The Way it Works

I was explaining the old system for a friend the other day and then compared it to the new system. When I finished graduate school in the early 1970's photography as an art was a small system. It wasn't easy, of course, to get your work seen, but getting to show it to someone could be just a phone call away. Curators' and galleries' jobs were to look at new work, to find photographs worthy of exhibition by meeting with the artists and choosing work to show. This had all the connotations you might expect: "who you knew", the  game of asking someone who was "in" to mention you to someone else who was in, the class system of favoritism that exists in all worlds of culture and politics, and art is clearly no exception, but the point is that it was a far smaller world. In those days, I made many cold calls and succeeded occasionally by getting someone important to agree to meet with me.

For instance, although I am sure he doesn't remember it, I was showing work to Cliff Ackley, the now mostly retired photo curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, by the early eighties. Cliff had a way of being in another world, so that you never knew if you were connecting with him and he with your pictures or not. But my point is that he agreed to see me. Eventually he did acquire some of my pictures for the collection and actually showed them in a summer show. Not that big a deal, really, but it felt pretty good at the time.

But no more. A cold call will now, inevitably, get you nowhere. Now we are in the world of portfolio reviews and, to a lesser extent, AIPAD (Association of Independent Photography Art Dealers). These serve as the filter between you (the photographer) and them (the curators, editors and dealers). This is the mechanism by which they find new work. In reviews you are paying them to, mostly, turn you down and rarely, take you and your work seriously. Think most curators of big museums are trendsetters, paving new paths in the art world, bringing someone unknown and worthy to the front? Nope. Try this: museum curators go to the annual AIPAD conference in New York to look at what photographers the galleries are pushing. They rely on the work the galleries have found for much new material. Leaders? More like followers. I know I am stepping on shaky ground here but if you think about it, a big museum can't afford to take chances. They are into "safe" as in already found. 

For instance, for the up and coming weekend in New York called PhotoPlus Expo this is the list of portfilio reviewers:

Beverly Adler, Art Buyer / Art Producer, Freelance

Anna Alexander, Photo Director, Dwell Magazine

Daniel Aycock, Director, The Front Room Gallery

Robert Bacall, Photo Rep, Robert Bacall Representatives

Anthony Bannon, Executive Director & Research Professor, Burchfield Penny Art Center, Buffalo State College

Susan Baraz, Director of Photography for AtEdge, At Edge

Rachel Barker, Associate Photo Editor, HGTV Magazine

Suzee Barrabee, Director of Art and Print Production, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

June Bateman, Owner, June Bateman Fine Art

Glenn Batkin, SVP, Group Creative Director, GSW Worldwide

Marni Beardsley, Global Director of Art Production, Wieden + Kennedy NY

Sherrie Berger, Photographer Representative, Scarletworks Agency

Lisa Berman, Photography Director, Entertainment Weekly

John Berthot, Owner, Focus Consulting Services

Neil Binkley, Photography Consultant, Neil Binkley Photography Consulting

Maggie Blanchard, Director, Twin Palms Publishers

Sarah Bonk, Photo Editor, Hearst Digital Media

Jean Borrie, Photo Editor, Freelance

Alexandra Bortkiewicz, Photography Director, Alamy

Elizabeth Boyle, Photo Editor, Travel + Leisure

Paul Buckley, Executive VP Creative Director, Penguin Goup

Dana Buhl, Curatorial Coordinator, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Naomi Burgess, Creative Director, Young & Rubicam

Bonnie Butler Brown, Producer/Sr Art Buyer, Freelance

Jennifer Butters, Owner, Agent, Jen Butters Agency

Dee Campos, Program Associate, En Foco, Inc.

Clinton Cargill, Picture Editor, The New York Times Magazine

David Carol, Photography Magazine Columnist, CBS Outdoor Advertising

Patrick Casey, Creative Director, CASEY

Dani Cattan, Program Director, En Foco, Inc.

Michelle Chant, Head of Art Production, W&K, New York, Wieden and Kennedy New York

Jeff Church, Director, Gallery Stock

Kelly Clark, Assistant Photo Editor, Real Simple

Ali Cohen, Art Buyer, Freelance Art Buyer

Jackie Contee, Senior Art Buyer / Print Producer, Uniworld Group

Louisa Curtis, Creative Consultant, Chatterbox Enterprises

Karen Davis, Owner / Director, Davis Orton Gallery

Jolene Delisle, Associate Creative Director, Arnold NYC

Peter Dennen, Director of Photography, Pedro & Jackie / Aurora Photos

Anna Dickson, Photography Director, AOL/Huffington Post Media Group

Mia Diehl, Director of Photography, Fortune Magazine

Jim Doherty, Art Director, Blend Images

Kristi Drago-Price, Photography Director, Destination: W

Deborah Dragon, Deputy Photo Editor, Rolling Stone Magazine

Michelle Dunn Marsh, Executive Director, Photographic Center , Photographic Center Northwest, Minor Matters Books

