New England Portfolio Reviews

"Pyrotechnic #120", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
“Pyrotechnic #120”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the newly redesigned New England Portfolio Reviews* at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA. The Griffin basically took over these reviews from the PRC because of the recent troubles that organization is having. (edit – The Griffin and PRC actually used to jointly host the reviews at BU)

*(What are portfolio reviews? I’ll have a longer article posting shortly, but they are basically a chance to show your photography to various photo professionals for feedback and exposure).

As someone who attended two previous NEPRs, I was very happy with the new, more intimate arrangement. Instead of 80 or so photographers on the BU campus, this one had 20 per day at the Griffin Museum itself and a proportionally smaller group of reviewers.

Because of the smaller size, though, I felt that the entire proceeding was more informal and that it was easier to interact both with other photographers and the reviewers themselves. The provided lunches also helped people interact, as reviewers and photographers mingled during lunch as well, allowing for more relaxed conversations.

One downside to this arrangement, of course, is that less photographers are able to attend. The buzz at the reviews was that they plan on having reviews more than once per year to help address this situation — I hope that is indeed the case.

The other big difference from the previous reviews was the introduction of an educational component. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings the proceedings started with a lecture by Mary Virginia Swan and a panel (on Saturday) and a lecture by Jennifer Schwartz of Crusade for Art on Sunday. I found both days to be very worthwhile and I wish they had an even longer panel discussion — that in particular was very useful for me.

Elin Spring, who writes a wonderful and must-read blog for anyone interested in fine art photography in New England, wrote a summary of the reviews from her perspective, too, including highlighting work that she saw there (including mine, so thank you!).

One of the best things about these sort of reviews is to meet other photographers and to see their work in person. Photographers who I talked to during the event included Sean Sullivan, Jane Yudelman, Bob Avakian, Susan Lapides, Cattie Coyle, Taylor Hopkins, and Lucas James (link to his blog post about the reviews), and I heartily recommend checking out their sites. And my apologies if I missed somebody!

I found the less formal version of the NEPR to be a great opportunity and look forward to future events.

Upcoming Portfolio Review Events, January 2014 edition

"Nightfall, Hunter's Head", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
“Nightfall, Hunter’s Head”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Portfolio review events are seemingly all the rage right now in the photography, with good reason. I am in the process of writing a longer article explaining what they are are why they are becoming so popular and with tips on getting the most of out of them — so keep an eye out this week for more on this.

But until then, I wanted to get this information out there as soon as possible, as there are a number of portfolio review event possibilities coming up soon for New England photographers (and look quickly, as some are coming up very soon!).

The Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, MA has their annual Portfolio Day coming up this Saturday, February 1st. Call them to sign up if you are interested — there are at least three people there who are primarily or exclusively reviewing photography. This one is also open to all artists, not just photographers.

The Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA, now has monthly – and free – portfolio reviews for members of the museum. The next one up is next week on February 4th from 7-9 pm. And if any Mainers sign up I’m heading down for this one and would be interested in car pooling if we can make the schedules work…

The second annual New York Portfolio Review is coming up April 5th and 6th, 2014, with a deadline for submission of February 10th. This one will likely be highly competitive for both its reviewers and the fact that it is free (unique among the big review events). It is a juried event so you have to submit an application to be considered.

The PRC at Boston University has monthly review events for members, too, and you can find out more here. The next one is on Wednesday, so you’ll likely have better luck with next month’s one on February 26th.

 

 

Upcoming Northeast Portfolio Review Events

"Pyrotechnic #38", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
“Pyrotechnic #38”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Portfolio review events are a wonderful opportunity to receive feedback and to market your work, and I strongly recommend photographers consider attending one when they feel they are ready. I attended the New England Portfolio Review two years back and it certainly was an educational and productive experience, and I definitely plan on attending another one this year.

The New York Times is staging a new portfolio review event April 13th-14th of this year with a deadline coming up fast – midnight this Wednesday, February 13th. Kudos to them for making their event FREE – both to apply and to attend. This of course means it will be very competitive, but it is certainly worth a shot!

In the Boston area are two upcoming review events, too – the New England Portfolio Reviews at the PRC in Boston (review June 7th-8th, application May 6th-22nd), and the Griffin Portfolio Review Day on May 9th (applications begin April 11th) down in Boston. [EDIT – turns out the Griffin one was a false alarm and was from 6 years ago] – so just the New England Portfolio Reviews are this year!]. Both of these events are first come, first served. Good luck!

