HEY MIKI

Portfolio reviews :: Are they worth it?

I’ve been helping out recently with the NYCFotoWorks portfolio review, Oct. 28-30 at Sandbox in NYC. There are a lot of portfolio reviews out there, so when Marc Asnin and Joshua Herman approached me about helping get the word out for NYCFW, I had one big question: How is this any different from all the other portfolio reviews?

As editor/publisher/blogger, I receive dozens of press releases every day, each one claiming that its event is brand new, one-of-a-kind, and oh so innovative. Guess what — they’re not.

My suggestion for how to distinguish NYCFotoWorks was to help photographers get the most out of the event by emphasizing education — Marc and Josh were definitely on the same page.

Not surprisingly, when I started emailing colleagues to ask for their help spreading the word, some of those same concerns came back to me. Jonathan Worth, as always a vanguard of efficiency and online sharing, suggested I post our email exchange for the general benefit.

Jonathan’s thoughts

“How do you feel about the pricing on this? I’ve been pretty outspoken about these events in the past, especially where they’re clearly a cynical business ruse. This one looks massive.

“I think the list of contributors includes some awesome people (some of my faves), but also a few that I’d have to be paid  to sit through a meeting with — a couple who I think, frankly, should be shot, not sought out for advice.”

My response

“I have the same feeling about portfolio reviews, and when Marc and Josh came to me about helping with it, I specifically wanted to know what made this one different…other than a very impressive list of reviewers. The thing we were on the same page about was this idea of educating photographers who attend about how to get the most out of the experience.

“It really is amazing how many artists can’t talk about their work well or have done no research on the person they’re meeting with. So I’m sending out feedback from the reviewers about what they’re looking for before the photographers get there. Then I’m filming interviews with reviewers and participating photographers that can be shared with the whole photographic community.

“Any list of reviewers is going to be a little hit or miss. The nice thing about NYCFotoWorks is that photographers get to choose between five and twenty-four reviewers they want to see. Of course, it’s first come first served, but the chances a photographer would get stuck with a bunch of people they don’t like are slim.

“As for the price: It’s no more than it would cost to FedEx your book to that many people, or the cost of your time to set up that many high-profile meetings in two days. I’ve talked with Marc, the founder, a lot. Yes this is in part a new business venture for him and Josh, but he’s also genuinely dedicated to education and using his wide experience and network to help other photographers. He’s doing what more photographers should be doing: seeking out new revenue streams so he can do more of what he really loves, teaching photography to young kids.”

What I’ve been working on

Above is a short video of Marc, talking about his ideas for the NYCFW Portfolio Review. I produced this, with help from the talented Simon Biswas, because I wanted people to get to know the person behind this project. Marc doesn’t pretend to be anything but what he is — a Brooklyn boy, born and raised, and damn proud of it — which is why his message of being yourself with editors rings true.

I have also collected reviewers responses, which I think will be really helpful to anyone attending any portfolio review. You can see all the responses here.

Your thoughts?

I’d be happy to hear what people think about the value of portfolio reviews. What should and shouldn’t you expect to get out of them? And what about reviewers: Do you honestly find new people to work with from these events? What are the biggest problems with them?

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  • Susan May Tell

    This and your blog “How to get the most out of portfolio reviews” are very interesting and insightful reads. Portfolio reviews are wonderful opportunities for both the reviewees and reviewers.

    I have mixed feelings about the proliferation of costly Review events – and what Jonathan Worth calls “a cynical business ruse.”

    I have twice paid to attend FotoFest and was rewarded by exhibitions, including a solo one at the Griffin Museum of Photography.

    Yet I have also been rewarded by participating in the FREE Review events ASMP/NY offers its members.

    Started by our former President Stephen Mallon, the ASMP/NY chapter is now in its 6th year of offering 2 review events each year: a Fine Art Review and a Commercial Review. (Of course it costs because one has to join ASMP; dues vary from $60 for Students to $335 for Full Members although the Reviews are just one of many benefits.) And … for the record – I helped produce the last 2 Fine Art reviews.

    Your readers might be interested in reading more insights about reviews offered by some of our reviewers:

    http://elizabethavedon.blogspot.com/2010/05/review-2010-asmp-ny-portfolio-review.html

    http://www.wonderfulmachine.com/blog/2010/11/the-other-side-of-the-table/

    http://www.spd.org/2009/10/portfolio-review.php

    http://artproduce.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/asmpny-portfolio-review/

    http://sharpernewyork.blogspot.com/2010/11/reviewers-review-free-asmp-portfolio.html

    Susan May Tell

    ASMP/NY – Fine Art Chair

    http://www. susanmaytell.com

  • MikiJ

    Thanks for you thoughts, Susan. I agree that the amount of money paid for a review does not necessarily correlate to having a better review experience. What I think may make a more significant difference is whether there is a screening process for photographers wishing to participate in the review. I know that one way NYCFotoWorks got such high-profile reviewers was by promising them they wouldn't have to review photographers who weren't yet at a level they'd be interested in working with. What I find particularly bothersome is when reviewers are not paid, but the organization charges the photographers a lot. Specifically if the organization is not a non-profit, of course.

  • Ann

    I think the value of meeting people at these reviews is great. However, not necessarily as great as paying 1 or two months rent for an emerging artist who is already struggling to make ends meat, and putting their money into creating for the portfolio in the first place. These reviews at school like SVA are free, with the exception of the thousands the students pay each year to attend that school (which is also a scam of sorts).