This past Saturday, our school hosted its inaugural UNCG Portfolio Review. Both photography students and alumni gathered in the Greensboro Project Space to have their work reviewed by esteemed publishers, curators, gallerists, artists and educators in the photographic industry.
For the participants, the review began around 10 in the morning, but the space opened up for communal viewing later that afternoon. The event was free and open to the public, and all those in attendance had the opportunity to see the students’ work as well as the exhibition of “Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten”, which is currently showing in the GPS gallery.
The GPS is a contemporary art space in downtown Greensboro created by UNCG’s school of Art. It seeks to nurture the ties between the city of Greensboro and UNCG through creative and collaborative public programming. This event was a successful execution of GPS’s mission as it was a massive coming together of students, practicing artists, and the local community.
The students participating in the review presented their best photographic prints, books and collages for the revered panel of reviewers. Among this prestigious group of individuals was Maggie Triplette, Dhanraj Emanuel, MJ Sharp, Lisa McCarty, Lori Vrba, Emily Stamey, Michael Itkoff and Roylee Duvall. Throughout the day each student had the opportunity to meet with four of the listed reviewers for a twenty-minute one on one session.
The diversity in experience and taste among the reviewers was a surprise for an inaugural event such as this. Some of the reviewers favored commercialism and technique, while others valued concept and process. It was interesting to see how the same student would come out of one session with a reviewer who hated their work, and would go in with a different reviewer who loved it.
While some of the criticism might have seemed harsh or confusing, feedback from professionals is invaluable, whether they like your work or not. Especially in the art world, having other opinions and feedback is necessary for survival. It helps the artist to know how well they are communicating their message, how cohesive their body of work appears and what areas they need improvement in.
Events like this are important because they help bridge the gap between being a student and being a professional. While the students were able to get a lot of interesting feedback from the experts, one of the most important aspects of events like this is the experience of presenting oneself as a professional in an artistic environment. It also forced students to prepare a physical, printed portfolio and to experience what it is like to present their work to a reviewer.
What was perhaps most evident was how much work each participant put into presenting themselves and into presenting their respective portfolios. All the photographs were truly amazing, and surprisingly varied. The student work ranged from highly conceptual, to commercialized work, to landscapes, to film, to cyanotypes and other alternative process work. Our student body is a beautiful and diverse group, and it was a pleasure to see that highlighted on Saturday.
The process was long and mentally exhausting for the partakers, but it ended in a celebration. After the reviews, the space relaxed as the food and drinks came out. Everyone gathered around and looked at all the different work. This was the time where everyone exchanged contact information with each other and students were able to get some real exposure to the local community. It was truly a shining moment for all the photography students, and a great reflection on the Department of Art as a whole.