Sid Grossma

A few words about manners at a photography portfolio review.
I wrote this piece earlier this year for Neal Rantoul’s excellent photography blog.
Before I even explain what I’m addressing in this post, I want to let you know that the record is two hours and fifteen minutes.
What is the topic of the post? Sex? Definitely not. It is the amount of time that someone (in this case a photographer) can speak nonstop about their work without asking one question, or showing any interest whatsoever, in who they are talking to.
I have firsthand knowledge.
Here goes.
I rarely agree to do portfolio reviews that I am not compensated for. After several decades of doing reviews at no charge, I decided that I should be paid for my time reviewing a photographer’s work. I don’t get medical advice from my doctor for free. I don’t get financial advice from my accountant for free. I am happy to pay their fee, in part, because I know their time and advice has a definite value.
That said, there are only two reasons I will agree to review a portfolio for free. The first reason is if someone I trust has recommended the photographer to me. The second reason is if it is a photographer I have reviewed previously and I am interested in seeing the progression of his or her work.
Recently I reviewed two portfolios by photographers that I know, admire, and have reviewed in the past.
Both photographers seemed genuinely excited about their new work, and rightly so. It was very good work and I am pleased that I had the opportunity to see it.
Both photographers shared a trait that drives me mildly insane and, I believe, shows more than a small amount of disrespect. Neither photographer asked a single question regarding what I may be currently working on. After a handshake and a “hello” it was off to the portfolio review horse races until the photographer ran out of time or ran out of personal insights about their work.
I understand that if you are paying for a review at a portfolio review event that you want to optimize your financial investment, but if you are the recipient of a review by someone who is freely giving of their time and advice, at least show a bit of interest in the reviewer.
May I make one suggestion?
Before you attend your next portfolio review write down five questions to ask the reviewer and make sure that one of them concerns the reviewer. You might be pleasantly surprised. The reviewer may remember you and your work beyond two hours and fifteen minutes.

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