As part of the photographic soul-searching journey I’ve been undertaking lately, I recently remade my photo portfolio, and in doing so, split it in two. For anyone who’s tried to start a blog, a YouTube channel, or build any kind of online community, the first advice you’ll get is to find your niche. The more specific the better, they say; it’s standard practice to imagine your ideal audience. This must work for a lot of people, since you hear it again and again and find it put into practice widely—but I’m just not wired like that. For anyone who’s followed this blog for a while, or connected with me on Twitter or whatever, you’ll know my interests oscillate wildly. It’s not that I’m fickle, per-say; I generally keep the same interests, just shift my focus between what I’m concentrating during any given period. (I’m always interested in cooking, for example; but expanding my abilities and repertoire and trying new recipes isn’t always at the forefront of my mind, for example).
This has manifested in some strange ways. I feel like I’ve basically cultivated skillsets and professional experience across at least three disciplines, mainly filmmaking, writing, and photography. The question of how to introduce myself remains a pertinent one. I don’t even feel like I’ve gone broad at the expense of depth; I’d consider myself expert-level in a few different fields. Even within mediums I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve worked on set extensively, but also as an video editor. It’s never just one thing with me; I want to learn it all. (I guess that’s why this is “a blog about yearning”).
Nevertheless, it’s lead to building up a photo portfolio even I thought was bloated. Different pages housing different galleries for different genres of photography; street photography housed next to relatively conventional headshots, for example. It was messy, and I knew it.
I’ve been going through something like a crisis of confidence in my photography this year. I think the work I have produced and am able to produce is high-quality, yet I’ve noticed a gap that’s been created between this work and the work I aim for. I thought it was a good time to go through my back catalogue, and strip everything down to the bones. How many photos can I look at today and say, “this is work I’m still proud of”? Finding out was hugely instructive for me, and I think helped clarify the nature of this gap a bit.
For one, I wanted to focus everything in. What is the purpose of a photo portfolio, anyways? It’s a place to showcase your work, of course, but even this can have different interpretations. I started looking at the portfolios of my peers, of photographers I admire. Over the past year or so, I’ve wanted to get “more serious” about my art photography. What does this mean? I want to push the quality of the work I’m producing, but also see if I can move it forward. Could I sell prints? Do a gallery show? Make a book? What would it mean to advance myself as a photographer, as an artist?) What is the gap between myself and my work, and the artists I admire and their work? These are some of the questions I’ve been considering.
I went through all the work I had previously put on my portfolio, and took the new photographs I’d been meaning to incorporate, and put all the “art” photography in one folder. No genre labels. I’d consider almost all of this “street photography,” but I wanted to include a few pieces I felt didn’t fit this label; and who needs labels, anyways? From there I started culling. Removing any photos from this folder I felt weren’t representative of my best work. And then cutting down even more from there. Which are the five weakest photos that remain? Can these be deleted, too?
I really like the photographers who can group their work a bit more, by project which became a book, by trip, etc. And there are clear connections between more than a few of my photographs there; maybe I’m closer to this than I thought, but for now, it felt right to just put everything together.
I ended up with about 60 images, from over a decade of making photographs, that I felt were representative of my work. I was glad to include a good number from this year. I don’t know, it made me feel like I am moving in the right direction; both being strict about the work I’ve made, and looking at and analyzing the work of others.
Go take a look at this new art portfolio, and let me know what you think. I also decided to do a print sale for the first time. I received a printer about a year ago, something I’d long considered but never thought would be practical for me. I picked five photos to offer A4-size prints of (roughly 8x11"). These will all be printed by hand by me, and international shipping is included. If you’re interested, send me an email and say “MNCHRM” for 10% off.
Now onto the professional portfolio, eh? I finally created an LLC last year, after I was contracted to do some fairly large architectural photography (this company found me via my Unsplash page; but that’s a story for another time). I’ve made money from photography for years now, but it's rarely been consistent. This year, I felt like I really became a “pro” as I took a long-term photography contract; but now that that’s ended, who’s to say. Professionally, I take photos of people. Mostly headshots and portraits, and I’ve been trying to move more into the fashion world. I think there’s the opportunity for some really interesting, artistic fashion photos, that blends my street photography and portrait sensibilities.
Focusing in on those three categories, I went through all my work again, sorting photos into corresponding folders. I came up with even less than I did for the art photos. Personally, I feel like the portfolio of a professional photographer is more to show that you have the work a prospective client needs before. I wish I had more to show, especially on the fashion side, but I wanted to prioritize quality over everything, narrowing it down to just a couple of photos from every shoot I’ve done.
The broadest section is the portrait gallery, and even here there’s a bit of a gap between the work I’ve done and what I’d like to. The photos I like the best here are the film portraits, some of the medium format ones, or even just my friend Davis in the coffee shop or on the roof. Of course, thinking professionally, it’s hard to say if the work I want to do is something anyone would pay me to do (I guess that’s the benefit of a finding a niche). I tried to write up new sample photo packages on the “Services” page towards those ends, while keeping in mind what people might be interested in. (Same deal here, if anyone is in or around Chicago and wants a session, email me with “MNCHRM” for 10% off!)
Finally, I connected these two sites via links in the nav bar. I like that I can imagine a little network, a little constellation of my different sites, all connected but still disparate. I even linked to this blog from both of them. The curious can find out more about me or my interests, but hopefully they don’t get in the way of finding what someone is looking for.
Honestly, this whole process was fairly reassuring. It helped me see not only what work I’ve got already, but more clearly see the work I want to be making, and think more about how to get there. I’m not sure if remaking these portfolios will lead to more photography work for me, but it was a fun exercise all the same.
Most of all, it just made me want to go make a bunch more photos.
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