Chicago IL

Filter Photo Festival-Chicago, IL. by Ron Cowie

Filter Photo Festival

I'm excited to meet the portfolio reviewers at Filter Photo Festival in Chicago. If you would have asked me last week, I would have told you just the opposite. Actually, I would told you that I really didn't think it would have been worth the time and effort. You see, one of the best defense mechanisms I have to date is ambivalence. If I don't mind, it doesn't matter. 

There are as many reasons to go to portfolio reviews as there are people who attend. I know the party line is to say 'portfolio reviews are a great place to meet people who can help your career move to the next level."

There are even people who have made a business out of giving tips on how to "nail your portfolio review".  In fact, portfolio reviews have become a bit of a cottage industry. This is a good thing for photography. The abundance of people making better pictures is a result of greater access and organization from the "industry" side. When I'm feeling insecure about where I stand in this model, I think it's all just a silly circular game designed to suck money out of image maker's wallets. As with all overblown fears, there is a grain of truth to them.

Here's what I know for sure about portfolio reviews:

  1. They're fun. 
  2. I get to meet some of the best thinkers and creators in photography. 
  3. It gets me out of the house.
  4. Gatherings like this organize my thinking around the images I produce. 
  5. It's inspirational to see other photographer's work.
  6. Finding out that I'm not alone in this is a great comfort.

I don't have a really big agenda for Filter. I'm bringing some recent work and some projects  I haven't had a chance to show around. I going to Filter to get some fresh eyes on my work. Here are the reviewers I'm meeting.

This is a pretty amazing bunch of people and I'm not just saying that in case they actually read this. The energy and effort that would go into meeting these people individually would be astronomically higher and more complicated. Filter is a better deal.

Now, all platitudes and politically correct jibber-jabber aside, my expectations are extremely low. It is harmful to think otherwise. I'm not planning on walking away from this experience with print sales or shows booked. I'm not bringing a portfolio with that in mind. It's always more fun to see if I really connect with anyone and pursue the relationship after all the smoke clears.

No one is really making any kind of money doing this stuff. Hardly anyone supports themselves with their art "career" work. The exceptions are either living in a van "down by the river" or don't need to go to portfolio reviews anymore. 

Photographers wanting to remain "pure to their craft" will have very short careers unless they marry rich or win the lottery. Taking work to portfolio reviews offers a chance to create new opportunities and avenues for projects outside the fine art world. I have conflicted feelings about this truth however I recognize it is nothing new. It is the new normal for a well-rounded career involving photography. 

So, I arrive Wednesday night and can't wait. If you're attending too, I hope to see you.