I went to Photomeet earlier in the year, this was my first mass portfolio review. I had considered doing them before, both when I went to Arles in 2014 after graduating from my BA, and at Format in 2015 a year later. Each of these times I decided that the cost outweighed the benefits with the work that I had. I knew the merits of showing work, even when it isn’t a project that would be picked up. I just couldn’t warrant the outlay as that was money that could be invested into the work itself. Photomeet seemed to come at the right time, I had heard lots of great things about it and I had just produced Albatross into a dummy. Also, I had the initial images from Folly that I could gauge people’s opinions of.
I tried to choose my reviewers systematically. As a photographer there are many outlets for work, both commercial and artistic, and as such there are many different guiding opinions. At the time of booking the review I did not want to box myself into one particular way of working so I chose a wide selection of reviewers. I will do my best to summarise thoughts from the reviews that left an impression on me.
Most of the reviewers really enjoyed the work, they seemed fascinated that I had made the Albatross book myself and that I had gone to a situation like that and shot it in the way I did. Following from this I started to get a lot of good feedback on the initial Folly work. Critically I was told to consider commercial output and my placement in the industry. What is my subject matter? What am I known for? This gave me plenty of room for thought, however I always felt that the attrition of understanding would begin to appear more the more work I made and showed together.
The more editorial reviewers suggest I get in touch with editors to sell the story, this seemed to make sense with the type of work I was showing them however Fiona Shields from the Guardian said that they would not touch a military story, I had been told something similar previously from other editors. At the time I was up for doing this but on reflection I just felt like that one project was so contained and an editorial context of the work would defy the very make-up of how it transmits it meaning. I will be considering potential editorial options if I was to go into a similar situation again, but the same feeling may arise. I feel it would split my mind on what I was there for. The financial benefits of editorial work in this context don’t feel worth the sacrifices made when making the work. I would prefer to focus on the work itself and consider editorial interest about my making of the work, potentially viewed as more of an artist? I’m not sure.
This event was a good way to meet Max Ferguson, Harry Hardie and Tim Clarke as at various points I have been told to show my work to them. Each was positive and gave good advice. Most importantly they asked questions pertinent to the work, questions that the work is made through asking. Max was very supportive, and Tim and Harry pointed me towards references, workshops and publishers (amongst other things).
I also met with two publishers as a bonus. Because Francesca Genovese couldn’t make it I got extra reviews with Dewi Lewis and Martin Usborne. Both claimed to enjoy the Albatross work yet looked a little lost with what to say about it. I thought about this a lot at the time and put together an idea of why this may be. There is a subversive nature to how I like to make the themes appear in my work. I love the to and fro of watching people try to make sense of it and allowing them the space to do this. I think I enjoy this because I imagine a book I would like to view. More of a riddle than an epic story told. Both of these publishers seemed to be talking only about whether or not they would publish it rather than looking at the work for what it is. Obviously, you would love to hear that they outright want to publish it there and then but upon consideration of both of their publishing houses I had to question whether or not I would choose them based on their books and what I know about their practice. Probably not, there doesn’t seem to be any synergy between work like mine and work that they publish at this stage.
Photomeet is an event in itself, above and beyond the reviews. There are talks, parties, the chance to meet people whilst waiting for the reviews. You get to touch base with people you have met previously but don’t see often and most importantly you can put your finger on the pulse of what work is being made. This can be considered in varying ways, subject matter, quality of work, stylistic trends, trends of anything in fact. It’s amazing how many people make similar work within a certain period. I want to tap into the idea of these discourses of thought and output but yet somehow question it through my own work.