So, a few weeks ago I wrote about the photography review I was going to do at SlowExposures and how nervous I was.
The list of reviewers was daunting...
It didn't really go as well as I had hoped. I have been thinking that maybe I would not share with you all how it went and just keep on pretending everything was great, but that's not really fair. So many of you took the time to help me prepare, and I really appreciate that. Also, many of you have even cared enough to check in with me and see what happened. The truth is, I was too confused to really explain the whole thing.
I'm still confused, but I have the ACP review coming up in a few weeks, and I have to sort out my thoughts on the last review so that I can go into the next one with my head held high. I might as well use this blog to figure it out, because running over and over it in my head has not been working.
I guess the best thing to do if just go through again what everybody said. I did not record the reviews, nor did I have time to take very many notes. This is the best of my recollection of what was said. If I got it wrong I am so sorry. There was a lot going on all at once...
Review # 1. Elisabeth Biondi, Visual Editor, The New Yorker.
I really enjoyed meeting Elisabeth. She is an incredibly successful woman who obviously knows so much about art. I spent a minute reading her profile (click on her picture) and was amazed by her career.
I don't think she was really amazed by my work.
This one in particular she did not really like. She suggested taking it out of the series.
I also developed a new type of printing for the series... sorry the pictures is so bad. I took it with my blackberry. Anyway, I got 3 pictures printed this way. They are printed on acetate and facemounted to acrylic. The result is this sort of light-box effect. I was so excited to show the pieces. woops.
Elisabeth said that these looked like Sepia, which is the type of printing where all the blacks are turned to brown. You see it in a lot of old-timey (word?) pictures... or those photo booths at fairs where you dress up in western wear and they photograph you. Anyway, Elisabeth DOES NOT like Sepia. I think her words were that it was a cheap trick.
The thing is though, this was not Sepia. It is actually black. Maybe something in the printing made it sort of turn to that Sepia color. I thought about telling her to was really black ink, but it wouldn't have mattered. She was not a fan.
Review # 2. John Bennette - Collector and Curator
I can't find a picture of him. Sorry :(
Let me tell you, before we went into the review we were all having lunch and he told us that in past reviews he had actually told people that the needed to stop photographing.... like literally put away their camera and not do it anymore.
So, I sat down with him and he said something like, "why are you here?" Well... I started to talk but nothing came out (must have been my shaking)... so I drank some water and said something like... "because I want to be a photographer more than anything in the world... and not just any photographer, but the most amazing fine art photographer ever..." (totally pathetic, I know ... I need to work on that before my next review). I think I ended by saying something like "You can't tell me to stop taking pictures because I can't" ... whew... I am just sounding better and better, aren't I? I'm sure he was trying not to laugh.
The first thing he said was that I needed to find a different way to print the photos. The ones that were not printed on the acetate were printed on a pearl paper. He DID NOT LIKE the fact that he could see himself in the paper. His advice was that when he was looking at photographs he wanted to be totally in the fantasy and believe in the photograph. Anything that distracted him from the fantasy (like his reflection) took him out of the photograph and back to reality, which he did not like. That makes a lot of sense to me.
The photos were all mounted and cut down to size, and the sizes were all different. A note to all photographers who have never been to a review: don't print the photos in a lot of different sizes, don't trim the photos down, and don't bring a metal box!
He asked me about this piece and I told him that I was an architectural photographer. He said he could see that and wished I had brought more of that to show (ouch!).
He gave me some great advice though, and I really appreciate it. He was concerned about the costumes. He said they looked out of place. The twin who was alive was in modern clothes and the ghost twin was in a dress that looked like it was from the 1800s. He asked me why. I really did not have a great answer. I had some issues with costume while I was on the shoot. We thought the silver dress could work for 1920s... and that maybe the bridal gown could also pass for that period. He thought it was a little cliched .... like that was what a ghost was supposed to look like. I can see that.
Review # 3 Sylvia Plachy - Photographer
Sylvia Plachy is actually Adrien Brody's mom! She was just so nice. She's such a talented photographer, and was really a delight during the review process.
