Books, gloves, reviewing, BPB14

Mariama Attah offers her portfolio review tips for photographers

With Format15  opening 13 March 2015 and the associated portfolio review around the corner, we caught up with one of this year’s reviewers, our own Programme Curator, Mariama Attah, to see what advice she has for portfolio review attendees.


PW: What are you looking forward to seeing? 

MA: I’m really excited to see new projects or works in progress with a strong narrative highlighting the versatility and possibilities of photography. Personally, I’m interested in representations of the self and non Western perspectives in photography.

On the other hand, I’m really not interested in seeing work that’s pornographic or exploitative (you know who you are). Seriously, explanations as to how it’s artistic, innovative or emancipatory won’t cut it.


PW: Do you have any advice on getting the most out of a photography portfolio review?

MA: I find the best reviews are those where the artist tells me why they’ve chosen to see me and why their work will be of interest to me, if for example, their work responds to themes or projects I’m working on. Portfolio reviews can feel short on time. The more focused the questions are as to how I can help, the more specific and useful advice I can offer.


PW: Do you have preferences to seeing digital or printed work?

MA: I love having a set of prints to look through, but it isn’t always practical or suited to the work. As long as I can get an idea of how the work would look as a final piece, whether that’s framed prints on a wall, or as a book, that works for me.


PW: What are the biggest mistakes photographers make during reviews?

MA: I find it difficult when photographers claim their work speaks for itself. A lot of the time, it doesn’t. Introduce yourself and your work and try to explain what you’re hoping to achieve from the review.

I also think photographers need to be realistic about what to expect from a review. It’s unlikely any photographer would ever be offered an exhibition opportunity or the chance to publish a book on the spot by any reviewer. I’m interested in meeting photographers and working with them long term to help develop practice.


PW: What is the best piece of advice you could give review attendees?

MA: Take notes!


PW: What are the benefits of having your portfolio reviewed?

MA: Portfolio reviews give artists the chance to have their work looked at in a really focused way that doesn’t often happen otherwise. I think they’re great for learning how to talk about and present work by raising unexpected questions. A good review will always leave you with something new to think about.


PW: What are the perks of being a reviewer?

MA:  I get to see a huge amount of work, all in one place, that I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. In every review, there’s always at least one project that reminds me of why I love photography.


For more information about Format 15 click here.

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