I’ve finally done it. It’s been 33 years since my first exhibition, 30 years since I graduated college, 28 years since I opened my studio and 2 months since being rejected by MOPLA, I’m finally going to have my very first portfolio review. Woo-hoo! Fifty bucks per twenty minutes time with an ‘industry professional’ to get their learned opinions.
I don’t really know if I want this, but I suppose I need it. My work has never been ‘judged’ by those whose opinions actually count. Although I have an extensive sales history and a long exhibition history, positive critical reviews in the press, and I have been in this business my entire life so my ‘market review’ is positive, but, like Thomas Kinkade, I too seek approval from my ‘peers’ in the arts. So here I go…..
I genuinely hope the four reviewers I will meet with respond enthusiastically and positively about my work and I also hope I can make some important connections. These are my hopes; my expectations are much lower --- I actually have no expectations.
Back in the 1980’s the FotoFest photography festival was getting going in Houston, Texas. Since I lived in Houston at the time it would have been very convenient for me to pay for a review at FotoFest. But I never did. Back then, most of the ‘reviewers’ were photographers, and I didn’t (and still don’t) give a damn about what other photographers think of my work. Most photographers are jealous creatures and even if your portfolio is great, they’re not going to tell you so because of professional jealousy. Besides, if some photographer likes your work that’s nice but I’m looking for a reviewer who can do something if they like my work ---like give me a show in their gallery. So I never bothered with a FotoFest review when I lived in Houston.
Years passed and I didn’t think about portfolio reviews.
More recently I got to thinking that ‘important eyes’ have never really seen my work; although my photo and digital artwork is disseminated, published, exhibited and collected, to those big-time gallerists and curators, I’m unknown. So, since I now live in Arizona, I contacted the curator at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson and asked her to review my work. Surprisingly, she actually replied to my email and, unsurprisingly, she informed me that she doesn’t review photographer’s work. Now, how the heck a ‘curator of photographs’ at a large, well-known ‘center for photography’ can even find new works without looking is something I do not understand. Anyway (since I’d written such a syrupy, kiss-ass email) she told me to contact the curator of photographs at the Phoenix Museum and that she’d even contacted her about me. OK, that’s nice. She won’t do it but she knows someone who will review my works and she even semi- set it up for me.
But, after a half-dozen emails to the curator photographs at the Phoenix Museum went unanswered I was left to conclude that I’d again been blown-off. No reply, no review.
I did get an email notification about the portfolio reviews offered by the Palm Springs Photo Festival this year but the sign-up procedure was so arcane I couldn’t even figure out how to register so I blew that off.
Then MOPLA (The Month Of Photography Los Angeles) came along in April with their portfolio reviews and I signed up. But they rejected my work as not good enough to even be reviewed!
So now I’m going to San Diego in September and, after three decades, I’ll finally have a conversation about my work with someone. And there will be four of those ‘someone’s,’ including:
o The curator at the Center for Creative Photography who doesn’t review photographer’s works.
o And another museum curator I sent a press kit to after being rejected from MOPLA. She never responded to my letter & press kit….. but I think she will now!
o Another curator, and the fourth person is a gallerist.
I’ve already got my materials together because I’d done the work expecting to go to the MOPLA reviews back in April. Unfortunately I did my homework but never got to ‘take the test’ because they pre-rejected me. So now I’ve been reading up on procedures and expectations and I am getting things in order.
I plan on showing my work and will shut up and listen. Again, I genuinely hope the four reviewers I will meet respond enthusiastically and positively to my work but that’s not my expectation. I expect they won’t like my artwork. But, if they can at least clearly articulate why my work is inferior, that’ll be good information.
I am happy to at last ‘have the conversation.’ Even if it’s only for twenty minutes per person and I have to pay them.
I’ll report back, hopefully with positive notes, in September.
June 27, 2012