portfolio review process.  Now I am on the other side of the table providing reviews, as well as coaching artist and photographers to prepare them for these events. I will say it is very rewarding for me to hear that a portfolio I helped prepare for a review was able to get the photographer a gallery representation or included into a museum exhibition.

Why do these portfolio reviews occur? (and it’s usually not about making money for the sponsoring organization, as most break even) It is an opportunity for a local photographic organization, usually non-profit, to bring in a broad range of artistic professionals from across the country or in from other countries, as a service and opportunity for the local community to provide a wider exposure that they might not otherwise have. Otherwise it can be daunting and very expensive for a photographer to make a cross-county trip and vainly hope to gain access to the range of professionals who have now been brought together in one location for this type of event.

So why might you want to attend one of these portfolio events? The benefit to each photographer may vary depending where they are in their career, which could include:

One to one (1:1) feedback from multiple professional perspectives. Some of those you review with may understand your work and provide a meaningful critique and sometimes they may not. Which is why you need to spend time with more than one person during these events; the professionals are also human with their own experience and likes.  Part of the preparation you need to do is to figure out who might be the ones who understand your body of work and schedule time with them. Such if you are a street photographer you may not want to spend time with a gallery director who only exhibits conceptual contemporary photography and does not exhibit photo-documentary work.

New project, body of work or new direction. If you are experimenting with a new approach or a different style, it maybe very helpful to obtain some broader and different opinions than what might be offered by your friends. Seek out those who curate or show the kind of work you have in development; does it connect with them or perhaps has it been done too many times before? Does your originality shine through? (aka, the acid test).

Introduction to new artistic opportunities. When the professionals are brought in from out of the local area this may be an opportunity to you to extend yourself beyond your local network. This could include the potential for: new exhibition opportunities with curators, new gallery representation with gallery directors, potential publication of your project with editors and/or publishers and maybe have one of your prints acquired by a collector or museum.

Networking with fellow photographers and potentially with the professionals. Usually there is some down time between events and a great time to introduce yourself and extend your artistic network. During many portfolio events, including the LACP event this September, there are also Portfolio Walks. Tables are provided and photographers are provided space to layout their portfolio for an evening of show-n-tell, which is usually open to the pubic. Usually pretty intense and you never know who might drop by  for a discussion about your work.

I know that these portfolio events have been liken to speed dating; a series of short 1:1 discussions over the expanse of the day. From personal experience I know that these events are equally intense for the participants and the reviewers which creates a lot of high energy. I usually come away a bit overwhelmed, exhausted as well as being very excited about the work and photographers I spent time with.

It is up to the photographer attending a portfolio review to ensure that the necessary professionals they need to meet with in order to advance their specific career are present at the event they choose. Then carefully prepare for the event as you might any job interview. More about that in another post.

Attending a portfolio review is an investment. Both of your time and the cost to attend a review as the travel costs for the out-of-area professionals who have made themselves available need to be offset by the fees being charged. Likewise a nice venue for an event has a cost that needs to be offset as well. So expect to pay a fee to attend a portfolio review, but consider it an investment in yourself as you might make for a website or a new camera. Just purpsosefully choose which event you select to attend as to who do you need to meet with.

As to the benefits; how do you put a price (return on investment) if you are invited to be included in your first museum exhibition, a new gallery representation in a city across the county, an offer to have your first book published or be featured in a prominate magazine? These are things that can really propel the trajectory of an artist’s career. Attending may not be that dramatic of an outcome, perhaps it could be a bit more subtle; validation of an on-going project or maybe a slight redirection/tweak or adjustment that improves the visual impact of the narrative? Perhaps the results might occur years later as a result of a personal connection made with some else who attended?

Since there are a number of these events occurring across the country, choose carefully for the right match for you. Some of these portfolio review events might be oriented towards the working professional photographer to help obtain new assignments or clients (NYC events come to mind), while others might have a stronger contemporary artistic focus, such as Photolucida (Portland, OR), while LACP attempts to blend these two elements, perhaps leaning more into a fine art focus.

