I meet a lot of photographers each year.
Going to festivals as I do, reviewing portfolios, I see a ton of work.
Each time, when you meet with someone for 20 minutes, at some point, you’re giving specific feedback about their individual project, and the component pictures.
But often, (if you’re seeing 150+ portfolios a year,) you say certain things over and over again.
It’s the meta-advice, if you will.
Some of it, you’ve heard here a million times.
(Were I substantially more popular and important, they might have a drinking game for how often I say, “Get out of your comfort zone.”)
In 2022, one thing I said, over and over again, is the goal is to be memorable.
To somehow stick in the mind of the person you’re meeting, so they hang on to tidbits about you down the line.
(When they’re far more likely to work with you than ASAP.)
This year alone, I hit festivals in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and I’m going to PhotoNOLA in New Orleans this December.
That’s a lot of portfolios!
How much work, how many people, can I really remember in detail?
Or perhaps, the better question is, which details did I remember at all?
Being memorable is meta-advice, because it’s not something you can do directly.
Sure, I guess you could go the obvious route and jump off your roof, while having your dumb buddy film it.
Post it on Youtube.
That might work.
By definition, average is not memorable.
Exceptional is memorable.
Brilliant is memorable.
Innovative is memorable.
Heart-breaking is memorable.
(As is extreme, unfortunately.)
Show me things I haven’t seen, and I’ll remember it.
If your work is FUCKING AMAZING, I’ll remember you.
Or if it’s odd, kooky, strange-enough-to-occupy-the-Upside-Down type of art.
The weird shit.
That’s memorable too.
I’m more-than-overdue to write about the festivals I’ve visited this year, and San Francisco came first.
I mention all this because I’m doing something new today.
If you remember, in the Spring, I wrote an extensive travel article about SF, as my visit was so traumatizing.
It was a story about the power of human feces, and the death of cool.
(Better we don’t revisit it.)
But I never wrote about the portfolio review I attended, the reason I went to SF in the first place, and critiqued that Diego Rivera mural at the SF Art Institute.
(Calling it out for antisemitism. BTW, I’ve been warning about that for a year, so hopefully you’re paying attention now.)
The San Francisco Art Institute finally closed, as back then it had been hanging on by a thread.
I spent two days there at the PhotoAlliance portfolio review in March, and for some reason, I barely remember any of the work, or the people I met at the review table.
So today, for the first time ever, I’m only going to share the portfolios that stuck in my brain.
Sure, you could say it was the California weed, (and maybe it’s true,) but I’ve been stoned plenty of times and still remembered everything.
With respect to my few days in San Francisco, the location, the meals, walking through the city, sitting by the bay, I can recall all of it in my mind, easily.
(Damn, I’d eat a plate of those noodles right about now.)
But it’s far more likely that particular group of artists did not stand out, for some reason.
Not enough juice to the work, or the conversations.
Thankfully, two artists made an impression.
(Three, if you count Pamela Gentile, whom I once wrote about for the NYT, but we didn’t really look at new work. I just remember chatting.)
I met Jacque Rupp at one of the online portfolio reviews, back in 2020, or ’21.
(Really, can anybody remember which year was which?)
Jacque lives in NorCal, and I remember her black and white, documentary project about immigrant, farm-worker communities along the coast, near Gilroy.
I published those images here, and wrote about our conversation, with respect to how an “outsider” can do the research, work with non-profits, and earn the right to share stories from other communities.
Which she had been doing.
So that was my context for our IRL meet in March.
I was therefore NOT expecting “The Red Purse,” a series of intimate, color self-portraits that explored middle-aged, female sexuality.
It was weird, and personal, and not like anything I could recall.
In my mind, now, when I close my eyes, I remember slip dresses. The color red. And Jacque there before me, in the flesh.
I didn’t need to go to her website to look it up, because fragments of the images were living in my mind.
And then there was Wik Wikholm.
I don’t need to say much about Wik, (other than he was a chill, nice guy,) because the pictures speak for themselves.
OK, there IS one story I’ll share.
It’s a quote really, that popped into my head during the crit, and Wik liked it a lot.
“We start with absurdity, and move towards insanity.”
Wik made digitally composited self portraits, but at first, I refused to believe him.
The guy in front of me looked SO little like the guy in the images, it just couldn’t be.
But Wik swore he’d lost weight, it was him, and playing the characters was a part of the deal.
“Damn,” I kept yelling out loud.
At one point, I got up from the table, walked for a few seconds, and then came back.
Wik’s work kept blowing my mind, at a time when my mind was (apparently) occupied with weed, food and fecal matter.
(OK, I’m exaggerating for comedic effect.)
I love this stuff, and I’m sure you will too.
See you in two weeks!