I was thinking this would be it... my good review. It turns out she was not too much of a fan either. She also did not like the different sizes or the pearl paper. Everyone was pretty much suggesting that they needed to be printed on matt paper (in the process of doing that right now.)
The costumes were also very distracting to her. And, if I remember correctly, I think she thought the photographs were stronger when it was just about the ghost, and not so much about the dead twin sister... I think that's a valid point... that way it could be more about the architecture and the ghost. It takes it away from the less convincing narrative of the two sisters where one of them died.
By the end of this interview I was really feeling pretty down. Nobody had told me to throw my camera away or anything, but the news wasn't good. I was thinking that the best idea was to scrap what I had and maybe either start over, or just move on completely.
Thus far the best part of the day was that I didn't cry... which is actually a huge achievement. The whole drive up there I talked on the phone with my mom. I was so afraid I was going to crack. Nobody had ever said anything really critical of my photography before, and I was so afraid that I would hear one negative thing and just give up... but you know what? I didn't! I actually went back in for more!
Review # 4 Brett Levine
And finally there was some light at the end of the tunnel, and his name was Brett Levine. I would have hugged him if I hadn't just met him!
Here is my favorite thing that he said (sorry if it's not exact), "You do not want to be seen as a Southern girl who photographs Southern ghost stories... what if the girls were modern?"
I think the man's a genius, and I loved the way he put that. It was the perfect thing to say to me. I had been holding on to this fear that I would be seen as just that... a girl from the South photographing a story that had been told for ages. I have become captivated by this idea of making it hip, fun and modern. Wouldn't it be great? Kind of like a Tim Burton redo of the classic Alice in Wonderland (well, except for all the strange Tim Burton stuff... maybe not a great example).
Brett and I spent a lot of time talking about the printing style. I think he really got what I was talking about with the light box idea. He even threw in some ideas of his own, suggesting an almost film reel way of printing things, which I have become totally obsessed with.
And because I believe all things happen for a reason, I think it was fate that I ended up with Elizabeth Turk. I was still all excited off my review with Brett. Instead of just letting her look at the photographs, I did a little more talking. I told her how the photos were not just fine art prints, but that I wanted them to be experiences.
And to show how much I had learned from Mr. Bennette, Elizabeth asked me why I was there, and I said, "Because I am an artist. It's not about the photography. It's about the art and the experience and what people bring to it." Now that is the answer I wanted to give, and I would never have gotten to it without having to answer Mr. Bennette first!
She said that this was her favorite (I think), and we used it as a sort of platform to talk about the ways I would want the photographs displayed if I could do anything I wanted. She had the most fantastic ideas, and she even wrote down an entire list of photographers for me to study. She also told me that she gets really inspired by film noir and wrote down some of her favorites.
My favorite thing that I took away from my talk with her is that I do not have to go through traditional methods. As those of you who read this blog know, I have been so fixated this past year on getting into a gallery I never even considered other possibilities. She suggested that I find my own space and set up my own show. That way I can to projections and video and whatever else I want to do.
You know, great minds really do think alike. Todd Murphy told me to do this the first time I met him. He said I just really needed to fine tune a series... get it to the place where I was 100% satisfied with it, and then do my own show. That way I wouldn't be constrained by what a gallery owner wants me to do... I can just do it.
Of course, it takes me hearing something more than once before I really get it. (I'm stubborn I guess, and I thought a gallery show was the only way to go.)
Now I have so many things to think about. I love Brett's idea of making it a modern day story, and I love Elizabeth's idea that I can do it myself! I'm so excited to see where it all goes!
The one problem is, of course, that now I have my ACP review this month and I have not done any more work. I have not revamped the series, but you know what I am going to do? I'm going to take the advice of all the reviewers and make all my images a uniform size, get them all printed on a nice matt paper, and get a presentation box that isn't metal!
I'm going to go in there with my head held high, because, hey, I've been through it before and I'd didn't kill me. Heck, I didn't even cry!
Thank you so much to all the reviewers for their time and expertise. I learned from every one of them, and believe me, I will never forget it!