In my final post about this year’s Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal (part 1, part 2) I want to talk about their portfolio reviews. I love talking with photographers about their work. Yet I intensely dislike portfolio reviews, or, more accurately, I dislike those events where you get 20 minutes with a photographer and where you typically are treated like cattle. Of course, I’m fully aware of the fact that my complaints are extremely unlikely to change what has become an industry (which, let’s face it, is quite lucrative for some people). (more)
Before I went to Montréal, I saw they had a portfolio review organized there. I was told about it, but I wasn’t asked to be a reviewer, even though it was mentioned that I was welcome to be there. So when I went to the Arsenal (see post 1) where the reviews were set up, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Upon arrival, I was invited to join in if I wanted. That had me puzzled - how can you simply ask people to join when you need to organize things? The answer is surprisingly simple: You just don’t organize it.
There were a number of tables, with photographers and their work, and there was a pool of reviewers. The latter - which I joined after realizing what was going on - simply walked around and talked with the photographers. If you saw someone whose work looked interesting you’d sit down and chat. If someone was busy you’d simply come back later. If you spent 21 minutes of time (or more) with someone that was fine, since there was no time limit. If you were done after 10 minutes, that was cool, too. Everything was completely relaxed, everybody looked very happy. I really enjoyed talking with photographers about their work.
This reminded me a little bit of the photography festival in Hyeres (France), where the shortlisted photographers get two days to talk with the members of the jury - essentially, they’re doing portfolio reviews, but without any time pressure. It’s just a very different vibe.
The Montréal portfolio reviews were thus the icing on the cake: An intensely inspiring - and very professionally organized and presented - photo festival. I’ll definitely make sure to come back in two years (the festival happens on a biennial basis).