Fine Art Photography Daily

Photolucida 2017 Revisited


My business office at Photolucida

I think that this was my sixth or seventh Photolucida experience, one of the granddaddy portfolio review events that takes place every other year in April in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been equally as many times as a nervous photographer dragging my portfolio boxes, as a nervous reviewer spending 4 days looking at what’s in portfolio boxes. Each time has been a spectacular experience, and the best thing I pack in my suitcase each time I head home is a host of new friends, deepened relationships, and lots and lots of new photographs in my visual rollodex.

Photography is the only art form that offers multiple opportunities for in depth portfolio reviews around the globe. Photographers are able to have conversations with significant curators and gallerists, speak to book publishers, share their work with photo editors, collectors, and more–a unique process to our medium. The relationships between reviewer and photographer, photographer and photographer, and reviewer and reviewer allow for a rich connected community. I have always thought the best use of my marketing dollars has been spent on attending a portfolio review.

As the Photolucida website states: “Every other April, an international set of photographers and reviewers gather in Portland, Oregon for a five-day celebration of photography that includes lectures, workshops, and exhibition collaborations. Intensive portfolio reviews are at the heart of the festival. Reviewers are selected for their experience, involvement, and commitment to advancing the work of emerging and mid-career artists. Over the years, many participants have made contacts that have led directly to exhibitions, publications, and sales, in addition to receiving useful critiques. By providing a venue for in-depth, informed, and supportive dialogue between photographers, gallery owners, curators, publishers, editors, and consultants, Photolucida promotes the culture of photography locally, nationally, and internationally”.

So for those who have never experienced it, I thought I’d take you through all things Photolucida. At the heart of the event are the Laura’s: Laura Moya and Laura Valenti, both who run a well-oiled event, navigating 160 photographers and 60 reviewers through four days of 20 minute reviews, lectures, the portfolio walk, a photo book expo, and various other events and celebrations. It’s not an easy task and they are supported by volunteers from a devoted Portland photo community.

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Laura Valenti and Laura Moya

The other heart of Photolucida is the Benson Hotel, a stately old hotel that opens it’s arms to the photo community, providing numerous locations for sharing work and networking, dining, drinking, and a good night’s sleep.


The Benson Hotel in downtown Portland


©Aline Smithson, Photographers sharing work…and more work


©Aline Smithson, The Benson Hotel lobby

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, Sharing work in the lobby

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, an off the schedule review taking place on the hotel balcony

The event takes over two ballrooms, one on the ground floor that functions as the holding spot for photographers between reviews, where long tables hug the walls holding postcards, leave-behinds, and flyers. It offers more opportunity for sharing work and networking, and a variety of local reviewers offer up their time and insights to interested photographers. Also lunch time lectures are presented in the ballroom.

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, a lunchtime lecture by Corey Arnold

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, the ground floor ballroom

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, more sharing

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell

The main reviews take place upstairs in a larger ballroom where photographers have the opportunity to meet with a variety of movers and shakers in the photo world: curators, gallerists, editors, book publishers, and more.  Each photographer selects who they want to meet with in advance and they get a good portion of their picks. The review lasts for 20 minutes.


©Aline Smithson, Reviews waiting for the onslaught

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, publisher Kris Graves

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, Gallerist Paul Kopeikin reviewing work

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, Lisa Volpe, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, reviewing

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, Photographer Sandra Klein sharing work with Guo Jing, Director, Shangtuf Image and Art Club, China

Photo by Erica J Mitchell

©Erica J Mitchell, Photo Editor Alyssa Coppelman reviewing

After the first full days of reviews, photographers pack their portfolios and head up to the Portland Art Museum where they share work with the public. There are three one hour sessions, with about 50 photographers in each session. The Portfolio Walk also allows reviewers to see all the work


©Aline Smithson, The Portfolio Walk at the Portland Art Museum


©Aline Smithson, Phtographer Joyce Lopez sharing work


©Aline Smithson, Portfolio Walk

Friday night was a publisher’s showcase at the Blue Sky Gallery.  Publishers (and reviewers) like Chronicle Books, Aint Bad Publishing, Kris Graves Projects, Princeton Architectural Press, Kehrer Verlag, Zatara Press, The Ice Plant Press, Fall Line Press, Fraction, Daylight Books, Minor Matters, One Twelve Publishing/Diffusion, and North Light Press brought their latest offerings to share with photographers.


©Aline Smithson, Bridget Watson Payne, Senior Editor of Chronicle Books showing her new offerings

Saturday night was a special event for the reviewers and it was free time for photographers to visit galleries, have dinner.  The final evening event was on Sunday, after the last reviews. A farewell wrap party was held at the Oregon Historical Society with table of groaning appetizers and drinks. It was the perfect way to say good-bye to another


©Aline Smithson, a closing party at the Oregon Historical Society


©Aline Smithson, a closing party at the Oregon Historical Society

So until April 2019, thank you to all who made the event so special. This week and over the summer, we will be sharing portfolios seen in Portland.

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