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Douglas Stockdale; blogger since 2008 and Editor & Publisher PhotoBook Journal, the contemporary photobook magazine and Associate Editor, SoCal PhotoExchange Journal.

Exhibition: 2019 Summer Group Show, Fabrik Projects Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, exhibition opening August 3rd, 6 – 9pm, 2019

Portfolio Reviewer & Juror, Photo Book Competition, LACP 2019 Exposures event, September 13 – 15th, Marina Del Mar, CA

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Early Bird discount now available – LACP Exposures – Portfolio Reviews & more

2017 LACP Portfolio Review photo

Douglas Stockdale, Portfolio Reviewer, Los Angeles Center of Photography (LACP) Exposures, 2017 copyright Julia Dean

The early bird discount is now available for September’s LACP’s 2019 Exposures event, primarily organized around three days of Portfolio Reviews in conjunction with Workshops, Seminars, Networking, Portfolio Walk and just recently announced, a photobook competition & exhibition. Nice!

Friday – Sunday, September 13-15, 2019 at Hotel MdR, a Doubletree by Hilton in Marina del Rey, CA

Portfolio Reviews are 20 minute face-to-face meetings with gallery owners, photo editors, museum curators, publishers and other photo professionals.

I am again honored to be among the team of Portfolio Reviewers this Fall, marking my fifth year of participation. Joining me as Portfolio Reviewers will be Elizabeth Avedon, Photography Book and Exhibition Designer, Nicholas Barlow, Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art and the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sherrie Berger, Photography Consultant, Susan Burnstine, Contributor, B+W Magazine (UK), Shana Nys Dambrot, Art Critic, Curator, and Author, Alexa Dilworth, Publishing Director and Senior Editor at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, Crista Dix, Founder and Director of Wallspace Creative, Santa Barbara CA, Shelby Graham, Director/Curator of the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Kris Graves, Photographer and Director of Kris Graves Projects, Brooklyn, Tish Greenwood, Executive Director, California Museum of Art, Thousand Oaks, CA, Caleb Cain Marcus, Roving Acquisitions Editor for Damiani and Director, Luminosity Lab, New York, Douglas McCulloh, Senior Curator of Exhibitions, California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA Pamela Schoenberg Owner/Director of dnj Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, Kristine Schomaker, Founder of Shoebox PR and Publisher of Art and Cake, Los Angeles, Jennifer Schlesinger, Owner/Director of Obscura Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, Dan Shepherd, Director, Gallery 1/1, San Jose, California, Aline Smithson, Founder and Editor of Lenscratch, Los Angeles, CA, Claudia Bohn Spector, Independent Curator, co-founder of Micronaut and Thistle + Weed Press, Los Angeles, CA, Ashly Stohl, Co-Founder, Peanut Press, Los Angeles, Kristin Taylor, Curator of Academic Programs and Collections at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Chicago, IL & Paula Tognarelli, Director, Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA.

You will need to check back into the LACP website as more details are in the process of being added about the Workshops (one I do know of is Elizabeth Avedon’s one-day book design workshop) and Seminars.

Yours truly, along with Gerhard Clausing, the Associate Editor of PhotoBook Journal, will be the two jurors for the Photobook Competition, which we are developing right now with more details to come.  Planned so far is that the juried books will be on display during the 2019 Exposures event and subsequently exhibited at the LACP gallery in Los Angeles for the month of September.

Just the facts; the photo above of me during a previous portfolio review is not my idea of an ideal portrait nor one of my favorites; mouth hanging open, caught mid-sentence while discussing a body of work. Nevertheless pretty realistic of a working session. sigh.

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Douglas Stockdale; blogger since 2008 as well as Editor & Publisher PhotoBook Journal, the contemporary photobook magazine and Associate Editor, SoCal PhotoExchange Journal.

Exhibition: 2019 Summer Group Show, Fabrik Projects Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, exhibition opening August 3rd, 6 – 9pm, 2019

Why (Photo) Blog?

