Creating a portfolio

bn_dsc_0023In just over a month, I will be presenting my portfolio at the Review Santa Fe event, perhaps the biggest event of my career so far. And I’m procrastinating in creating the portfolio. Of all the photographs I’ve taken for this project (almost 3000) I have to pare it down to 15-20 prints that best portray the work. I tend to get overwhelmed by the scope of it, and whenever I get overwhelmed by a project, I think back to an undergrad rhetoric teacher who told me this story.

There was a writing teacher who assigned his class an essay about their home town – write about the place you live, tell us what it’s like. There was one student who came to him and said “I come from a small town – there’s nothing to write about.” So the teacher told the student to instead write about the street on which she lived. Confused, the student left, tried to think of something and came back to the teacher. “If I can’t write about my small town, how can I write about just one street in that town?” The teacher said “Well, try writing about your house.” The student complained that there was nothing to write about there either, so the teacher, in a final attempt to pull something out of this student, told her to write about the uppermost brick on the left side of the chimney of her house. The student handed in a 20 page essay.

Granted, this story’s moral speaks for itself, but it comforts me and provides me with a path to follow when 3000 negatives are sitting there, each one pleading to be included. Narrow down your focus, pick something that limits your scope so that you can fully explore that small portion of your whole work. 

Skulls. They make up a small portion of the work, maybe 25-30 prints, but they stand out as some of the most exciting. Skulls are obviously very rich in mythology and philosophy, and would make for a tight, focused portfolio into which I can add two or three other prints to show the wider spectrum. Ray Bandar, a researcher from San Francisco, has collected skulls for over 50 years. Hamlet holds a skull as he ponders the essence of life. Georgia O’Keefe saw beauty in skulls. It’s the perfect portfolio for me.

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