 

Marketing Your Art

"Pyrotechnic #49", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.
“Pyrotechnic #49”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Is one of your resolutions for 2013 to get your photography or other work “out there” into the nebulous fine art market? If so, there are a few upcoming workshops here in New England that might be of interest to you.

First up is the Marketing Basics for Artists series at Portland’s Maine College of Art (h/t to Sarah Szwajkos and Heather Frederick for the reminder), with a series of marketing lectures starting this Wednesday, January 9th. The four lectures cover the breadth of marketing for artists in 2013, ranging from business cards, artist statements, websites, email marketing and social media, and the like. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area.

Fine art photography marketing expert (really) Mary Virginia Swanson is giving a Saturday workshop down at the PRC in Boston on February 2nd entitled “Finding Your Audience“. I’ve seen her speak before and I’m confident that this will be well worth the effort — I’m going myself to this one.

Lastly, I’ve been meaning to mention this one for a while, but Photoshelter has a ton of high quality — and free — materials available on marketing, and the most recent one on email marketing for photographers is quite good.

Update, and a scam directed towards artists

“Waterscape, Blue/White #2”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

I’ll be pretty occupied next week with my Night Landscape Photography workshop next week with Maine Media Workshops, so please don’t be alarmed if I’m a bit slow in responding to emails and such. The image above is a new image for my abstract waterscape series from this summer…

Ok, on to the crux of the post. As if artists needed another thing to worry about, I received a few emails as part of an attempted scam this week regarding the purchase of one of my photographs. I bring this up as a warning, as it was much more specific than the normal Nigerian colonel-type of scam. I’m sure all of my readers are familiar with these sort of scams (find out more here from Craigslist), but this one seemed worth highlighting since it is specific to artists (and I know of at least one other Maine artist who received a similar email this week, so I’m sure there are others).

Here’s the e-mail I first received (along with my own commentary in red):

From: Steve Kepley (of course it is Steve – a nice generic American and yet kind of cool name)
To: Jim Nickelson
Re: “The Tarn” (one of the keys to the scam – identifying one of my more popular images with specificity)

Good day, hope you are good. Was going through your website and saw some of your artwork I really like. You are doing a great job. (flattery always is helpful, but the great job part struck me as odd). I would like to make the purchase of the artwork in subject field above if it is still available..i would also like to know more about the artwork. kindly get back to me asap.
Thanks and God bless, (nice touch, too, to make it seem like someone without bad intent)
Steve.

After this first email something seemed a little off to me, but I really didn’t expect a scam because of the reference to a particular image – I was thinking more that it was someone who was unlikely to be serious. But you never know, so I replied with prices, availability, and sizes…and then received this reply:

From: Steve Kepley <stevkepley@yahoo.com>
Subject: Hello…
Date: October 10, 2012 12:37:41 PM EDT
To: Jim Nickelson <jim@jimnickelson.com>
Reply-To: Steve Kepley <stevkepley@yahoo.com>

Dear Jim,
Thanks for your prompt reply.  i must tell you i am very much interested in the immediate purchase in size 16″x16″. My wife found your website and ask me to view your artwork and contact you for the purchase. (the wife is a nice touch, too. another compelling aspect was picking a specific size – and not being too greedy and going for the largest one, either)

Unfortunately, i am on a voyage at the moment to France as am a  civil marine engineer  i squeezed out time to check this advert and send you an email regarding it. I wont be back for another couple of weeks, I would have come to purchase the piece personally. (now the alarms go off in full – a civil marine engineer on the way to France? plentiful grammatical errors? and a print buying rush? the scam potential quickly became very obvious)
If you’d like to know, Im relocating to the philippines soon and I’m trying to gather some good stuff for my new abode. Im buying yours amongst others,quickly! before someone else grabs it.So, I’ll arrange to send you payment ASAP. (now he is just getting over the top with throwing another country in there – and I’d also recommend honing that boilerplate a bit to remove at least some of the grammatical errors)

However, I’ll have to notify my shipper who’s helping me move my stuff to get set for the pickup of the piece from your place as I MIGHT be delayed depending on how things goes.
Thanks,
Steve.

PS: In the mean time, you could forward me your full name (you want the check payable to) and contact address so I can mail out the certified check to you ASAP. (oh, and just casually reference the information they need to begin the money order scam)

So the lesson, as always, is to be careful with your information on the Internet…and if there are any legitimate “civil marine engineers” out there interested in purchasing my work, I’m happy to oblige!