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Chaos (Memory Pods), 2019 by Douglas Stockdale

This is my perspective after being a photo-blogger for over ten years with some of my blogs, like this one you are ready, are still on-going, while one is now a magazine and another is busy supporting a SoCal photo group. Oh, I have also started and killed four blogs, but more about those at another time.

As brief background; blogs as a form of social media started becoming the really hot thing to do in early/mid-2000’s, especially for photographers, which is the time I started this and a bunch of others blogs. About 2012 the interest in blogs began to wane as more and more folks started jumping onto the other newer social media options; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Blogs tended to have more written content and thus not lend itself to the quick read-and-swipe as the other mediums. Getting to the blogs you wanted to read required more time as most were not easily accessible as Facebook/Instagram. Blogs were mostly designed as individual publications; so in the 2012’s a bunch of folks abandoned, closed down their blogs or started up-scaling to become magazines. There were very few “like’s” or comments posted in blogs in comparison to Facebook & Instagram; blogs were not quick to read for a reader and then quickly move on to the next. It became apparent that who were hiring photographers or looking for gallery artist were working their Faceback/Instagram feeds and did not appear to be spending time to read blogs.

So why start a blog now (or restart a dormant blog)? Due to the algorithm and other administrative tweaks by the Facebook/Instagram management, etc, realize that you do not control your destiny, look or audience as you can with a blog. Many folks are now leaving Facebook/Instagram or are not really reading it (I rarely look at my entire feed for either one). It appears to me that the content found on a (photo) blog is becoming more relevant again. Not that there are things that are better situated on Facebook/Instagram and as you will note, I still use other social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter others to advertise what I write here and what we publish in our magazine. It should be more about the idea of a total self-promotion plan and where to you want to place your emphasis? You might want to reconsider a blog as a part of your overall plan.

Doing a quick check it appears that in general there are now more options to get started with a blog (free) and blogs in general are still growing; this blog you are reading is supported on WordPress, a pretty popular blog platform with a lot of options, and has about 175 million blogs (2015) being supported by just WordPress. That’s a big number. And a pretty large community to tap into.

One of the reason that a blog is great for me is what I write about today is searchable and found on the various search engines for years to come. A quick check of my analytics reminds me that the what I wrote about in 2009 is still being read today. That might be the bad news too; what you wrote about can come back to haunt you. In my case one of the reason’s I was blogging was to improve my writing skills. And my early typos and grammar mistakes are pretty bad (the upside for a blog; if you find a mistake, you can correct it on the fly, so now my past writing with edits is actually beginning to look pretty good!)

One downside for being a blogger; unlike a quick upload and caption on Facebook/Instagram blogs will require more of your time to develop, support and keep relevant. So keep that aspect in mind as you consider blogging. The upside; you can get into more depth and relevancy on a given subject with a blog.

I believe that blogs are an ideal personal medium to expand on an idea, concept, theme or campaign for (social) change. I use this blog to explore the concepts for my various artistic projects. Probably as much for myself as anyone else; I really do need to think about what I write as potentially the entire world will soon read.

For most of you blogs will not be a pathway to fame and glory, but it can become a very nice way to stay in touch with your followers and become part of an overall self-promotion process. A blog may continue to grow and eventually expand to become a full fledged on-line magazine, such as what happen with my photobook blog. You might develop a niche to write about that has very general appeal and others soon want to join in and become part of your program. To be honest, it was not my plan for the photobook blog to become a magazine, nevertheless it organically grew and then others started to help and one day it was apparent it was a more than just a photo-blog. A magazine was born.

You may well have an idea for an eventual magazine and a blog is an ideal way to test the waters and find out if you can attract and grow an audience. I can see that now in hindsight, but that’s because a lot of today’s photographic magazines started as individual blogs and about 2012 folks started to convert these from an individual run blog to a group of contributors that (re)launched themselves as a magazine. Similar to what self-publishing books is today versus the few options in 2005.

So perhaps what was once “old” (yeah in our current tech-world, ten years ago might be considered the stone-ages) is making a relevant comeback.

