Friday, March 21, 2008

The Subjective Nature of a Portfolio

I have different portfolios - print galleries: "Architecture in Landscape" on the walls of my office, "Ingredients for Life - Organic Food" in my dining room, "California Seascapes" in my bedroom, "Doorways to Personality" in my living room and online galleries: Best of Eternal Spring 2008, Best of Livewire Dance Band 2007, and various detail galleries. I even have two books - one of my best film images and the other of my best digital images through 2006.

At the time the portfolios were assembled I loved each selected image - they spoke to me. Some of the images - years after selection - still speak to me and remain among my favorites: "Abandoned Miner's Shack" (Park City, Utah 1996); "Sibling Rivalry" (Austin, Texas 2000); "Chef Ped's Larb" (Austin, Texas 2001, published in Nation's Restaurant News); "Breaking from Bouncing" (Felton, CA 1995); "Vineyard with a View" (Paso Robles, CA 2003); "Garden in Paradise After the Hurricane" (Paradise Island, Bahamas 1999); "Observation Tower in the Bayou" (Mobile, Alabama 2003); and "Moon Bridge" (San Francisco, CA 1985). Revisiting my portfolios invariably tempts to cull the images. In some cases, I resist and in others I don't. Friends and family have shaken their heads but then happily taken and displayed the discarded prints much to my chagrin. As an aside, I discovered almost all of my images (the "Moon Bridge" taken early in my study of photography is one of the notable exceptions) have a diagonal element - whether a roof line, curb, canoe, staircase, etc.

When I switched to digital I dramatically increased the number of images I captured. As the digital medium provides immediate in-field feedback the number of images I've kept has also dramatically increased. These two factors make it even harder to compile a portfolio.

Over the last two weeks, I've been working on a new print portfolio (actually a series of portfolios based on the varied subject matter I shoot). This exercise has had me revisiting images I selected for my online galleries and removing some (so if you visit a particular gallery and discover that an image you like is gone now you know why). I've also been sorting through all the non-sorted, non-tagged images from my recovered hard drive (not the abstract images that the data recovery process created for me but the thankfully pristine CR2 files the process did save). As I go through the images there's no bias of my previous rating (what I felt about the image shortly after I took it). This lack of bias has yielded a few overlooked images that I can't believe I hadn't included in an online gallery before. These discoveries have me now pondering the subjective nature of a portfolio.

My bias in the chosen images were for images that best illustrated my photography style: "visual story-telling that captures action, emotion and detail without interruption using existing light and subtle flash. My stories include establishing architecture or landscape shots that set the scene for where the story takes place, posed shots that identify the characters, candids (or "stolen moments" as I like to call them) that shed light on what the characters are feeling." I'll post the images in the coming week (they're not on SmugMug yet as I've proofed them for printing at Costco and temporarily uploaded to Costco's online gallery which is hosted by Snapfish) and you can tell me what you think.

  • Which images speak to you?

  • Are there other images from my online galleries that you've seen that you think should have been included?

3/24/08 UPDATE: Images are available online.