Mentoring

Of the numerous challenges every photographer faces, one of the most crucial to address is the necessity to critically engage with one’s own work: is this photography any good? If yes, why? If not, why not? For each and every photograph, there are many hurdles that might prevent one from seeing a picture for what it really is.

The idea of mentoring is simple: I provide a second critical pair of eyes, and we discuss your photographs. Based on what we see, I provide you with your next steps. We then discuss the outcome of that. It’s a continuous process, at the end of which you will be better equipped to deal with your own photographs more critically, while also being able to be more conscious when making them.

My Background

You might know me as the person who has been writing about photography for this website, magazines, and monographs. In addition, over the course of the past decade, I taught photography at a Masters level. Large parts of that teaching consisted of individual coaching of students. This coaching covered the full spectrum, ranging from helping students to develop a completely new photographic voice, all the way to helping students to conceptualize and realize a photobook and/or exhibition.

I’m the author of Understanding Photobooks: The Form and Content of the Photographic Book. In addition, I have also been working on my own photography. My first photobook is scheduled to be released in late 2020.


Thus, I have been approaching photography from three different, complementary angles: looking at and engaging with photography as a critic, working with photographers developing their work as a teacher, and developing my own photography.

While wearing any one of these three hats, I have always made sure to remember what it’s like to wear another one. I believe that it is this combination that has helped me provide valuable insight into teaching.

Please note that the following services are available in English and German.

Portfolio Review / One-Time Consultation ($95)

Have you recently finished a photographic project? Perhaps you are in the middle of one, or simply want another pair of eyes going over your photography to provide some feedback. A portfolio review / one-time consultation is right for you!

The set-up is simple: you send me a pdf with your photographs, a description of the work, plus a list of your overall goals or questions, and we meet up online for an hour to talk about your pictures. Knowing about your goals is important — this allows me to make sure you get the most out of the time.

If you’re interested, send me an email (jmcolberg@gmail.com). Tell me a little bit about yourself, your photography, and your goals. I’ll then be in touch to arrange the details.

Is Mentoring For You?

Mentoring is for every photographer who…

  • Wants to start a new project and has trouble getting it off the ground.

  • Has been working on a project and feels stuck, not knowing how to proceed.

  • Has been working on a project and wants to make a photobook.

  • Isn’t thinking about projects but simply wants to grow as an artist.

  • Feels like they know what they’re doing and misses new challenges. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is hard.

  • Wants to broaden their thinking around their work and/or photography in general.

  • Wants to expand their available tools and methodologies.

  • In general wants to make new work, with a second critical pair of eyes present.

There is one basic prerequisite: you have to be able to take/make new pictures and/or work on your task at hand regularly.

What’s Included

The mentoring structure is very simple. It’s based on three-month Modules. At the end of every Module, we will discuss your next steps and decide whether another three months makes sense. In a sense, the three-months mark is a little bit arbitrary. Its most basic idea is to find a way to evaluate progress and to adapt to your needs. Another Module can always be added if we both agree that it makes sense to do so.

All of our interactions happen online (obviously, given the pandemic, this model has now spread widely — I have been using it for over ten years). For every meetup, you will prepare and share new work based on what was previously discussed.

If you’re new to mentoring, before we get started we will meet up online so I can learn about your work, broad ideas, and broad goals. This first consultation is free of charge.

Every Module consists of six one-hour meet ups over a three-month period. We essentially will be meeting up every two weeks. Should scheduling conflicts arise, those will be sorted out — flexibility is key.

Given the meet ups are online, you can be based anywhere in the world — as long as you have internet access.

At the beginning of every Module, we define a set of target goals. We will then evaluate progress at the end of the Module. This structure is not overly rigid: the creative process entails learning new things, running into unexpected difficulties, etc.

The idea of setting goals is to make sure that we’re both on the same page, so I get a good feeling for how to help you, and you know what you need to be doing over the following three months.

Available Modules

The following Modules are available. At any given time, you can be signed up for one Module. *Please note that the list will get expanded over time.

Module 1: Making Work ($300)

This is the most basic Module. It’s centered on making new work and on discussing it every two weeks — based on your specific needs. Depending on where you are with your work and your goals, “making new work” might entail editing, or it might entail writing.

Module 2: Making Work and Learning How to Edit ($300)

This Module is geared towards photographers who already have part of a project and who want to continue to develop it. While you make new work, you will also work on a series of editing tasks set up by me. We will then talk about your work every two weeks, with a focus on both new pictures and edits. Please note that this Module does not mean that I edit your work. You will learn how to do it yourself.

Module 3: Making a Book ($300)

This Module is for photographers who have a finished or almost finished body of work and want to learn how to turn it into a photobook. The focus of the Module is to develop the concept of the book, to edit/sequence the work for the book, and to become aware of all the other aspects of photobook making that aren’t talked about all that much. Here again I am not going to edit your work for you. You will learn how to do it yourself.

How To Sign Up

Send me an email (jmcolberg@gmail.com). Ideally, in that email you’ll tell me a little bit about yourself, your photography, your goals, which Module you’re interested in, and your location (time zone). I’ll then be in touch to set up a meet up so we can talk about things.

Also, email any questions you might have.

General Questions Answered

You said there is only one prerequisite — to be able to make work. But what about my type of camera?

As long as you can make and share new work every two weeks, you can work with any camera or photographic process you like. Working digitally will make the process easier. But if you work with film, then work with film. In the case of film, you have to make sure you can get your film developed and scanned in time. This is very much doable, but it entails a bit of scheduling.

What happens if I have to re-schedule a meet up?

Life always gets in the way, and you might have to re-schedule a meet up. That’s no problem. You will want to communicate this as early as you can, so we can work something out. And if you miss a session because you lose power or there is some emergency, we’ll reschedule that as well.

I have a job so I can only meet up in the evenings. Would that work?

Yes, that would work — as long as you have enough time to work on your photography. Remember, that’s the key: to be able to make new work.

I live in a different time zone. How would that work?

While some time zones might get a bit iffy, we should be able to schedule meet ups. I’m pretty flexible. If there’s a huge time difference, this would be something to bring up when we meet for the first time.

Can I get in touch in between our meetups?

Yes, within reason you can. You can email me with (follow-up) questions etc. But the meetups really are designed to discuss things. So keep that in mind.