If you have never attended any portfolio review events, you may be surprised to learn that they are one of the top promotional activities that galleries recommend to emerging fine art photographers. Attending these events allows you to receive feedback on your portfolio from gallery owners, museum curators, collectors, publishers, established artists, and others in the art world. These events give you access to a group of people who would otherwise be hard to reach. In addition to getting your work critiqued, you can make valuable contacts.
Attending portfolio reviews can result in artists receiving opportunities to exhibit, publish, and sell their work. Some artists have been able to obtain gallery representation as a direct result of attending these events. Others have had their work purchased for museum acquisitions.
Janet Russek, co-owner of the gallery, Scheinbaum & Russek Ltd., said, “I have found that the best and most effective way of getting your work seen is to apply to portfolio reviews. I know of so many success stories from the reviews, far more than in any other way.”
Stephen Bulger, owner of the Stephen Bulger Gallery, also thinks participating in portfolio review events is a good idea. He observed that those who review portfolios are expressing a willingness to look at and discuss new work, which is obviously a plus for emerging fine art photographers.
Burt Finger, director of the PDNB Gallery, also recommended portfolio reviews and has found several new artists that way. He suggests artists put together a professional art portfolio and attend photo fairs with photo reviews, such as FotoFest in Houston.
So how do portfolio review events work?
Each portfolio review event is a little different, but they are typically part of photo festivals that take place over 2 to 4 days.
You usually get 20 minutes for a face-to-face presentation with each reviewer. The number of reviewers varies, but anywhere from 5 to 15 is common. Larger festivals may have over 150 reviewers. Whether you get to meet with your preferred reviewers is often determined on a first come, first serve basis…so it pays to register early.
Sometimes there is an open portfolio show at the festivals where you can set up a table with your prints. All attending reviewers, as well as the public, can walk by and see your work.
The cost per portfolio review varies, though $40-$50 per review is common. If you do not live near the event, you also have to factor in the cost of travel and hotel accommodations. While there is obviously a cost involved, portfolio review events give you a rare opportunity to get your work seen by influential people in the art world.
If you are willing to invest in yourself, you may find the break you have been looking for by attending a portfolio review event.
In Part II of Portfolio Review Events for Fine Art Photographers, I will recommend specific portfolio review events. I will also talk about how to prepare for the events, so you can increase your chances of success.