Things I Learned at a Portfolio Review

This past week was the San Diego Medium Festival. It’s an intimate (purposely so) gathering of photographers started by Scott B. Davis. I would have never known about it if my husband wasn’t involved in the printing world (kinda sorta, by extension). Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

jenn bischof underwater fashion photographer san diego

I lead with this photo…because somedays I miss the simplicity of photographing and breathing.

I. Freaking out and making yourself sick over the unknown is a terrible way to spend energy.

I was starting to become physically sick the last half hour before my first review. So out of character for me. I’m going to blame it on sheer mental exhaustion. In my personal life, I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kinda person (it leads to the greatest adventures). In my professional life, I guess I kinda have to be responsible.;)All I did for the 6 weeks (that’s about how long before the Festival I decided to attend…whatever the last day to purchase was;)) leading up to Medium was eat, sleep, dream, breathe, design, edit, research portfolio reviews.


II. Do not put to much weight on what any one curator/gallery owner/art buyer etc has to say about your art.

A some what obvious statement. I think the only exception would be if you were trying to court a certain someone. I attended Medium as a learning experience to broaden my horizons, but Bryan Yedinak from Moderbook Gallery played a key roll in why I attended this portfolio review. I figured if I had a chance of anyone appreciating my art form, it would be him.;)I met with ten reviewers and I’d say 7 of those reviews each thought one specific photo of my was my “strongest” followed by pointing out another reviewer’s favorite photo and proclaiming that the “weakest.” I personally found it fascinating to be able to see a visceral/authentic reaction to my art. One woman’s reaction to a photo of mine was “YIKES!” That was it, just yikes. Needless to say, I probably won’t be showing in her gallery anytime in this lifetime. Though I’d never completely right off any feedback I was given.:)


III. Being able to start a review with a comment on the reviewer’s latest exhibition/publication etc is worth much much more than an ego stroke.

I’ve personally never understood having a big ego. Isn’t it just a license to be selfish and rude? Not cool. Not cool at all. But that aside, I didn’t quite grasp the necessity of commenting on how much you loved this and that or the latest whatever the review did. I was there. I paid good money to be there. I chose you as a reviews, of course I researched the snot out of you to make sure that you would be a good fit. The real benefit (I think) is putting the review at ease and opening up to you. As soon as he/she starts talking about something they’re passionate about, their entire demeanor changes. It’s a great icebreaker and can definitely see why it is highly recommended.


IV.  Have a thick skin without being pig headed.

As someone that has a husband that often tells me I was a mule in my previous life (and it’s not because I have a great ass) and has an emotional connect to the art I create, this is much more easily said than done. I’m sure you’ve heard that profound quote by Thomas Carlyle: ” Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are.” First off, love that quote (I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t)…just had to say that. Secondly, I feel that it applies to art: show me the art you like, and I will know whether or not to take your critique to heart.;)


V. Treating reviews like human beings can get you far.

I was lucky enough to meet Jolene (she runs the G2 Gallery in in Los Angeles) the opening night of Medium. We latched onto each other quickly and conversation was easy. She’s vivacious and quite lovable. She looks about ten years younger than she is (something I am quite envious about) and definitely has an energy and spirit that will never age. I was slightly embarrassed for photographers after listening to the attacks (yes, attacks, guerrilla warfare style attacks) she goes through on a daily basis. How exhausting, to always be on the defense. So please, remember to be respectful and take interest in the person not their job occupation.


Those are just a few take aways I had from my experience. Feel free to ask any and all questions below and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.:)I was going to post a few links I found helpful when I was researching what to do, but now I can’t find them. May I suggest Google. He’s usually in the know.


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