Hopefully apparent with my (expired film) photograph posted above from my Memory Pods project, as a photo-blogger I can create a win-win situation; share my experiences while showing art work from my photographic projects that might just get me the next book or exhibition. Hmmmmm, maybe fame and fortune is still attainable after all?

Cheers & don’t forget to leave a comment

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Douglas Stockdale; blogger since 2008, here as well as, Editor & Publisher PhotoBook Journal, the contemporary photobook magazine (formerly The PhotoBook blog) and associate editor, SoCal PhotoExchange Journal (formerly PhotoExchange blog)

Exhibition: 2019 Summer Group Show, Fabrik Projects Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, exhibition opening August 3rd, 6 – 9pm, 2019

Ode to Father’s Day

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Red, Catch of the Day, Yuma (Pine Lake), copyright Stockdale Family Archive

What can you say about Father’s Day that perhaps has not already been said; it’s one of the one days for the guys who are dad’s. We come in all shapes and sizes. Thank goodness!

This day for me is also bittersweet, as my father has been gone for too long, but that does not say that I have some good memories to cherish. I do. Something that photography does really well is performing a great job of triggering the memories.

I did not take this photograph above, as I was pretty young at the time; but if I remember the story, my dad is holding the catfish that was pulling me into the river when others came to my rescue. Yep, that catfish was bigger than me. Not sure if that was the reason I avoided fishing for awhile; probably had a bit of a scare with that fishing adventure.

So when I think of dad’s, I think of things we like to do and for many of us, that includes going fishing. I guess it brings out the adventurous hunter in us. Which is why my artist book Pine Lake can also be considered an Ode to Father’s Day. Pine Lake is a compilation of my family archive photographs, of which I did not take any of, but I did modify these images to make sure these looked consistently “old” for the book. It was created as though it was a roll of film taken during a guy’s fishing trip.

The back story for creating this artist book was finding photographs in the family albums I had inherited that included photographs of my grandfather and great grandfather fishing; something I did not have any recall hearing stories about as I grew up. Now I understand  a little better why my dad liked to fish; he used to go fishing with his dad! Cool. The bittersweet aspect of this is that this is not something we can sit back and talk about today; I only have these indistinct, sometimes blurry, black & white memories to study and speculate about. Thus I created my story of Pine Lake about what might have been about the Stockdale guys out fishing together and talking about the ones that got away.

The upside is I do have my kids (okay, & grandkids too) to spend time with. So don’t take for granted the time you have together; if you have a dad, give him a really big hug today.  And a crazy funny card (mine was outrageously funny!) and make sure the family dog (or cat) signs it too. Spend time talking about what he did as a kid. Don’t forget to take a snapshot of the occasion; something your kids and grandkids will really appreciate one day. Just saying…..

Cheers!

2019 Summer Group Show – Save the Date

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Changes, (Memory Pods) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

I am very excited to have two of my Memory Pods photographs, including Changes, above, included in the Fabrik Projects Gallery’s Summer Group Show. This is an exhibition of the Fabrik Projects Gallery’s represented artists.

The Opening reception is Saturday, August 3rd, from 6 – 9pm.

The exhibition runs thru Saturday, August 31st., 2019.

The Fabrik Projects Gallery is located at 2636 South La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, California, 90034, which is adjacent to Culver City.

So mark you calendar and I hope to see you there. Let me know if you have any questions about the exhibition or this body of work.

Cheers!

Instagram – What’s hot for photographers

Norman Strobe set-up for book photography

Studio, PhotoBook Journal, copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale

Yesterday, I was a bit of doom and gloom as Facebook started playing their algorithm games on their Instragram to make it their next cash cow. Similar to Facebook; soon you can have 40,000 or more followers on IG, but only 25 of these will see what you post in their feed.

I had stated that the pro photographers, or those who wanted to be getting paid like a pro photographer, had been doing okay using Instagram to get travel or life style jobs. And that was starting to change. Not for the better. But there still might be a contrianian upside to this Instagram situation; perhaps not entirely doom and gloom for pro photographers.

