Annual Portfolio Review
©2004–2007 by Jim Fife
- Discuss what the portfolio review is and what is expected.
- Continuity of Subject matter.
- Continuity of Printing.
- Continuity of Presentation.
- Artist Statement.
- Discuss Themes and Topics. Many of you have voiced this question – “What do I select to photograph for my portfolio?” Most Important – pick some thing in which you have an interest and not what you think may be of interest to others. After all, this is for you and if this exercise is going to be of any value and you are to learn from it then you jolly well better be interested in it, or it will be nothing more than an exercise in futility. It is important to have a common theme to your portfolio.
- Any of the monthly assigned categories.
- Field trips – bridges, old Texas architecture, the painted churches, Texas wild flowers, etc.
- Line and form – examples: “S” line, or concentric circles or “C” shapes as they are found in nature, architecture, people, etc.
- Any subject in which you have a particular interest – examples:
- Motorcycles, the machine itself, the people who ride them, abstracts from the parts of the bike, etc.
- The fire department, the people, the equipment, their mission, etc.
- You all have interests. You will photograph these interests better than some subject you just arbitrarily select because you are interested and will have a working knowledge of your subject.
- To list some other subjects that you might want to consider:
- Saturated color.
- Abstracts and patterns as they are found in nature, or in things man made.
- Rust and rusty objects.
- Where you grew up as a child or any other special or favorite location.
- Things that are Texas.
- Stars and where you find them – State flag, signs, clothing, on cars, antiques, etc.
- The Fountains of Houston.
- Rodeo and Cowboys.
- Street People.
- Boardwalks – from Kehma to wild life sanctuaries.
- The beach, the sand, the dunes, the patterns the wind, sand and water make, etc.
- Heart and Soul – Exploring your heritage and where you were brought up.
- The Universal Language of Children – laughter, imagination, reflection, etc.
- Aquatics – images of and from the water/sea.
- A Few of My Favorite Things – Things that are close to your heart and have significance in your life.
- Missions of Texas.
- The World Through Infrared Eyes.
- Places of Solitude.
- The Faces of Competition – Intenseness, Victory, Defeat, Agony, Joy, Frustration, etc.
- Biking & bike racing.
- Cars & racing.
- And Much Much More!
- Continuity of Printing – Photograph your subject matter and gather your images together. Go through you images and make your selections of the images you want to print and exhibit. Give careful consideration to the story or message you want your images to convey. Now print your images at the same time. Select the paper you want to print on (give this careful thought so it is consistent with your subject) – glossy, matte, watercolor, etc. and have a similar consistency and continuity to your densities, saturations, colors, blacks and whites in your printing.
- Continuity of Presentation is very important. I have seen some excellent photography fall flat with poor presentation. If you don’t think that presentation is important, why do you get dressed up to go on a job interview or go to church? Why not just a pair of old jeans and a T-shirt? Good presentation can many times improve an otherwise lack luster print.
Select a good quality mat – preferably a museum quality, two-ply minimum, white, rag mat, acid free, and ph neutral. Also select a backboard that is acid free. They make an acid free foamcore. If you are going to buy these mats and backboards at a frame shop, you can expect to pay quite a bit for them depending upon the size, the ply, if they come with precut standard windows – such as 8×10 or 11×14, or if you have custom windows cut. Cutting your own mats is much cheaper; however, you do have the initial investment of the mat cutter. This can vary from a fairly good and versatile cutter at approx. $125.00 to $200.00 to several thousand dollars for an elaborate, very versatile cutter.
Initially, your best bet is to work with standard openings for your image like 8×10 or 11×14. You can by these pre-cut, museum quality, two ply minimum, rag mats, acid free, and ph neutral, in several different shades of white at:
- Light Impressions – Syracuse, NY – Fair price but doesn’t include freight. Bring a catalog.
- Camera Co-op – cost a little more than Light Impressions but not as much more as the freight.
- Camera Exchange – I’m not sure of their pricing.
- Art stores – cheaper, usually, to order from Light Impressions and pay the freight.
- Hobby Lobby or Michael’s – They will be cheaper than frame stores and they can custom cut your mats if desired.
You can purchase the acid free foamcore locally but not at all the above stores. You are more likely to find it at an art store, Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. If you all want to get together and order it at one time, I can buy it for you wholesale in 32×40 sheets, which gives you four 16×20 mat backboards for approx. sixty cents a backboard.
Use the same white archival mat board for all your images!
- Artist Statement Guidelines:
There are four (4) kinds of artist’s statements:
- For yourself – a starting point.
- For General Use – exhibits, etc.
- For an Art Curator.
- For a Magazine.
For the most part, artist statements are in the general classification.
They are a selling or marketing tool used to explain and define you, your work and why you are doing it. This does not mean that your work cannot stand on its own. It is intended to satisfy the viewer’s curiosity as to the what and why. (Personally, I also think that many people are visually and mentally lazy and insecure and would rather not have to think about it in order to understand the image’s message. They may also have a fear of misinterpretation.) At any rate, if you have any desire to have your work accepted for an exhibit, or to have a show in a gallery, the artist statement is a requirement.
