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  1. #1

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    Importance of creating "Series" portfolio's of your photography...

    It was not long ago that photographers such as Ansel Adams were making "Box set's" portfolios of their photography, when photographers would just put in their BEST photographs...regardless if they were all related ect. In todays photography market, it seems more fine art photographs are creating "series" of their work, that is made up of 10-20 (or more) prints that are all very similar and carry a message as a whole series, rather then the "Single image"

    Do you feel it is more important for a sucessful photographer to develop "Series" of similar work, or would it be too outdated to make a portfolio of only your best work? Is the idea of a "single image" gone, and now more galleries focus on a artist series?

    I can see that doing a series would be good for making a book, for example Michael and Paula's Tuscany books. You do not see many photography books today that are just tons of random photographys it seems.

    Well, all comments are welcome. Thanks for your help.

  2. #2

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    Random or Selected??

    Ryan-are you sure that some of the early guys/women did not have "themes" for their portfolio boxes? If you are new to photography you might just want to go along with the idea of culling your best work and presenting it as a portfolio. Galleries and Publishers like themes. Could be about Mickey Mouse but they like themes. Even though I take photographs in varied places I seem to return to some basic consistencies in my photos. Whether it be NYC; Coastal water; or a place I like to go upstate NY I see recurring themes in the work. Would love to fly off to Morrocco to do a body of work but am unable at present. So I have to work with the parameters I'm given.
    Anyone who attempts to put together a well defined portfolio of their best work is to be commended. I'm currently doing this in approx. 11x14 size and making enough prints to fill 10-12 portfolio boxes;with theme. I don't have a gallery or a book deal lined up but I will after I finish the project.I'm going to be able to take that box to galleries and present my work as it should be shown.They will know I'm serious enough to consider taking me on as one of their clients.
    Best, Peter

  3. #3

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    I guess one has to determine what sucessful means to them. If it means gallery sales then I would take the advice of a respected gallery. If it means a collection of work of which you are proud, do whatever pleases you.

  4. #4

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    You bring up a question that's been turning around in my head for months.

    Last fall the local art museum mounted a major photo exhibition and I'd say 80% of those photographers represented by more than one work had a series or theme thing going: dumpsters, surfers, hotel atriums, seascapes, factories, etc... so much so that I left the exhibition wondering whether there's something so inherently weak about photography as to require a thematic crutch for justification. The possibility really set me back on my heals.

    A while back a student started a thread here asking how to put together a portfolio for school submission and someone who saw a lot of these things professionally said that consistency was more important than variety. The advice was to demonstrate a unique vision and thoroughly explore it. No - the word "series" wasn't used, but it almost might have been.

  5. #5

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    A similar discussion was held at the Lenswork forum. My experience and that of people here that I trust with their opinion and knowledge, has been one that most galleries and museums will ask you for a theme or as they put it a "project."

    Someone at Lenswork wrote that they do this because they want to see a commitment from the photographer and want to make sure he/she is serious and will be around to produce new work. ALthough I dont agree, this seems to be a good point.

    I think this idea has been borne out of trying to make photography more "interesting" and so the term "art" can be applied to it. Unfortunatelly, and it is pervasive here in Mexico, many people think that all you need to be a photographer is to buy a camera.

    So, if your goal is show in museums, then you better start comming up with photo "projects"....Otherwise you will get tired of hearing "we would like to see a "body" of work"....OTOH galleries are not as particular if your work is exceptional, their goal is to sell prints, so if you have great shots and enough of them to mount an exhibition, then you might get a chance.

  6. #6
    George Papantoniou's Avatar
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    One of the things that makes photography seem inferior to painting (or other media) in the domain of artistic expression, is the "luck" factor in making one good image. You see, many people believe that one good photograph can be achieved by anyone, given enough time and trials (you may not agree, but it's how it goes).

    If a photographer can produce a consistent series of good images on a theme, he therefore proves that his achievement is not by pure chance, but a result of his true artistic and creative skills...

