Photolucida 2011

Image by ©Mike Davis/

I have just returned from Photolucida, a 5 day portfolio review event that takes place every two years in Portland. One hundred and sixty photographers, sixty reviewers, a host of volunteers, almost two dozen local “roving” reviewers, and the incredible Photolucida board, spearheaded by Laura Moya, meet for portfolio reviews, lectures, networking, exhibitions, and all things photography at the wonderful Benson Hotel in downtown Portland. It’s an intense experience, not for the faint of heart, and not for the unprepared.

The Benson Hotel, Portland, OR

Wednesday was arrival day, with photographers and reviewers checking into the hotel and greeting old friends. An evening welcome meeting started the event, followed by a lecture about collecting photography featuring Charles Hartman and Julia Dolan.

Thursday morning, we hit the ground running, with our portfolios and reviewer schedules in hand. Mornings and afternoons (from 9-5) were for official reviews, 20 minutes long and often coined as “speed dating for photographers”. “Reviewers were 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.”

Images by Aline Smithson

Photographers selected their reviewers in advance, focusing on the editors, curators, gallerists, or publishers that were best suited to their portfolios.

There were daily lunch time lectures featuring speakers Michael Itkoff from Daylight Magazine, photographer Julie Blackmon, photographer and publisher Lauren Henkin, writer and curator Larissa Leclair and photographer and publisher Raymond Meeks. When photographers had any free time, they congregated in the the lobby or in an additional ballroom that hosted roving reviews and portfolio sharing.

Image by ©Mike Davis/

The Photographer’s Portfolio Walk was hosted at the Portland Art Museum on Thursday evening. Three one-hour-long sessions allowed photographers, reviewers, and the the Portland community a chance to see the many portfolios brought to the event.

Image by ©Mike Davis/

Image by Robbie Kaye

After the reviews, the night time activities kicked in. Friday night, the Portland Art Museum hosted a lecture by photographer Todd Hido. Saturday night offered a host of exhibition openings at local Portland galleries, and Photolucida finished with a Sunday night party at Blue Sky Gallery.

By the end of the event, I had shared my portfolio with about two dozen reviewers, many photographers, and had a chance to connect in a significant way with many others. Whenever I hear photographers complaining about the costs of a review, I acknowledge that yes, it’s expensive, but I like to think of it as part of my education, my marketing, and my growth as a photographer. Portfolio reviews are unique to the photo world, and we need to remember that having access to museum curators, magazine editors, gallerists, book publishers, or Photography Center directors is truly remarkable.

Personal successes of a review are often not immediately evident, but over time those connections and relationships grow and flourish. I have been given shows years after first meeting with a reviewer. In addition to establishing relationships with reviewers, connections with fellow photographers are just as important as sometimes photographers go on to become editors (David Bram, Michael Itkoff, Blue Mitchell, Jason Houston), Directors of Photography Centers (Kyohe Abe), curators, or your biggest supporters.

A big thank you to all the organizers, to the busy reviewers who made time in their schedules to come share their expertise, and to all the photographers who shared their amazing images, offered support and friendship. A special thank you to my roommate and friend, Noelle Swan Gilbert, who kept me laughing and real.