I had a good tutorial with Garry last week. He sent on useful and detailed notes in advance of our video tutorial, and as usual some pointers and attachments as recommended reading.

Garry’s advice and recommendations fell into two categories:

  • How to improve the PDF specifically for this review stage
  • A wider set of suggestions on subsequently getting the work seen i.e. as part of a promotional/networking campaign once the work is in more of a ‘settled’ state having incorporated review feedback.

The PDF for portfolio reviews / feedback

Assignment 1 is in two parts, with the tutor’s advice in between:

  1. Prepare the PDF intended to share with an industry professional for review
  2. Send the PDF, having taken on board appropriate tutor comments

Linking together the current and future advice from Garry mentioned above, his suggested changes to the PDF would allow it to morph from a review document into a promotional document. I hadn’t really considered this before, so this way of looking at it was something I found very interesting. He encouraged me to think about the material as a ‘marketing package’ rather than a college assignment. With this in mind, my current plan is to refine the PDF a little now before sending to any reviewers, then to use it as the baseline for a future promotional document.

His key advice on this was:

Maybe the final form (before you send this out to potential feedback/review) is an editorial type magazine or pamphlet – you could even actually have a transcribed interview with yourself as a review to make it little less formal and (dare I say it) like a college exercise rather than a discursive document that outlines your practice and conceptual framework appropriate for specific readers/audiences.

Whilst I’m not wholly sure about the self-interview (though haven’t ruled it out), I am attracted to the idea of the more pamphlet-y ‘calling card’-style document that summarises the work (suggested maximum of 10 images) and points people to the portfolio website for the full set of images.

He did however also add that the website homepage text and artist statement could do with another tweak.

With regard to who to contact for feedback, we had previously discussed OCA tutor Andrew Conroy, so I will make contact with him shortly. In addition, Garry advised continuing to be alert to short-term opportunities for feedback, such as the online portfolio reviews I had with Alexander Mourant and Jayne Lloyd already.

One particular opportunity that we discussed was that online photography curator Andy Adams of Flak Photo has asked for submissions for review. I will follow this one up shortly.

Wider promotion

There are two distinct types of opportunity for wider promotion: proactive and reactive.

By proactive I mean targeting some kind of intermediary to your potential audience – the main examples being galleries, curators and publication editors – with details of your work to ask if they might be interested in featuring it. It’s speculative, yes, but these kind of outlets / gatekeepers do expect and sometimes encourage such approaches. Examples Garry gave were festivals such as Format and magazines such as the British Journal of Photography.

By reactive I mean open calls, awards, competitions, commission opportunities etc – often by the same kind of gatekeepers / tastemakers as above but specifically to fulfil a particular requirement. These are often but not always themed to some degree.

I was very pleased to be alerted by Garry to a serendipitous overlap between these two categories! LensCulture has just launched an initiative titled Critics Choice 2020. The format is an open call (so it is technically reactive) but the selecting jury represents an excellent cross-section of the kind of gatekeepers and outlets that I would have tried to contact proactively, if that makes sense.

There are 20 internationally-renowned photography industry professionals who will between them select 60 photographers to showcase. So it’s kind of like a competition with 60 winners.

I won’t list all the judges but they include representatives from outlets that match my ideal proactive contact list:

  • Anne Danneman, The Photographers Gallery
  • Charlotte Cotton, Curator
  • Fiona Shields, The Guardian
  • Jim Casper, LensCulture
  • Louise Fedotov-Clements, Format Festival
  • Manila Camarini, D La Repubblica
  • Michael Famighetti, Aperture
  • Simon Bainbridge, BJP

So my first step in my wider promotional push (separate to the portfolio review / feedback actions) is to prepare my submissions for this initiative.