    You can see similar patterns of behaviour in other cases where the artist's skills could be questioned. In abstract / minimal painting, no artist has ever produced one single piece of work, but always lots of examples where (for example) he / she throws the paint bucket on the canvas or paints the whole surface a single colour. This is meant to make the public understand that the artist REALLY believes in what he/she's doing and that he/she is commited to his art, and not just playing around with paint buckets.

    Photographers can choose other ways to shake the "easy technique" burden off their work, and these are usually by adopting special (alternative) techniques for creating their final images. These techniques are usually hard to apply, so this makes the image difficult to achieve "by accident". In this case, the product can stand alone, without it having to be part of a series...

  7. #7
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    The local university for me, Akron University, seems to have the most analog photography courses in northern Ohio. They offer a Batchelor’s degree in Photography, but we are not talking world renown. They require four advanced courses after Photo 1 and 2. In each of the advanced courses a student puts ten related (to a series) 11x14 pictures up on the board for class critique every two weeks of the term. At the end of the term the student presents at least twenty related 11x14s in window mats, reads his Artist’s statement, after having submitted a thesis proposal and gotten approval about the series. Akron U offers color, digital, advertising related professional courses with a 4x5, History of Photography, Photogravure, Professional Practices, but the core is B&W, series related. In the Advanced courses the first time advanced student works next to the fourth time. Part of the learning experience is the interaction with peers in the darkroom and in the critique. It is all about quality work in related series.

    At age 65 it is such a joy to be working with all those young ideas. The twenty year old girls are also a lot cuter than the ones playing senior bingo down at the home.

    John Powers

  8. #8

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    I agree that the trend with galleries is to show a series of prints that are related to a theme, especially if the photographer is not a household name. The gallery is really banking on someone being interested in a particular theme rather than the name of the artist. And the themes that a gallery may be intersted in quite often will have something to do with the region of the country the gallery is in. Especially in smaller markets.

    I don't know if I recall seeing a showing of work for several years that is not either based on a theme or series selected by the photographer or a show that contains works by multiple artists sharing the same concept or theme (all photography or mixed media) unless it is a major retrospective covering a specific period or total body of work by very well known photographer.

    As far as what to present to a gallery for consideration, I would still include a few examples of your best work even if it does not relate to your series or theme. Give the gallery owner the opportunity to see the range of work you can produce. This can also provide an opportunity. You may have a series of work that is landscapes, but one of your extra images is a floral still life. If he is interested in the still life you can discuss the possibility of providing work based on that theme.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Poco
    Last fall the local art museum mounted a major photo exhibition and I'd say 80% of those photographers represented by more than one work had a series or theme thing going: dumpsters, surfers, hotel atriums, seascapes, factories, etc... so much so that I left the exhibition wondering whether there's something so inherently weak about photography as to require a thematic crutch for justification. The possibility really set me back on my heals.
    Actually I would say almost all art regardless of medium is produced as part of a series or theme. With painting it often involves the same ideas or subject matter. Edward Hopper basically used the same underlying theme of isolation and seperation in all his work. Andrew Wyeth was celebrated for his series of paintings of Helga. Picasso had his nudes. Pollack and Rothko basically produced series of work based on technique. Besides individuals, common themes run between artists. Pickup any text covering post impressionism and you will find that everyone made a single work or multiple works having to do with women bathing from Monet to Harry Callahan up to today. Sculptors work in series of specific materials or scale, pop-artists, well what ever is popular at the time.

    The only time yo do not see it is if you are in MOMA or the Metropolitan or AIC or any city's major museum. There you see the selected bits and pieces of specific themes. The body of work that consists of a specific series or theme is divided between collectors, galleries museums etc.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  10. #10
    Alex Hawley's Avatar
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    I tend to agree with Jim on this. Did not Adams "break in" to the NYC art scene with a portfolio of landscapes sent to Steiglitz? And I would bet most of them were taken in Yosemite. Steiglitz most likely selected a small few to exhibit and sell. The boxed sets came later in Adams' career when he was famous.

    I'm certainly no expert on galleries, but it stands to reason that they work as Steiglitz did - see a theme in a body of work to demonstrate commitment and constancy, select a small few for exhibit/sale based upon market experience. After an artist is an established seller, in demand, the "others" become marketable too.
    Semper Fi & God Bless America
    My Photography Blog

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