It was December of 2002. I was at an opening (a Roman Loranc show, I think) at the Ansel Adams Gallery on Cannery Row (sadly, gone now). Jeanne Adams came up to me and said that she thought I’d enjoy going to PhotoLucida.
“Photo what?” was the best I could do. I had no idea what she was talking about.
Jeanne explained that it was a portfolio review. I could get lots of people to look at my work without trotting around to galleries and museums. I said I’d check it out.
I asked Dennis High about it. Coincidentally, he had already agreed to be a reviewer. He said he thought it would be good for me. I had a body of work that I thought was far enough along to hold together, and I had until April to collect it all. I went to the PhotoLucida website and signed up.
A month or so before the event, a list of reviewers appeared in my email box together with a form to fill out indicating who I’d like to see my work. There were some short bios, but not enough for me to make much of an informed choice. I had the sense that I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but figured that there wasn’t much of a downside, so I might as well jump in and pretend like I knew what I was doing. I more or less randomly picked some names, and sent the form to the PhotoLucida people.
I printed up work in my usual size (22×30 on 340 gsm paper) for the series I was interested in presenting (I now call it “This Green Growing Land”; check it out at www.kasson.org). It made a pretty cumbersome bundle to cart around during the review sessions.
I packed my car with portfolio cases and drove to Portland. When I got there, I was impressed by how well organized things were. Over four days, I had more than twenty people see my work, and got some good advice along with some platitudes. Some less-than-positive experiences were my fault for not researching my reviewers very well. For example, the reviewer from George Eastman House said that as far as his institution was concerned, I had three strikes against me. “How so?” I asked. The answer: 1) it’s color, 2) it’s blurry, and 3) it’s inkjet. With a little research, I probably could have figured that out earlier.
The failings in my discussions with reviewers mostly resulted from my not having a clear idea of what I wanted out of the experience. Yes, I kind of wanted an exhibition or two, but I already had one lined up for this work and wasn’t very hungry. Yes, I kind of wanted to sell work, but not very badly. What I most wanted was feedback on the images, but I didn’t get much of that. Maybe the reviewers were trying to spare my feelings. I didn’t press them. There were encouraging words, a few vague references to upcoming exhibits, and only one definitive action. One person with a gallery said she wanted to hang three pieces and see what her customers thought. I sent her the work, and never heard from her again.
As I drove home, I decided that the trip had been productive. I didn’t achieve much, but I hadn’t had any expectations. I’d learned a lot about the photographic art biz. I’d learned a few things about my images. I’d met some interesting people. I was in no hurry to do it again.