As part of applying for the LensCulture Critics’ Choice 2020 awards I got a written evaluation of my submission.

The review is anonymous, which I found quite odd! But it’s not a huge deal. I was allowed to send a message back to the reviewer, even if I can’t find out who they were…

The review opens with some general remarks before specific advice. I will include the former verbatim and will summarise the feedback as bullet points with my responses.

General remarks

“Of course this project gets into some compelling ideas and questions around how memory functions. And to that effect, your project reminds me of certain aspects of how being human can feel a bit absurd at times – sometimes the correlation between a vision and a memory is very hard to connect. And I enjoy the sense of humor that you are using. I also enjoy the photographs themselves; they are quite thoughtful and at times beautiful.

So, in answer to your request for feedback, I would say that your project feels quite successful to me. I feel like you provided a strong statement that sets the stage for how I will experience the photographs. And once I go through the photographs, I am reminded of how my own mind functions.”

I am encouraged by this response; it fits my intent to a significant degree. I want people to think about how human memory works in general, and their own memory in particular.

Specific feedback

The reviewer provided more detailed feedback on very specific aspects of the series than the previous two portfolio reviewers, which is great.

  • Sequencing: Image 1 (leather glove) is a good opener that sets the scene whilst maintaining ambiguity; the following two have more direct connections between the photo subject and the text. “My thought would be to space these out from each other and perhaps place them a bit further into the project. They are funny. And I feel the timing of their presentation is essential.”
    • Interesting: sequencing by understandability!
    • I will play around with the sequence again with this in mind
  • Repetition: two gloves, two birds – too much repetition in a 10-image set: “In a larger selection, all of these photographs may work well. My thinking is that you want to show as much variety as possible.”
    • Fair point; I think the recurring motif idea has a place in a larger set where they are more spaced out and there is more time for the rhythm to work, but in a set of 10 images it works less well
  • Text: the reviewer didn’t think the font was quite right though found it hard to explain why: “Perhaps you could go for a thinner font (not bold) that mimics a classic typewriter. And you might consider going with smallcaps for the entire sentence or perhaps no caps at all (i.e. don’t capitalize names, etc.) And the spacing between the bottom of the picture and the type felt a little too big.”
    • Text presentation has been my bête noir throughout this body of work!
    • I will mock up variations on these suggestions

Closing remarks

The last part of the review was with regard to potential presentation/publication approaches:

“I enjoyed reviewing your work Rob. I think it would be a great idea to collect these in a book or zine format (as you suggest). Perhaps an exhibition would work too. But to be honest, I feel this is the type of delight that would really shine in the intimate context of a book.”

I am increasingly thinking that the book (or zine, or digital newspaper) format will be what I focus on for SYP. I would still like to exhibit the work at some point, but I do see what the reviewer means about the way a viewer would engage with the work in a printed rather than wall-hung format.