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Tuesday
Mar232010

FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1

Last week, I traveled to Houston, Texas to participate in the FotoFest Meeting Place portfolio review. I was assigned nineteen reviews over four days. Each review is a twenty minute one-on-one meeting with photo publishers, gallery owners and museum curators. I've talked to artists that work in other mediums and none of them knew of any similar events outside of photography. This was my first review event. After going, I'm still amazed that these types of gatherings exist.

The evening before the first day of reviews, I went to a welcome reception for the participants. I met a photographer that had recently participated Review LA, a well respected event in Los Angeles. He said that it went well, but he was nervous about FotoFest. I asked why, assuming that LA would have prepared him for what to expect here. Oh no, Fotofest is the "big one", he replied. Oh, I said. Oh my, said the voice in my head.

Weeks before, I was torn on what images to bring. What size should the prints be? How many? Should I bring newer work or older work? I asked fellow photographers. I asked a couple of art dealers. They all had different opinions. I ended up bringing images from two projects, "Where the Fairies Are" and "Little Pieces All Together". I brought more images than I would actually present, so I could do a final edit once I got there. I ended up showing about fifteen images from each series, printed at 12"x18". The prints were collected in a black folio box. I also brought three 22"x33" prints rolled in a tube.

The reviews take place in a hotel banquet room. The photographers wait outside until their session time and then all rush in together to find their reviewer among the forty-some tables in the room. I find my first reviewer, a gallery owner. We make introductions and I sit down. The room is loud with forty simultaneous conversations. The reviewer slowly flips through my images. She starts to make a comment, and I lean in to better hear what she's saying. This is really wonderful work, she says. I'll definitely be in touch. My shoulders relax a little and I smile.

Of course, not everyone was as enthusiastic. One reviewer slowly flipped through all my images, paused for several seconds and took a deep breath. He said, how do I put this.... this work you have, it is not art. Then it's my turn for the deep breath. OK, I've come here to learn. He articulately explained why and then suggested several ways to make the work better. I listened. He was one of the more critical reviewers, but he may have also been one of the most useful.

I had high expectations for Meeting Place and it turned out even better than I expected. The preparation, time and expenses were well worth it. It's hard to imagine a better way to get so much high quality feedback in a such a concentrated amount of time. After four days, I was exhausted. In between the reviews I chatted and shared work with the other photographers. In the evenings we went to some of the many FotoFest exhibits around town. Even without the reviews, meeting the other photographers and seeing the exhibits would have been worth the trip. I'll be saying more about that in the next post.

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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1
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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1
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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1
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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1
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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1
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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1
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    Andy Chen Photography - Blog - FotoFest Meeting Place 2010 - part 1

Reader Comments (6)

Interesting to hear how it went, Andy. Thanks for writing this up.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul D'Andrea

that sounds like an exhausting 4 days. Can't wait to read more about it.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarty

Ooof, the "not art" comment is a hard one to hear. Kudos to you for keeping an open mind and listening the way you did. It's a hard thing to do! (Or at least - it is for me. :))

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChani

Hey Andy, that sounds like a very interesting event. You've been a busy guy! One thing I've learned over the years is you can't act on everybody's advice -- you still have to choose what's right for you and your own ideas. And it looks like you've had a million since we saw you last! That road trip has got me jealous.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Parker

Yeah, the "not art" comment was brutal. That reviewer also mentioned that Irving Penn and Robert Mapplethorpe (widely considered photographic masters in the museum and gallery circles) are likewise not art. If that's the case, I'm ok being in that category. Now, the "is art" type of art that he mentioned, I want to do that too. Tricky, tricky...

Jim, good to hear from you. I'm looking forward to when our paths will cross again this summer.

March 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

[...] wrote part 1 about two months ago. Better late than never, here are some of the photographers I met at [...]

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