Six or seven years ago I sat at my first portfolio review table opposite a budding hobby photographer with a shoe box full of snap shots of lovely scenes that caught her fancy. I gave her as much consideration and thought in helping advance her work as I did in my office the day before meeting with a well-known editorial photographer or I do today sitting across the table from an artist with a highly sophisticated presentation. At whatever level a photographer is working, benefits can be had from opening up and allowing another pair of eyes to share in an artist’s work process. I learned this in art school and I believe in it today.
After participating as a photography reviewer in a number of festival and reviewing events, I am pleased to participate in Eyeist.com, a sophisticated new reviewing opportunity for photographers working at all levels all over the world. The experience for photographers in participating in live reviews such as Center Santa Fe, Fotofest, Photo Lucida or Paris Photo is a unique and special one for many reasons, not least of which is the sense of camaraderie one feels on both sides of the table. The fact that I often refer to the experience as being akin to summer camp for adults, in no way diminishes its value. It can be extremely motivating to spend a few days in deep immersion with other people facing the same challenges as one’s self. A glass of wine over dinner and engaged conversion with a growing pool of new friends and colleagues is irreplaceable. That said, its not always possible, physically or financially to trek to that really great live review. This is why Eyeist.com is such a special thing.
I often wince at the number of new portfolio reviews that seem to sprout like weeds. In fact I just declined an offer to organize yet another one. I fear for the photographer who like everyone else in the world, must face financial reality that one can’t really afford attending every event, even though there seems to be mounting pressure to do just that. The sense of missing that one chance to meet with someone who might open just the right door is extremely compelling. These things do happen – sometimes. Several handfuls of the work I have loved most at reviewing events are beginning to get their day in the world and that’s a really great thing.
Even so, I feel proud to participate in Eyeist, because it offers a very good option to being there. Especially for those who need to target their time or target their money, Eyeist is terrific and if I work up my nerve, I might even send my personal work over to a colleague for their take on things.
Currently 48 reviewers are on board with a wide range of expertise from major magazine photo editors to accomplished advertising art buyers to agents, curators as well as a handful of photographers in a variety of genres. There are people who may be able to offer direct exhibition or publication opportunities and there are people like me, who come from places of deep experience, that may be able to help photographers progress enough to open doors to new opportunities.
After a year of challenging work and dedication by Eyeist founders Allegra Wilde, Micah and Jesse Diamond and their techno-wiz developer Doug Dawirs, they have created a unique and accessible system for assisting photographers that works exceptionally well. I’m not going to spell out the details as their website does that, but I will say that we reviewers all participated in a number of training sessions and beta tests to get the system to function with great ease. A benefit to the reviewing process that I hadn’t anticipated was that I was able to give a far more in-depth review than I am able in live review situations due to the potential to have a little bit of advance time with the photographer’s work. I could look, think, make notes, formulate suggestions in a quiet, non-distracting space and provide a valuable service for my test subjects. In addition the subject’s ability to choose a specific reviewer or trust Eyeist to do so, allows an ability to target to a photographer’s unique needs.
I don’t believe that Eyeist can or should replace the live, in-the-same-room experience provided by the more reputable reviewing events, but I think it can be a terrific addition to one’s toolbox. I continue to meet with local photographers privately and that’s a completely ideal work process and setting, but Eyeist offers an opportunity to reach out, for all of us.