Professional Development Series in Portland

“Buck Moon III”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Creative Portland has announced a series of ten workshops entitled the “Professional Development Series: Business Basics for Artists”. The workshops will be on the second Wednesday of each month, and the first workshop about grant writing will be on Wednesday, October 10th, from 6-9 pm. At $10 for each of the 3 hour lectures (and free for MECA students), I’d say this is pretty much self-recommending if it is relevant for you and you live close to Portland.

Pecha Kucha This Friday in Camden & Jackie Battenfield Presentation

“Long Nights Moon”, Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

This coming Friday I’ll be presenting at Camden’s Pecha Kucha event under the stars – or at least the evening sky. The event will be at the Camden Amphitheater (right next to the library) on Friday, August 24th and features 8 presenters, including fellow Midcoast photographer Peter Ralston. The gates, such as they are, open at 7 pm and the first presentation (that would be me) will be right at sunset. There will also be live music starting at 7ish until the presentations start.

My presentation is going to be about my Adventures in Celestial Mechanics series – the one with the full moon rising over the Maine landscape – you can see this body of work on my website if you would like a sneak preview.

For those of you who have never heard of Pecha Kucha, it is a fun and lively event where each speaker (who has some connection to the arts and/or creativity) gives a fast-paced presentation of 20 slides – with only 20 seconds per slide. Each presentation moves quickly and lasts less than 7 minutes. The poster for the event is below for more details…Hope to see everyone there!

In an another event likely to be of interest to many readers, there is a very intriguing presentation up in Belfast at the Hutchinson Center at 6:30 pm on August 27th. The Belfast Creative Coalition is bringing in noted author Jackie Battenfield to speak about making a life and career as an artist. It looks like a great opportunity to hear an interesting presentation and also to mingle with many of Midcoast Maine’s creative types.

Are Photography Contests & Competitions Worth It?

“Pyrotechnic #15”, Copyright Jim Nickelson

One question that I frequently receive, and one that I grapple with myself at times, is whether all of these juried photography contests and competitions are worth it. I feel a particular obligation to address this issue since I write my popular monthly post summarizing interesting calls for entries (with a new one coming this week!) and since many people are acting upon my suggestions and entering these contests.

So the question remains – are they worth it? Is it worth the time, expense, mental energy, and possible angst to bother with these? My answer is a conditional yes, assuming you are someone who wishes to eventually exhibit your work in galleries or even museums, and/or if you hope to make your photography your career.

To flesh that out a bit, let’s talk about the possible benefits of entering (and winning) these competitions. First and foremost, the potential benefit of these competitions is that ever-elusive “exposure”. Whether it be exposure to a particular juror, or whether it be exposure to whatever audience will view the winning entries either online or in person, exposure to someone who will benefit you and your career seems to be the primary motivation for most people to enter these competitions. We’ve all heard of people who were “discovered” by some gallery owner in one of these competitions and that discovery then led to an exhibition, representation, and so on. This discovery does indeed happen and that possibility is reason enough for some to enter competitions, but be warned that it is not particularly common for major results to occur from a particular juried exhibition. All that being said, while the chances may be relatively low, they are better than if you don’t enter competitions at all.

Another benefit of entering juried competitions is building up your artistic resume. Why bother? Because establishing a history of exhibiting will help convince gallery owners, collectors, and the like that you are serious about your work and that you have credibility as an artist. I’m not saying that your work doesn’t have credibility if you don’t exhibit, just that some people will give more credence to it if you have. It may not be fair, but human nature is what it is, and having a long string of exhibitions to your name will help establish your seriousness as an artist. I think that if I were a gallery owner looking at bringing someone in for representation, an exhibition history would help convince me that the artist took their work seriously and that they would work hard themselves at marketing and such.

“Pyrotechnic #19”, Copyright Jim Nickelson

I’ve also found that for me personally, the process of selecting work to submit is a valuable exercise in editing, and the feedback on which images are selected may be useful information as well. For many there is also a psychological benefit or a sense of validation in being accepted into a juried exhibition — a confirmation that someone out there thinks your work is good. (And, as I’ve noted previously, don’t take it too personally those times you don’t get accepted – it is all extremely subjective).

Based on these factors, I’ve decided for myself that, at this point, entering select juried competitions is worthwhile for my artistic practice and career. My previous careers were not related to art and I felt that I needed to establish an exhibition history to help rectify my lack of formal artistic education. Was I correct in that? I believe so, but who knows? We can never be sure what would have happened if we had chosen a different path. I do feel that for many artists, the juried exhibition path at the beginning of your career can help in establishing credibility and increasing the chances of landing a gallery. In a world awash with aspiring photographers, you never know what is going to help out.

