A First Timers Guide to Review Santa Fe
A few weeks ago, photographer Carol Erb traveled to New Mexico to attend her first Review Santa Fe Portfolio Review. Review Santa Fe is considered the rarest of portfolio review air, with 100 photographers who are juried into the event. It is no small feat to be accepted, and the experience has launched many careers. Well considered portfolios are placed in front of the movers and shakers in the photo world and often magic happens. Carol shares her experience here:
My husband and I were hiking in Europe last June when I received an email from CENTER with the news that my work had been accepted into Review Santa Fe. Was it really true? I kept checking my email for notice that an error had been made. Review Santa Fe is the only juried portfolio review event in the United States, and, as such, attracts applicants from around the world. Getting into Review Santa Fe was on my long goal list; not something that I had expected to happen in the near term, if at all.
As I headed into Santa Fe this past November, I contemplated the challenges I would face. My feet are firmly planted in the “Emerging” category of fine art photography, which is a nice way of saying that I haven’t been doing this for very long. And, I’m from the Midwest, so my brain is hardwired for modesty. My strategy for the whole event was simply to relax, have fun, and try to learn something.
After settling into my room at the Hotel Santa Fe, I headed to the lounge to await the scheduled artist welcome and orientation by Laura Pressley, Director of Center. Laura gave us the lowdown on the history of Review Santa Fe, along with a preview of the weekend’s events. Afterward, there was a cocktail reception next door at the Photo-Eye Gallery, where selected images from the 2016 Center Award winners were on display. Having skipped lunch, my attention quickly turned to the massive spread of fancy hors d’oeuvres (yes, they had shrimp!) Like most of the gallery parties I’ve been to in the past, the room was jammed with people all trying to be heard above the din. I have to admit, I found this sort of social event attractive enough when I was a younger artist; but at late middle age, I’ve no longer the temperament to mingle and chat with people I don’t know and can’t hear. My first reviews were scheduled to begin bright and early the next morning, so I made my exit and retired to my room in order to prepare.
On my first day of reviews, I met with Samantha Johnson, Executive Director of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) in Denver; Brian Paul Clamp, Director of ClampArt Gallery in New York; and Mark Sink, Director/Curator of Month of Photography Denver. All three reviewers were incredibly thoughtful and generous in their remarks about my work. Off to a very good start! I quite honestly wish that I could have heard more of what they do and how they came to photography, but the 20 minute segment was much too short.
By 4:30 we were setting up our work at the enclosed Farmer’s Market for the portfolio walk. Fellow artist Judy Gelles, who received the 2nd Place CENTER Curator’s Choice Award for her wonderful “Fourth Grade” series was stationed to my left, and we had a great time getting to know each other. Eva Fazzari, who was the first place Editor’s Choice Award for her project, “Freeway Dogs” was stationed behind me, and the talented Tara Cronin to my right. The first hour was open to reviewers and holders of the Festival Pass. I really liked this arrangement because it gave us artists a chance to show off our work to VIPs without the crowds and distractions of the public viewing period. The two following hours were open to the public, and even though it was raining and the parking was inadequate, the crowd was pretty large. These events are really valuable for getting your pitch down. I must have given my “elevator” speech a hundred times that night. Some people walked right by with no interest whatsoever, but many stopped and wanted to see every image and engage with me about my process and message. I regret that we did not have much opportunity to walk around to look at our fellow photographers’ work. After three hours on my feet, I was tired and my voice was shot, so I made it another early night.
My second day of reviews started out early with Kevin Miller, Associate Curator at the Southeast Museum of Photography. Kevin was one of my reviewer selections at Medium Festival in San Diego two weeks prior, but due to a hurricane out East, my meeting with him had been canceled. I was so glad to finally meet Kevin in Santa Fe, and it was well worth the wait. He is charming, enthusiastic and engaging, oh, and he liked my work too.
Next up, I met with Takeki Sugiyama, who comes to Review Santa Fe every year from Japan where he owns and operates Gallery Tanto Tempo in Kobe, and is the director of the Mt. Rokko Photography Festival. If that’s not enough, he is also a medical doctor. Not enough(?), he also makes beautiful tea towels which are illustrated with his own designs. Quite the Renaissance man!
The four final meetings were with Anne Kelly, Gallery Director of Photo-ye Gallery: David Bram and Bree Lamb from Fraction Magazine; Mary Anne Redding, Curator at the Turchin Center of Visual Arts in Boone, NC; and Dana Salvo, Co-owner of Clark Gallery in Boston. Every one of the reviewers I met with had wonderful, thoughtful comments and recommendations for me to follow.
With the reviews behinds us, and with a collective sigh of relief, my fellow artists and the reviewers gathered for a cocktail hour and print raffle, followed by a dinner to honor Susan Meiselas.
Next morning at breakfast I said goodbye and drove out to the massage mecca, Ten Thousand Waves, for a good working over by Karma, their deep tissue guy. Ahhhhhhh! This was a good idea! If I am a very good girl, perhaps I will see Karma again some day. Then it was off to meet my Facebook friend and Photoshop soul mate, Ellen Janzen and her husband Michael at their home outside of Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the timing of my flight back to L.A. prevented me from attending the final Review Santa Fe event, a gallery walk on Sunday afternoon. The quiet drive back to Albuquerque and flight home were the perfect opportunity to reflect on the weekend events in relative solitude. At times, I find looking at the work of other photographers a little overwhelming, and I feel discouraged and hypercritical about my own work. Instead, this time I felt energized about my current work, and inspired to get working on new projects. Without a doubt, the very best part of my weekend in Santa Fe was meeting so many other truly wonderful artists, soaking up all their talent, kindness, and generosity.
Carol Erb is a Los Angeles based artist who attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated with a BA from DePaul University. In 2013, the artist began using Photoshop to create constructed realities using her own photographic material.
In 2016, Carol was a finalist for Critical Mass and was invited to Review Santa Fe. Her images have appeared in numerous exhibits at The Center for Fine Art Photography, Houston Center for Photography, Phoenix Art Museum, Photo Place Gallery, Vermont Center for Photography, and A. Smith Gallery. The artist’s work has been featured in Square Magazine, Adobe Create, and A Photo Editor.
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