They’re an unparalleled opportunity to spend dedicated time with some of photography’s most highly respected and experienced experts. Scan the programme of any international photography festival and chances are organisers will be holding portfolio reviews. Since setting up in 2013, Landskrona Foto in Sweden has carved a name for itself as one of photography’s most important festivals, showcasing work from Scandinavia and other territories, and each year its prestigious portfolio review draws reviewers and photographers from all over the world.
This year’s review is spearheaded by Austrian curator and educator Moritz Neumüller and Beate Cegielska of Galleri Image in Århus, Denmark, who have a wealth of experience in the field of reviewing.
Neumüller has worked as curatorial adviser for PhotoIreland Festival, overseen the reviews at PhotoEspaña from 2004-07, and regularly reviews at festivals all over the world. He also runs a website called The Curator Ship, which offers advice and support for photographers. Cegielska has curated exhibitions across the globe, and is also a seasoned reviewer.
“The best reviews I’ve had are with people who know what I’m doing and how I could help them,” says Neumüller, who has worked at MoMA in New York, among other institutions. “I strongly encourage people to take notes, and it’s important to listen. Sometimes people make the mistake of talking to me for twenty minutes and there is no time for me to speak.”
He adds that it’s important to know what you want out of each session, whether it’s industry advice, feedback on a particular project, or information about opportunities to get exposure for a body of work.
In a way, reviews are about establishing a dialogue or facilitating an exchange of ideas. They can also be an invaluable networking opportunity, and a way, says Neumüller, of informing the photographic community about a project.
“For me, the standard format of sitting down face to face for twenty minutes, works. It gives people the opportunity to have twenty minutes of my time and they can lead the conversation. It can be a tutoring session or if they want me to look at their work and see what I can do for them, I can do that.”
Photographers should also remember to take business cards with them, he adds, to be able to continue the relationship.
How you present your work will depend on what you’re showing, but Neumüller advises choosing the format that suits the work best. It’s preferable to present images physically rather than digitally, he adds, and participants should take care to ensure their work is presented to a high standard.
“If the work has a strong narrative structure you should probably put it into a book, but if that’s not so important, I’d bring the prints and have the reviewer play around with them,” says Neumüller. “It’s more fun to communicate an idea with your hands through [moving] the photographs… I don’t want to review work on a laptop – people can email that to me,” he adds. “I come from the art world where I work with objects, so I want work to have a material form.”
The line-up of reviewers at Landskrona Foto is always carefully curated and this year it includes Emma Bowkett, director of photography at The Financial Times’ FT Weekend Magazine, Azu Nwagbodu of Nigeria’s Lagos Festival, and Daniel Boetker-Smith from Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive in Melbourne.
Neumüller and Cegielska ensured the line-up was as geographically wide as possible and featured experts from a variety of fields of expertise, including the publishing and art worlds. New this year is the Landskrona Foto and Artproof Portfolio of the Year Award, the winner of which will have their work printed and framed to the tune of €5000 by Artproof and shown at the next festival.
As in previous editions, there is a lot to see. Highlights include: Time/ Light/ Love – Swedish Photographic Portraits 1840-2017 at Landskrona Museum, the European premiere of Fukushima-No Go Zone by Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bression which explores the devastation of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan in 2011, and Caleb Charland’s Back to Light which “illustrates the possibilities of alternative and sustainable energy production”, says photographer, teacher, and gallery owner Jenny Nordquist, who is one of two artistic directors and co-curates this year’s festival with internationally renowned curator Christian Caujolle.
There is no theme as such, says Nordquist, but this leaves room for different forms of artistic expression to coalesce and for issues such as identity and our relationship with nature to play out across the programme.
“We try to include photographers from all over the world,” says Nordquist, who has been involved with the festival in various ways since the start. “One of our major outdoor presentations features young Cambodian photographers Neak Sophal and Sovan Philong, [whose work] has rarely been shown in Europe.
“Our ambition is that Landskrona becomes the capital of photography in Scandinavia,” she adds. “We want photography to manifest itself in public spaces […] and become a perceptible part of experiencing the city. The festival has established its position as an international meeting place for photographers and those with an interest in photography. It is the main cultural event of the year and the whole city gets involved.”
The portfolio reviews, and festival as a whole, continue to go from strength to strength, and some of those who have taken part in the reviews have gone on to have their work shown elsewhere thanks to the meetings they’ve had with reviewers at Landskrona Foto, says festival director Göran Nyström.
“When we started, only Swedish photographers applied for the reviews,” he says. “Last year, more than half came from other countries… We want to give opportunities to photographers from Nordic countries and surrounding areas to meet experts that can give valuable advice, but also [offer] the chance to be published or have work shown in an exhibition or at a festival.”
The main purpose of reviews is to get feedback about your work, adds Neumüller, and you never know where a meeting might lead. “In the long-run something may happen, and if it does, that’s great, but it’s also about getting connected to the photographic community… Portfolio reviews are worth it if you make the best out of them.”
The 2017 Landskrona Foto Portfolio Review takes place on 10 September 2017, and it’s free to submit a portfolio. Only selected candidates will pay the participation fee of SEK 2,500, which includes VAT, a weekend festival pass and access to the festival’s Friday: Focus event.
If you’d like to apply, don’t delay – the deadline for applications is 01 August 2017. Successful candidates will be notified by 15 August 2017. To find out more about how to enter, and available prizes, visit the website.
Sponsored by Landskrona Foto Festival: This feature was made possible with the support of Landskrona Foto Festival. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.