APA L.A. Chapter (American Photographic Artists) puts together 2 portfolio reviews a year. I probably use APA a little differently than most other members because I rarely go without volunteering. I volunteer because I think it has useful programs for others in the field and it gets me out into the world which has always been a difficult thing to do.
At a prior APA meeting, I spoke finances with a senior member. He quoted me his numbers for the last 3 years. I’m rarely surprised but he managed to make me go, “Whoa…” His numbers were lower than mine. WAY LOWER and my s!!t ain’t going IPO anytime soon. I’m not going to fly my underwear as a flag but I’ll just say, “I could be doing much better” could be supplanted by even less lofty cliché.
As a professional in many of the branches of visual arts, I can tell you how rarely I see another Black dude/dudette on a gig in similar function. As a motion designer and VFX artist, I’ve worked with a total of 2. That’s one for every ten years. In videography on big gigs since ’87, there have been more than VFX in my personal work experience but still not a lot. The dude I was talking money with is “white” so you can breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t headed specifically into the “race” rabbit hole.
I’ve been chopping too much firewood to recall exactly what my state was when I went to the review but I know I was tapped for that week and so I didn’t have time nor resources to print a new book. I used the tablet again, loaded a couple of newer personal work shots but dreaded that couldn’t show the mass of new shots that I couldn’t budget to do this year. The moment passed and I braced myself with the old “Old shots to me are new to some else” trick. It’s true plus I’m not scared of anything so bring me the ladies.
Yes, all of the reviewers were women. I quickly had to change out of my wife beater and switch my ringtone to Beyoncé’s “Girls Run the World” or Ani DiFranco. Decisions, decisions!
Everyone was a cool and said the disparate things that people who are not clones nor part of a cult say. One of the things that stuck out in my mind was “This is a cool shot but it would be a great shot with INSERT FAMOUS NAME SKATEBOARDER HERE.” It was an obvious comment but the appropriate comment.
The key to these reviews is to find your flow and pursue it because everyone is stimulated by different stimuli. Getting business is primarily based on relationships and building relationships. I’m looking at all of these smart young women and the gremlin in the back of my mind is saying, “You’re not a white chick. How are you going to build relationships with any of them. And your Cadillac ain’t even out of the shop!” [That’s the last one, I promise.]. Logically, the nonsense left me fairly quickly and I started making October resolutions to do the diligence by keeping in communication with all of them just like the last portfolio. Because after the last portfolio review I sent out how many promos? Wait a minute. Zero. Excuse: I don’t like the shots…any of them. Excuse: I’m going to send the new shot in my mind as soon as I shoot it. Etc.
It’s already a hard road and none of this is guaranteed to you no matter if you’re good or kind of good. The competition out there is monstrously talented and they come in all shapes and sizes. One of the good things about the reviews are the various books people are slinging around the waiting area. One lady had printed her book on matte paper that escapes my mind at the moment and clamped in an old school clipboard. It was formatted as a dossier. Very dope. I told her there would be repercussions if she went to the same reviewers immediately before or after me. See, in portfolio reviews, you have to use all of your tools – Even threatening your competition is advisable.
Since I was volunteering as well as doing the reviews I often sat around with some of the non-reviewers/non-presenters. There was a lady from Workbook, and my soon to be nemesis (though she doesn’t know it yet) artist rep, some APA L.A. big wigs (the double Davids, Heidi, and Kevin) and the occasional shadow puppet I threw on the wall. Dave Nagel had a book and I wanted to see it. That’s when I had to laugh. I’m as close to egoless about how/what I shoot. Subsequently, there are no insecurities because I always do the best I can with what I have. In school in my neighborhoods as a kid there was a game of chance that some people would do called “Big bank takes little bank”. Simply, whoever had the most cash/coin upon presentation point got to take the loser’s loot. Cold war-era economic lesson. I. De. Clare. WAR!!!
Dave is technically precise with a lot of power in his shots. But what made me laugh was for every shot I had, his
one upped – hell- 4 upped mine. For my time lapse volleyball he had a time lapse volleyball shot. Mine was a college girl who played in high school. His would be someone on the level of Misty May-Trainor. My random dude shooting hoop in the park would meet the 2-handed slam of Dwight Howard in studio. I mean on and on and on. It was hilarious. Now had I even remotely been puffing my chest out, I would have to take a knee and get an 8 count were I lucky.
It was very cool to see the range of people and interests at that event. Nagel is obviously a pro. If he’s there, Kevin Steele, etc. then you know it’s a legit form of marketing. If it’s for you would be determined by what you do and who the reviewers are. And you have to know it’s hard work. You shoot and you keep working hard at it like everyone else. This is marathon work not a day shift at the chicken shack.