As mentioned in an earlier blog post, in advance of submitting my Assignment 1 I had the opportunity of a couple of online portfolio reviews that certain photographic organisations were offering during the pandemic lockdown. The first of these was with the Revolv Collective, specifically one of their photographers, Alexander Mourant.

Summary feedback

Alexander gave me a range of comments on the overall work, the text, the sequencing and the concept. He didn’t go into detail on specific photos, with one exception which I’ll mention below. He also gave me some suggested reading and artists to check out.

Main comments bulleted below with my own responses where applicable:

  • He slightly disarmed me by starting with “I wanted to not like it…” (!)
    • I’ll come back to this
  • But quickly added that as he moved through the photos he was “charmed by them”
  • The relationship of the images to the text works well, and this is tricky
    • He mentioned Sophie Calle’s work as something that my project made him think of
    • Good – getting the images to work with the text was one of the hardest parts of this whole project
  • He actually said in some pairings of image and text he enjoyed the text more
    • I wasn’t sure if this was a compliment or not! But he said he thought I wrote well from the short fragments included here
  • There is a coherent visual nature to the images, you can tell they came from an individual way of seeing the world
  • Sequence: he felt the “rhythm” of the images worked well, and did not suggest moving any images around
  • I asked if any images felt out of place or jarred in any way and his only comment was that the last image felt different, but thought that this might be deliberate, to provide an ‘ending’
    • This is exactly my intention
  • Concept: he ‘got’ the idea I was aiming to express really well – understood about notions of memory trigger slippage etc
  • Introductory text: too long, didn’t do full justice to what followed – second half worked better than first so consider editing whole intro down to be formed mostly of the sentences in the second half
    • I have now done this for the version submitted for Assignment 1
  • The device of the ‘walk’ – I should investigate this more as a way of framing the series – look at some of the critical theory around walking and art
    • walk as passage / walk as sculpture / walk as way of adding a duration dimension to work
    • He suggested looking at Richard Long and Hamish Fulton on this
    • Also to look at W G Sebald regarding imagery, text and the ambiguity of the liminal space in between
  • He suggested a couple of relevant John Berger research points:
    • The book of essays And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos (2005)
    • The Art of Looking (2016) documentary that includes Berger’s thoughts on the connections between sight and memory (cataract removal as a form of remembering)
  • Alexander said that his overall sense of the work was that it was poignant
    • This is one of the reactions I was particularly looking for
  • Presentation advice:
    • Alexander said he saw this work looking at its best framed in simple black wood frames wring a decent-sized mat border
    • This was, he felt, the best way to emphasise the combined image-and-text nature of the whole artwork, and miminise the risk of the text being interpreted as a title or caption
  • I ended by asking him about his opening statement that he “hadn’t wanted to like it”
    • I was curious about why his initial reaction (or assumption) was negative
    • His response was that from skimming the images he thought he knew what it was about, he read the text and it confirmed what he thought it was about, but that he thought it was too difficult to pull off successfully – he thought I might have over-reached
    • But he said that as he worked through the images he was won over and by the end of the series he felt that it really works
    • So his final verdict – after thinking it wouldn’t really work, it did – I’m taking as a positive!

Reflecting on the experience

This being my first online portfolio review – and never having had to discuss this body of work with a stranger before – I wasn’t sure what to expect and was a little nervous. However, it was pretty relaxed and actually kind of enjoyable. It had been scheduled for 30 minutes but we overran, which is a positive sign, I think.

Separate to the feedback on the work, I found this useful in a more general sense, in terms of experience of interacting with industry professionals. It was surprisingly easy to talk about the work to a stranger. I had wondered if I had become so close to the work that I could no longer stand back and simply articulate what I wanted to express, without confusing the whole idea further. But talking about the work felt quite natural.

My next portfolio review is in a couple of days, so I will compare that one to this.