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Career Development, that’s the new spin on New England Portfolio Reviews (NEPR) this year. Replacing the hectic, cattle call feeling of past (and more typical) reviews, this year’s version held at the Griffin Museum on Saturday and Sunday got kinder and gentler, according to participants. The biggest difference was starting out the program with educational sessions and panel discussions fueled by experts from all over the photography biz map. Saturday’s program featured the always popular Mary Virginia Swanson, first explaining how to make the most of a portfolio review experience and then leading a panel discussion which introduced seven photography movers and shakers from museums and galleries, along with private and commercial companies. Participants I spoke with found the new format an effective and non-threatening way to offer solid ideas and approaches for developing and marketing their portfolios. Bag lunches and an hour-long break gave everyone a chance to mingle, share ideas and connect with others before the afternoon review sessions. Said one NEPR veteran, “this is so much more intimate and relaxed.” And another, “ this building of the photographic community is the real value of this experience.”
But a review session is a review session is a review session. The one-on-one portfolio review always feels high-stakes to the photographer being evaluated. Efforts were made to optimize the experience: 20-minute review sessions over a four-hour period with eleven potential reviewers is easier to digest than a couple of day-long slogs. And a brief wrap-up session at the end of each day gave all participants a chance to weigh in, another program improvement.
Although I observed some of the reviews, floating through this event gave me a chance to personally view the portfolios of several artists and to visit the book publishers display, manned by well-versed photographers Caitie Moore and Matthew Gamber. They introduced me to a selection of books offered by some notable small publishing houses I’d never even heard of before. This is a very helpful resource for photographers interested in finding a publisher with the right fit for their work.
The NEPR attracts photographers with a vast range of experience, from veterans like the editorial portrait photographer Susan Lapides to the first-timer who just graduated high school, Acadia Mezzofanti. Lapides’ environmental portraits are fresh and dynamic, demonstrating her ability to engage effectively with subjects from all walks of life. Mezzofanti ‘s “Camouflage” portfolio features youthful female portraits overlaid with projected patterns, from bamboo forests to colorful mosaics. Although shot digitally, her makeshift studios are analog and her prints unmanipulated, giving them a spirit that feels genuine.
Photographer Jim Nickelson, a professional printer and one of six chosen for the “2013 NEPR Showcase” exhibit held at the PRC last December (see: http://elinspringphotography.com/blog/nepr-showcase/), brought two well-developed portfolios, “Pyrotechnic” and “Adventures in Celestial Mechanics”, demonstrating his mastery of widely divergent approaches to events in the sky. In “Pyrotechnic”, Nickelson’s exquisite compositions and positive or inverted B&W prints transform fireworks into elegant abstractions. Conversely, his photographs of the full moon, shot in every month, are nuanced and sublime color studies (see feature image).
Photographer Mara Brod bucks the current trend to large prints with her portfolio of small landscapes shot with color film, then developed and printed in a wet darkroom. Her gem-like prints combine diminutive scale and slightly altered hues to an alluring, nostalgic effect.
Medical engineer and “moonlighting” photographer Lucas James combines high and low tech in his nude studies. Photographing the reflection of his subject in hand-polished and distressed sheets of aluminum, copper or steel, James creates a range of impressionistic images that include both beautiful and disturbing distortions.
As even these few examples show, NEPR participants possess a wide range of photographic experience and interests. With its relaxed atmosphere, the addition of instructional elements and ample opportunity to meet and connect with others, NEPR promises to grow ever more popular. This weekend’s program addressed the ways in which photographers could target markets for their work. Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director and Curator of the Griffin Museum, says she hopes to host a few versions of NEPR every year, each with a different educational emphasis. Stay tuned.
Feature image: “Chaste Moon I” photograph by Jim Nickelson