This coming weekend we have a workshop with the accomplished photographer Cole Thompson. Among a couple of other things, he has asked each of the participants to bring ten prints. (That is PRINTS, not just an image on a laptop–I love the idea!) But…Aaaack! Talk about a most difficult difficult task! How do you edit down all the work you have ever done into an abbreviated portfolio of ten prints!?
You could…pick ten on the same theme…ten from a specific photographic project…ten from your latest trip to the world’s largest ball o’ twine…ten in color…ten in monochrome…ten portraits…ten that you think are your best overall…ten varied works that show your wide range of interests…ten random images…ten that a friend picks out for you…and so on.
The so-called “experts” always council that, when putting together a portfolio or a show of any kind, there be some uniformity of style and theme throughout and it should be designed with the intended audience in mind. It is not seen as a good thing to randomly throw together a still life in color, then an abstract monochrome, then images of wildlife, then sports car action, etc–it wouldn’t make sense to the viewer. It should be what they often call “a cohesive body of work”.
The experts also council that, editorially speaking, you should become a cruel and heartless Genghis Khan as you slice your digital scimitar through your image collection. Be absolutely ruthless about throwing out the bad stuff, they say–and even the good stuff that doesn’t quite make it to excellent. For a portfolio, keep only your very, very best.
So, what to do…what to do? How do I whittle down what I do with the camera into just ten images? Also, this is just a workshop–I am not trying to sell myself to a gallery or a client–so how might that affect my selection?
My personal problem related to image selection for a portfolio is that I am sometimes too attached to particular images to be able to judge them in a neutral way. I also sometimes don’t think I know what a good image is, at least when it comes out of my camera. Maybe it is that my emotional investment or even my physical investment (dude, it was a mega-epic hike to get there!) can confuse me about what is truly a good image.
Because of these issues, it is a great idea to enlist the help of a spouse, friend, relative, fellow photog, photography club, your cat, even a stranger on the street…as long as they are capable of telling you the truth! A different, honest, perspective can reveal things about your images that never would have occurred to you working solo.
So, I have picked my ten images. I went ahead and matted them, too, as I think presentation is very important in how one views a photograph. I have chosen pairs of images that relate to five different themes–sort of the mini photo essay idea. All are monochrome, except one which has somewhat muted colors (I am taking a risk here, mixing in a color with B & W!).
We will see how it goes. And it will be interesting to see the different ways in which the 15 participants have approached this assignment of bringing in ten prints. I will report back after the workshop.
Oh, and I completely reserve the right to change out my portfolio images right up until this Saturday morning!
Additional Information: For a great summary of the nature of a photography portfolio and how to create one, see 10 Steps for Building a Photography Portfolio to Be Proud Of by Simon Bray.