Diane Eames, Consultant, Diane Eames: A Creative Consultancy

Liza Faktor, Co-Founder, Screen

Laurie Filgiano, Lead Art Producer, Leo Burnett Canada

Stacy Fischer, Director, Exposure NY

William Floyd, Director, William Floyd Gallery

Wendy George, Associate Photo Editor, Huffington Post

Natalie Gialluca, Senior Associate Photo Editor, Entertainment Weekly

Sonja Gill, Associate Photo Editor, Rolling Stone

Nancy Glowinski, Manager, Visual Content, Reuters

Reuel Golden, Editor, Taschen

Nina Gomiashvili, Director, POBEDA Gallery Moscow

Fabian Goncalves Borrega, Exhibit Coordinator, Art Museum of the Americas

Mathieu Grandjean, Director, Open Show Europe

Kris Graves, Dealer, +Kris Graves Projects

Claudia Grimaldi, Director of Photography, Parade Magazine

Charles Guice, Director, Charles Guice Contemporary

Hava Gurevich, Director, art2art Circulating Exhibitions

Ed Han, Executive Creative Director, Walton Isaacson

Darrick Harris, Photo Editor, People Magazine

Rachel Harrod, Interactive Photo Editor, Discovery Communications

Jennifer Haysler, Managing Director, Sarah Laird

Jeana Hong, Owner, Senior Art Buyer, Anthology Productions

William Hooks, Art Director, Victoria's Secret

Elizabeth Houston, Director, Hous Projects

Mollie Jannasch, Owner, Agency MJ

Ann Jastrab, Gallery Director, Rayko Photo Center

Susan Jones, Sales & Operations Manager, Age Fotostock America

Michael Kaminski, Director of Production, JUICE Pharma Worldwide

Tori Katherman, Photo Editor, Wonderful Machine

Lisa Kempe, Project Manager, New Media & Corporate, Polaris Images

Laurie Kratochvil, Consultant, Nomad Editions

Elizabeth Krist, Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic

Elizabeth Lapp, Curator, Shutterstock

Susanne Lapsien, Photo Editor - Bureau Chief, Stern Magazine

Adrees Latif, Editor in Charge, US Pictures, Thompson Reuters

Sarah LaVigne, President, Picture Society

Miriam Leuchter, Editor-in-Chief, Popular Photography & American PHOTO

Leah Levine, Commercial Photography Rep, L2 Agency

Maren Levinson, President, Redeye

Gregg Lhotsky, Agent / Partner, Bernstein & Andriulli

Sandra Locke, Senior Art Producer, Publicis Kaplan Thaler

Ashley Macknica, Senior Photo Editor, Marie Claire

Elodie Maillet, Photo Editor, Contour by Getty Images

Leonor Mamanna, Photo Editor, New York Magazine

Karen Marks, Sales Director, Howard Greenberg Gallery

Anne Marie Mascia, Designer, AM Mascia Design + Illustration Inc.

Stephen Mayes, Executive Director, Tim Hetherington Trust

Brendan McDermid, Senior Photographer/Assignment Editor, Reuters

Shannon McMillan, Senior Art Producer, GSD&M

Sara McOsker, Print Producer / Art Buyer, Freelance

Karen Meenaghan, Senior Art Producer, Digitas Inc.

Paul Melcher, VP, Image Licensing, Stipple

Alyssa Menegat, Gallery Manager, Jenkins Johnson Gallery

Frank Meo, Owner,

Alison Meyer, Associate Director, US Sales & Assignmen, VII Photo

Brenda Milis, Director of Photography, Bloomberg Pursuits

Kelly Montez, Owner/Photographer's Rep, Apostrophe

William Morel, Assistant Photo Editor, Country Living Magazine

Lora Morgenstern, Senior Art Manager, Content Solutions / Time Inc.

