Photography portfolio reviews located in resort towns share a common quality that reminds me of being in a summer camp for grown-ups. Perhaps all conventioneers feel this way to some extent, but with photography at least there is a collective sense of fun, of being in something together. We’re there to be creative and constructive. We’re not looking at spreadsheets or Power Point presentations. We don’t have our calculators handy. Considering photography is such a solitary practice, the collective experience is a welcome respite. That being said, there’s little point in packing a bathing suit, scheduling a massage or making dinner reservations because at rigorous reviews like Center Santa Fe, photography is serious business and our agendas are packed. With 43 reviewers and 100 photographers, panel discussions and portfolio walks, there is much to be done and many images to view, to contemplate, discuss, share and discuss again.
My trip started at LAX, where I immediately ran into fellow reviewer Crista Dix of Santa Barbara’s Wall Space gallery. We both served at Review LA in the past, but never had a chance to talk. We shared notes before the flight and upon landing in Albuquerque met up with Lisa Sutcliffe, Assistant Curator of Photography from SF MOMA. While waiting to catch a shuttle to Santa Fe we found ourselves sitting next to Book Designer and Blogger, Elizabeth Avedon and on the shuttle I shared a bench with Julie Saul, of the gallery of the same name in Manhattan.
That evening at the opening reception at the New Mexico Museum of Art I spoke with photographer Gregg Segal, whom I worked with on countless editorial assignments as well as an exhibition in Los Angeles. By mid-evening I was walking across Santa Fe to an opening at Photo Eye Gallery with Christopher Rauschenberg of Blue Sky gallery. We both did our undergraduate work in the same darkrooms at The Evergreen State College and exhibited art in the same buildings twenty years ago in Portland.
This sort of social snowball effect may well be my favorite aspect of serving at Review Santa Fe. The progression of meeting accomplished, thoughtful, passionate people of all ages, who live and breathe photography continued throughout the four days in Santa Fe. Any anxiety of meeting new people, of needing to be “on,” of being out of one’s familiar surroundings or element, dissipated with every “Hello, my name is.” For reviewers, collective breakfasts and lunches were times to share war stories, laugh at common circumstance, struggle to overcome the altitude-induced exhaustion, and make impromptu plans. Sharing idiosyncratic life stories and oddball experiences over dinner on a warm Santa Fe night with Anthony Bannon, Director of George Eastman House, Joanna Hurley of Hurley Media, agent Marilyn Cadenbach and Wally Mason, Director of the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, was a high point I won’t soon forget.
With the addition of 100 photographers to the equation, it was simply an embarrassment of riches. Each reviewer met with 27 different photographers in a formal session and additional opportunities existed to see the work of the other 73, namely in the Portfolio Walk, which was open to the public. While photographers were operating at a variety of levels, most were open to growing and strengthening their work. All were seeking opportunities. Personally, I didn’t meet a single photographer that was anything but gracious and warm. In casual ways, the photographers connected and shared work, not only with reviewers, but also with each other. Photos were sprawled across lobby tables in the Santa Fe Hilton. Portfolios were tucked into every corner. Casual conversations broke out in hallways and poolside and over drinks and dinner.
It was a hard-working few days and I for one, did not see a soul in the swimming pool.
Links to all 100 participating photographers may be found at Center’s site.