The Artist statement should incorporate the following:
- You should define what your work is about (usually for general audiences).
- Say why you are doing it.
- Put your work in context.
- It should be a page or less in length (less is better). Be concise.
- Your statements should be different for different bodies of work.
- Include a short biography.
- Have a title for your body of work.
- Write about what you are shooting and your direction(s), as you are doing it. This will help you stay focused and give you a better sense of direction.
- You can have someone write it for you – 3rd person. They should be articulate, know you, know something about photography and have a credibility in the photography community.
- When you go through this procedure, you need to work on how to verbalize your artist statement, as in an interview with a gallery owner or curator.
Some Tips – Does and Don’ts:
- No jargon or art talk – write straight forward and treat them as educated people.
- Be clear as possible.
- No BIG words.
- Make it personal and heartfelt – write in the first person.
- One page or less (less is better).
- Thank those who have helped you.
- Talk about your work as a whole. If there is more to your work, say so.
- Let it sit for a day, or more, and then review it before using it.
- Check spelling and grammar – read it aloud – have someone else check it.
- Keep refining it from time to time.
- It should not make you embarrassed
- Don’t quote poetry or someone else’s work.
The following are a couple of my artist statements from past years. I am constantly rewriting them as time goes on and my feelings and objectives change.
CAPE COD IMPRESSIONS
These images are my memories and impressions of where I grew up on the outer Cape. I hate cold weather. That’s why my images do not reflect the cold that makes up eight months of the Cape’s weather. The Cape’s eight to twelve weeks of summer is what I lived for and why I now live in the south.
As you might expect, living fifty miles off the coast of Massachusetts, most of my activities were water related. Consequently, most of my images reflect this. I have always been fascinated by the play of light, reflection, movement, flow and wave action of water. Much of my time, while boating and fishing, was spent studying its ever-changing moods and beauty – sometimes over many hours, other times changes happened within minutes. Many artists have attempted to capture the mood changes in paintings, photographs and music. La Mer, by Debussy, is one of the most expressive and has influenced my vision. The Cape, like the water that surrounds it, is ever changing. It is fascinating and inspiring and these images are only a beginning.
Photography was only a passing interest until 1971 when I became serious about what I wanted to say with my images. Later that year I joined the Houston Photographic Society, which contributed greatly to my career move into photography. In 1983 I started Jim Fife Photography, a commercial studio in west Houston. Two years later I launched a second photography venture, Oak Hill Photographic Workshops, aimed at teaching photography and supplying photographic opportunities.
During the past ten years, I have been an advisory board member for the photography department of Houston Community College. I have been a judge and lecturer for a number of Houston camera clubs and photography organizations, as well as judged competitions for the Gulf States Camera Club Counsel and for Exxon. My active participation in three Houston photography organizations (Houston Photographic Society (HPS), NW Houston Photo Club and Houston Camera Club – Digital Division) as well as in numerous exhibitions occupies most of my free time. In April of 2001 I was invested as the first “Fellow of the Houston Photographic Society,” its highest honor.
–Jim Fife, Houston, Texas, 713-467-5373
The figures emerge from the semi darkness, enveloped in an atmosphere that delicately veils their form. This creates a dream like quality and makes the image seem a poetic vision rather than an image of reality. The forms materialize subtly and gradually, never quite detaching themselves from a dusky realm. Although a portion of the subject is in shadow and the shapes sometimes remain incomplete, their contours are implied. This lighting technique is called chiaroscuro.
The artist light of preference, for lighting people and some objects, historically has been what we call “window light.” This diffused, directional light flatters the human line and form and yet leaves a veil of mystery. I have always been impressed and awed how expressive a single light source could be. For those of you devoted to Leonardo Da Vinci, you may have noticed that he utilized this window or single light technique frequently. In many of today’s studios you will find photographers using three to five lights when lighting subjects.
Consequently, it is the intent of this body of work to illustrate the expressiveness and subtlety of a single diffused light source. These images are only the infancy of this project.
Photography was only a passing interest until 1971 when I became serious about what I wanted to say with my images. In April of that year I joined the Houston Photographic Society, which contributed greatly to my career move into photography. In 1983 I started Jim Fife Photography, a commercial studio in west Houston. Two years later I launched a second photography venture, Oak Hill Photographic Workshops, aimed at teaching photography and supplying photographic opportunities.
During the past twelve years, I have been an advisory board member for the photography department of Houston Community College. I have been a judge and lecturer for a number of Houston camera clubs and photography organizations, as well as judged competitions for the Gulf States Camera Club Counsel and for Exxon. My active participation in three Houston photography organizations (Houston Photographic Society (HPS), NW Houston Photo Club and Houston Camera Club – Digital Division) as well as in numerous exhibitions occupies most of my free time. In April of 2001 I was invested as the first “Fellow of the Houston Photographic Society,” its highest honor.
©2004 Jim Fife, Houston, Texas, 713-467-5373
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