Just because this path is the one that I and others have chosen, however, does not mean it is the path for everyone. If you hate the idea of juried competitions or don’t have the time, treasure, or energy to enter them, don’t do it. There are other paths to get wherever you’d like to go. Maybe you will be successful in approaching galleries directly, maybe you can attend portfolio reviews, maybe you will open your own gallery, maybe the fates will conspire to have a gallery show fall in your lap. It’s worked for others before you. Go for it and don’t look back.

People have succeeded with all of these different paths, so find the one that makes the most sense to you and your situation. I think that juried competitions can help many in increasing their odds of success (however you define that), but they certainly won’t ensure success by themselves, either.

Please comment below if you’ve had any successes or frustrations with these competitions that you’d like to share!

New Article on SEO for Photographers and 2 new shows

I’ve just posted a new article I’ve written entitled “SEO for Photographer Websites” – if you have an artist website (or any sort of business website), you’ll hopefully find it useful in learning how best to get search traffic to your website. Please feel free to comment below with any questions or to contact me directly, too!

Nightfall, Otter Cliffs, from Acadia National Park
"Nightfall, Otter Cliffs", Copyright Jim Nickelson

I’d like to announce two new Maine shows I’ll be participating in. I’ll be in the 2012 Maine Photography Show down in Boothbay Harbor — congratulations to Terry Hire, Felice Boucher, Jane  Yudelman, and everyone else who will be joining me! The opening is Friday, April 13th, from 5-7 pm and the show will run until May 5th.

I’m also very pleased to be included in the Third Annual Maine Art Scene Juried Virtual Art Exhibit. This is a virtual gallery and is particularly slick – it includes a wide variety of disciplines and you can take a virtual walk through the galleries. It is definitely recommended to take a look around as there is some really nice work in there. I’m honored to share a virtual wall with Kimberly Post Rowe and Mary Woodman, too!

Embracing Rejection: Thoughts on Juried Exhibitions & Contests

"Wolf Moon II", Copyright Jim Nickelson

I’ve been thinking about juried competitions quite a bit recently – I’ve been entering many (and getting in a few), and most of my photographic friends and clients are doing the same.

Before I go on, I’d like to clarify that I believe that juried events are valuable to artists, particularly emerging artists. The obvious potential benefit (and the reason most people submit) is that getting your work in front of jurors, receiving an award or selection, and having work included in an online or physical exhibition can all result in exposure of your work to people who may be able to help advance your career. Another benefit is that selections will help fill out your artistic resume or CV and may help establish credibility and/or seriousness as an artist.

I’ve also found that for me personally, the process of selecting work to submit is a valuable exercise in editing, and who among us doesn’t need more practice with editing our own work? (If you get in the habit of frequently entering exhibitions & contests, however, your costs in time, money, and mental energy will quickly add up, so it is worthwhile to consider whether each makes sense for you and your work.)

So now let’s talk about rejection. After dinner last night when I checked my e-mail, I was staring in the face of three brand new rejections that all came in within the previous few hours. No matter what you might have won in the past or your own evaluation of your own work, a string of rejections is not conducive to warm fuzzy feelings about yourself. Most of us will inevitably start questioning ourselves, even if just fleetingly: Maybe my work just isn’t that good?

Well, who can be objective about their own work? For the purposes of this discussion, however, let’s assume that your work is good. And yet we still get rejected, time and time again. There are many legitimate reasons why any selected work will be rejected by a particular juror. First, most of these competitions are incredibly competitive – many have 1o’s or 100’s vying for each spot. Second, art is subjective. Perhaps the juror just didn’t like your work — well, there are always people who don’t like any piece of work. Maybe your work is more traditional and they were looking for something edgier, maybe your work is edgy and they wanted traditional. Maybe the juror was selecting works to curate a unique vision and, while they loved your work, it just didn’t fit it. For all these reasons and more, as artists we need to learn (and, believe me, it is hard sometimes) to not take it personally.

My lesson from all of this for my work is to embrace the rejections and recognize that they are just part of the process. Instead of being annoyed at each one like I used to be, I have now slowly come to realize that they really are subjective. And while I certainly prefer to get an acceptance rather than a rejection, getting a rejection means that I’m out there in the ring and trying to present my work to the world. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but how great is the ability to present your work that way? Now when I get those inevitable rejections, I know that I’m putting my work out there, trying for more and more competitive shows, and if I don’t get in — well, there is always next year.