On Portfolio Reviews
A transparent look at what it takes to organize a photo review
As part of our annual, month-long festival of photography, we host a Portfolio Review in Atlanta for photographers from across the country. It’s our tenth (or 11th?) consecutive year of ACP hosting reviewers and attendees, and we can’t wait for the weekend of October 8th & 9th!
The ACP Portfolio Review is always an incredible event, full of inspiring photography, sparkling conversation, and the kind of serendipitous meeting(s) between photographers, reviewers, and collectors here in Atlanta that often lead to real, measurable success; exhibitions, print sales, press attention and books.
At our review, photographers meet with gallerists, curators & editors who can make a real difference in their careers. Portfolio Reviews offer more than a few hundred hearts ❤️, or faves, they offer critical engagement of the kind that’s hard to find in a comment-thread:
Our reviewers are engaged with providing expertise that’s committed to helping you and your work. I can’t think of a Portfolio Review attendee who’s gone on to a solo-show at MOMA, but past participants have received shows, published book projects, sold prints, and have had viral stories written about their work. Reviewers often rave about projects they wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and attendees create lasting relationships that have valuable impact on their careers.
Naturally, making all this happen costs money.
(It costs a bunch of money, actually.)
We don’t know how other reviews are run, but ACP flies-in reviewers from across the country (and often overseas) for a weekend; we put them up in a hotel for a few nights; we make sure they don’t have to scramble for their own meals, and we try to make sure that they see as much photography (including yours, of course) while they’re here as possible.
Here’s the scoop: our Portfolio Review costs attendees $400 for five, 20-minute reviews with their preferred reviewers. That registration fee goes to pay for the cost of renting the conference center that’s centrally located and easy to get to, the flights for out-of-town reviewers who wouldn’t otherwise be in Atlanta, a small stipend for reviewers who might not otherwise want to come to Atlanta on a weekend when they could be having fun with their dog, and whatever else it takes (meals & airport pick-ups) to ensure we have a caliber of reviewer that’s attractive to attendees.
The ACP Portfolio Review isn’t a cash-cow, it’s a break-even affair, if we’re really lucky. (Actually, if you factored in staff-time, there’s absolutely no way we could make any money running our Portfolio Review.)
Often, free Portfolio Reviews are supported by corporate sponsorship. And other reviews might be more expensive, but don’t offer the comfortable experience of having your own secure space, free snacks & coffee. And everyone likes free snacks.
In the past few years, we’ve seen hemming and hawing in the photo-community about how Portfolio Reviews (and contests, really) are a bad deal for photographers, and how they’re just making money off of artists.
There are definitely unscrupulous actors & organizations out there, and it’s best to educate yourself by talking with past participants (or reviewers) as you would with any kind of purchase. You wouldn’t buy a $400 lens without reading a review, right?
From our perspective as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and as a relatively small review (under 100 attendees), there’s no way to make a Portfolio Review like ours a massively profitable affair unless you scale-up into a week-long cattle-call. And that’s not in the best interest of anyone.
This year, we’ve increased our number of roving reviewers in the hopes of adding some extra magic to the day. We’ve invited local collectors, curators and gallerists to roam around and chat with reviewers, during breaks and downtime.
It’s our mission to try and increase the number of connections you can make with your photography. To that end, we wanted to wade into the fray and address some of the global discussion, and hopefully show another side to the story. And of course, we’d love to see you here in Atlanta for the weekend of October 8th and 9th.
Master photographer Duane Michals will be giving a lecture as part of the festival on Thursday, Oct. 6, and there’ll be a reception for Portfolio Review attendees on Friday, Oct. 7th.
And by the way, there’s a month-long, city-wide photography festival happening, too.
Thank you, all. :)
- Michael & Amy & Waduda & Tonja
Here are the details about the ACP 2016 Portfolio Review. Our confirmed reviewers as of Sept. 7th, are:
Clint Alwahab — Senior Photo Editor, CNN — Atlanta, GA
Bill Boling — Founder, Fall Line Press — Atlanta, GA
Taylor Curry — Co-founder, Ain’t Bad Magazine — Savannah, GA
Mia Dalglish — Owner, Pictura Gallery — Bloomington, IN
Dennis Darling — Photographer, Professor, University of Texas at Austin — Austin, TX
Arnika Dawkins — Owner, Arnika Dawkins Gallery — Atlanta, GA
Shane Lavalette — Photographer, Director, LightWork — Syracuse, NY
Mindaugas Kavaliauskas — Director, Kaunas Photo Festival (Lithuania)
Maria Kelly & Greg Harris — Curatorial Assistant and Assistant Curator, Department of Photography, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Michael Pannier — Founder, Southeastern Center for Photography — Greenville, SC
Shannon Perich — Curator, History of Photography Collection, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History — Washington, DC
Jeff Rich — Photographer, Professor, Curator, Oxford American Magazine’s “Eye on the South” — Iowa City, IA
Michele Romero — Photo Editor, Entertainment Weekly Magazine — New York, NY
David Rosenberg — Editor, Behold photoblog (Slate.com)
Carson Sanders — Co-founder, Ain’t Bad Magazine — Savannah, GA
Jennifer Schwartz — Founder, Crusade for Art — Atlanta, GA
Anna Skillman — Owner, Jackson Fine Art — Atlanta, GA
Sybylla Smith — Independent curator, Photographic consultant — Boston, MA
Sasha Wolf — Owner, Sasha Wolf Gallery — NYC, NY
Tracey Woods — Associate Photo Editor, Essence Magazine — New York, NY
Tim Wride — Curator of Photography, Norton Museum of Art — Palm Beach, FL
Confirmed roving reviewers, as of Sept. 7th:
Jerry Atnip — Commercial & Fine Art Photographer
Karen Comer Lowe — Facility Manager — Chastain Art Center
Greg Head — Collector
Alan Rothschild — Founder — The Do Good Fund
Mary Stanley — Founder — Young Collectors Club
Anne Weems — Gallery Manager — Hathaway Contemporary
Hope Cohn — Artist, Curator & Collector
Eric Pickersgill — Photographer, founder thegallery145.com