After my post a friend of mine who runs a SoCal rental photo studio sent me a message stating that there was one photographic segment which was doing really, really well using Instagram for photographic job referrals; Fashion photography. Seems that the various aspects of Fashion; beauty tips, make-up, hairstyle, clothing, accessories, shoes, jewelry, hang-bags, etc is still HOT on Instagram. Lots and lots of traffic that talks and shares the latest fashion trends.

The key to this photographic market is that those who want their Fashion stuff to be seen on social media need photographic help and are looking for lifestyle, portrait and product photography skills, both studio and location work.

(Okay, this is an opportunity to show my simple little pop-up studio set-up, photo above, which I use to photograph flat-art (books/products) for my magazine illustrations. No, I am not looking for any studio gigs. sorry.)

Now back to the story; thus the Fashion trend setters also track, follow and connect with the photographers who are behind the scenes making all of the Fashion work that gets onto Instagram and other social media. My initial guess is that this Fashion-Instagram trend might just be most relevant to photographers in the big-city; LA, Chicago, NYC here in America.  But in thinking about it, the world of Fashion is broad, huge and diverse; from country-western to inner-city. I am guessing that there are a few really big name Fashion photographers, but I suspect lots of opportunity for others photographers.

Regretfully, I am not a Fashion photographer, so I cannot in any way provide hints on how to maximize the Fashion-Instragram trend. My guess is that to get attention, you need to post and hashtag like crazy samples of your fashion work. But the buzzzz I hear is that the photographic work is out there for Fashion work, so if you are intrigued, do some more poking around as others are probably talking about this aspect of Fashion-Instagram and probably can provide more hints or think about taking a Fashion photography workshop to get your skills tuned up for this market.

Now back to my artistic projects as I just received an acceptance letter for a summer exhibition that I now need to prepare for. And of course I will provide more information about that here shortly. Stay tuned!

Cheers

 

Post Instagram world for Photographers?

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Fatigue, (Memory Pods), x by Douglas Stockdale

There is an interesting article by Josh Rose, an LA professional photographer, posted in Medium about the latest changes at Instagram as to how these effect professional photographers.

First, interesting to read how pros had adapted to the early stages of Instagram in terms of how to create jobs and income, and what were the kinds of pro-jobs that lent itself to Instagram (hint; travel photo & lifestyles #1), and what did not.

Second, a surprise that folks did not anticipate that after Facebook bought Instagram, that the Facebook/IG team would not modify Instagram to benefit themselves at the expense of the user as they do with the Facebook platform. Duh. Facebook/IG is only interested in making money for themselves and if you can as well, that’s a nice upside, but one they really don’t seem to care about.

So when a bunch of photo friends stated awhile back that they were leaving Facebook for the “much better experience” with Instagram, I just wondered for how long would that “much better experience” would last. Well it appears that it was not for long. So I was not surprise and just wondering just how long until Facebook made Instagram another Facebook type money making (for them) platform.

Interesting that one of Rose’s takeaways is that blogs, like this one, as well as creating a great website, is the place to spend your time developing if you are a pro photographer (I also replace that with “artistic photographer”). You control the content and can better determine the reader’s experience.

I was late to Instagram (two years ago? @douglasstockdale) and in anticipation of these pending changes, I have been using my personal Instagram to provide some visibility of my in- process projects to get a little reader feedback. Such that I am now posting my Memory Pods project. I am more apt to get “likes” or feedback on Instagram and in the short time that I have been on Instagram, I have more followers than the ten years photo-blogging here (my PhotoBook  Journal is a totally different experience with a huge following that dwarfs my personal Instagram following).

So for me I do not see any changes to how I use my personal Instagram or how we published our photobook articles on the PhotoBook Journal Instagram account (@thephotobookjournal). I do not anticipate any pro assignments from Instagram and perhaps I will gain some artistic visibility (did create the opportunity to be featured on VoyageLA: Life and Art with Douglas Stockdale)

So if you really don’t like the current Facebook, you will soon find yourself really dissatisfied with the changes in Instagram. So start a blog (or get back to the blog you had  eight or so years ago) or tune up your web site. You will get more bang for your buck.

Cheers