Sarah Morse, Photo Editor, The Wall Street Journal

Robert Morton, President, Robert Morton Books

Janice Moses, Founder / Agent, Janice Moses Represents

Bill Motzing, Art Director, Havas Life New York

Lane Nevares, Owner, Nevares Fine Art

Jackie Ney, Partner, Pedro & Jackie / Photo Director, Prevention Magazine

Rebecca Ney, Photo Editor, People Magazine

Clare O'Dea, Owner / President, Clare Agency & C20 Agency

Lizzy Oppenheimer, Photo & Bookings Editor, Marie Claire

Manuela Oprea, Associate Photo Editor, Bloomberg Markets Magazine

Lisa Oropallo, VP/Director of Art Production, Digitas

Jesse Packer, Senior Art Director, Arnold NYC

Jennifer Pastore, Photography Director, The Wall Street Journal Magazine

Chris Peters, Sr. Art Producer, Colle+McVoy

Carolyn Potts, Photography Marketing Consultant, Photography Marketing Consultant/Agent

Rachel Rein, Senior Art Buyer, Hill, Holiday NY

Jaspal Riyait, Art Director, Martha Stewart Living

Joe Rodriguez, Associate Photo Editor, Men's Health

Sarah Rozen, Photo Director, Women's Health

Glenn Ruga, Executive Director,

Anthony Scerri, Art Director, Muscle & Fitness Magazine

Robin Scofidio, Photo Producer, Discovery Communications

Ariel Shanberg, Executive Director, The Center for Photography at Woodstock

Emily Shornick, Photo Editor, New York Magazine /

Yvonne Silver, Photo/Art Biuyng Manager - Scholastic Ed, Scholastic

Leslie Simitch, Executive Vice President, Trunk Archive

Lauren Simon, Print Sales & Exhibition Manager (NY), Magnum Photo Agency

Mark Sink, Director, Gallery Sink

Brad Smith, Director of Photography, Sports Illustrated

Darielle Smolian, VP, Senior Art Producer, Publicis Kaplan Thaler

Maggie Soladay, Photography Editor, American Lawyer Magazine (Previous Rodale, Hurst, Freelance)

Anh Stack, Assignment Director, Novus Select/Aurora

Christopher Steighner, Senior Editor, Rizzoli Publications, Inc.

Harvey Stein, Director of Photography, Umbrella Arts Gallery

Alison Sullivan, Photo Editor / Art Buyer, DIRECTV

Martha Takayama, Executive Director, Tepper Takayama Fine Arts

Marie Tobias, Associate Photo Editor, Time Magazine

Jacqueline Tobin, Executive Editor, Rangefinder Magazine

Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director / Curator, Griffin Museum

Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor, Budget Travel Magazine

David Walker, Executive Editor, Photo District News Magazine

Kristen Walsh, Art Buyer, Arnold Worldwide NYC

Andy Ward, Photo Editor, Travel Channel

Perrie Wardell, Photo Editor, Redux Pictures

Jill Waterman, Editor, PDNedu, PDNedu

Ronnie Weil, Photo Editor , The Wall Street Journal

John Wesley Mannion, Digital Imaging Manager/ Master Printer, Lightwork

Allegra Wilde, Chief Operations Officer, Eyeist, LLC

Kristine Wilson, Art Producer, Ogilvy Mathers

Mark Winer, Managing Partner, The Gren Group

Amy Wolff, Photo Editor, Photo Disctrict News

Tracey Woods, Associate Photo Editor, Essence Magazine

Isn't that something? Looks like everybody who is somebody, doesn't it? Not even close. There are many many more people in positions of power in the art photography world. Portfolios take place all over. This "meat market" of a scene is simply how individuals can show their work to the people who count, period. Are all these people qualified to judge your work? The best I can say about that is that most are. Is this how and when work will be chosen for future publication, exhibition and assignment? Absolutely. Is this something you should do? That depends. This is an abusive, derogatory, demeaning, stressful and expensive system to be put through. Is it worth it?  Possibly.

Cost: $275 for 5 reviews. Discounts: 10% for 10 or more reviews until October 11.

And finally, here is how they answer the question : Is this for you?

Our review faculty are in positions to give assignments to full-time working editorial and advertising professionals with fully focused portfolios, see tightly edited proposals for book publication or exhibit the work of professional fine art photographers who have museum / gallery ready exhibitions to present. We also have professional portfolio consultants who can give career direction and presentation advice to working pros. Photographers with a wide variety of work displayed on their sites are usually not sufficiently specialized and the success of a meeting in our program depends on showing a focused, compelling and memorable body of work and not a general portfolio. We will consult websites to verify status and suitability for this event.

What is true is that the system for looking at work and the components for dealing with it are much more elaborate than ever before. There is a hierarchy and hoops you need to jump through to climb up the system to achieve shows, publications, assignments, etc. 

It seems our world has gotten a lot bigger and a lot colder, hasn't it?

Yes, it has.

For more information go to: PhotoPlus Expo

Topics: portfolio reviews

Permalink | Posted October 5, 2013