As we start the new year I wanted to review some of my favorite framing projects from last year. If you see any framing techniques or styles that you would like to replicate with one of your own pieces, stop on down for a one-on-one framing consultation!
Portfolio reviews have become one of the best ways to get your work seen. It is not only an opportunity to connect with curators, educators, and industry professionals, it also gives you feedback on your photographs. They range from small, intimate reviews to large scale and fast paced. They do cost money (some more than others) so starting out you should ask yourself what your budget is. It might be a good idea to find a local review to start with and work your way up to the big dogs. We have had the pleasure to work with artists preparing for portfolio reviews and wanted to share some thoughts & advice for other photographers interested in attending reviews.
1. Put your best foot forward! Presentation really counts at these reviews. You should have a consistent portfolio with an artist statement. You want exhibition quality prints with the understanding that the prints WILL BE HANDLED. While we would love our precious prints that we have worked so hard on (and spent money on!) to remain in perfect condition, odds are they will be handled quite a bit.
2. A few thoughts on portfolio sizes- because you are limited to the space of a normal fold out table the prints shouldn't be bigger than 20x24. If your exhibition size is larger than that maybe bring one example rolled in a tube and ask the reviewer if they would like to see the exhibition size. The number of recommended printsranges from 15-25. You want to edit your portfolio to have enough images to give the reviewer a good representation of the project but not too many that it is overwhelming or repetitive.
3. Know what you want to get out of the review - are you working on a new project and looking for feedback? are you specifically looking for an exhibition? are you wanting to get the work published? Having a list of questions to ask each reviewer is helpful and makes you get the most out of your time with them.
4. Networking is HUGE at these events and knowing when to properly network is an art form in itself. The reviewers are usually wearing name tags and while it is tempting to try and talk to them about your work outside of your scheduled reviews keep in mind they are people too and need breaks! If you run into them in the coffee shop or in the lounge a hello and quick introduction is okay but DO NOT bring your portfolio out to start showing them while they are trying to eat their scone and heighten their caffeine intake. Ultimately it is all about respect and reading the situation. Perhaps they want to see your work but they will let you know when and where. Also take the time to network with your fellow photographers that are there. You never know when you can make a new photo buddy or learn a new photo process or bump into someone you went to school with!
5. Leave behinds - keep consistent with your work and BE MEMORABLE. The reviewers leave the events with bags full of photographer's leave behinds so how do you make yours stand out? Going further than just leaving a business card is huge. Perhaps the leave behind is a specific shape, color, or texture that correlates with your work. You should keep your branding consistent right down to the font and color you use for your name. Make it EASY for the reviewer to get in touch with you, the last thing they want to do is have to search your information for your email address and website.
6. Lastly, the THANK YOU notes. It is very important to follow up your reviews with a thank you note to each reviewer. Whether it is an email or snail mail, you want to thank the reviewer for their time and feedback. Perhaps add a specific detail you found helpful from your review with them or maybe there was another question you forgot to ask and you could include that here too. Generosity and respect goes a long way!
Here are a few portfolio reviews to have on your radar:
Paul and Liz have been busy printing Stephen Sheffield's beautiful photography. We have 26 negatives and making over 50 silver gelatin fiber prints in total for this artist! We always enjoy working with Stephen and love the range of tones in his black & white negatives. Film is most certainly not dead!
"Descent (ladder series #35)"
Stephen Sheffield, a native of the Boston area, is an alumnus of Cornell University, where he obtained a BFA in painting and photography. He received his MFA in photography from the California College of the Arts, in Oakland/San Francisco. He specializes in photography, mixed media and photo-montage and has exhibited nationally for over 20 years. Stephen creates large-scale commissions for private collectors, institutions, restaurants and hotels, as well as images and photographic illustrations for magazines and advertising agencies across the US. In addition to being a full-time artist, Stephen runs the black and white photography major at the New England School of Photography in Boston and is adjunct faculty at the New Hampshire Institute of Art MFA Program. Stephen Sheffield is represented by Panopticon Gallery in Boston, MA.
- Your work has a sense of storytelling and a slight twinge of humor to it. Walk us through your process – do you sketch out the scene ahead of time or is more a spur of the moment?
SS: Ideas pop into my head almost at random. I then make sketches and do research as far as location and angle, props and “feeling”. Once things are set up and planned I get to work. Of course that is when things go wrong and I have to wing it. There have been very few shots I have taken that have ended up looking exactly as I imagined them. I think much of the humor comes from the “winging it” aspect of the actual shoot.
- How has social media played a role in your photography?
SS: I use social media less for personal and more as a way to lead people to my work and to keep my work on their minds. It is also in a small way becoming a reminder to continue to make new work. You cannot show the same work forever.
- You recently moved from Kenmore Sq area to the suburbs of the south shore. Has this changed or impacted your art making?
SS: The move has made a major impact on my work flow mainly, not the work itself. Good and a little more difficult. Good for space and my kids and my wife. It was tough moving my studio out of the Fort Point Channel after 20 plus years, but now the studio has been replaced by a carriage house and a darkroom in the basement. No more rent payments and no more commuting, but it is tough to find a good cocktail and quick access to galleries and museums. Making the work itself has the potential to be easier as I move forward. Time will tell.
- What artists influence you and how do they influence your thinking, creating and career path? Because you are a mixed media artist do you look at more painters & sculptors than photographers?
SS: I am still mainly influenced by the masters. Minor White, Edward Weston, Imogene Cunningham, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Duane Michaels, I could keep going. As far as career path? There is no path anymore. These days it is every artist for themselves and ever-changing. I’m old and I need to stay quick on my feet. For my mixed media I am also still influenced by the masters, mainly non-photographic, but the Starn Twins and Gilbert and George are big ones. The biggest go-to influence who has never let me down has got to be Robert Rauchenberg.
- What are some tips/advice you would give to someone just starting out in photography?
SS: It is super tough out there these days, and and like I said before, there is no clear path for success. My advice is to try to be good at all of it! The technical, the creative, the marketing, the social, the hustle. Go to everything, (openings, museums, lectures) meet everyone and talk to anyone. Always be making art, but don’t show everyone everything. Edit! Edit what you show and edit what you say. Also, never forget to be a good and generous person. That last bit will get you through more doors than interesting or clever art.