Theory & Practice

Magnum Online Portfolio Reviews

Six Magnum photographers select images made by participants of the recent Online Portfolio Reviews

Richard Kalvar | ITALY. Rome. Piazza della Rotonda. 1980. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos

Portfolio reviews have been an inseparable part of many photography symposiums, festivals, biennales, and fairs over recent decades. They offer an opportunity for young and emerging photographers to spend one-on-one time with renowned curators, photo editors or established professionals from whom they might receive help. Whether photographers about to embark on a personal project seeking to review ideas with an expert, or those already working on a long term undertaking that they want help with the editing and sequencing of, portfolio reviews can provide pivotal advice.

As measures against the spread of Covid-19 were introduced around the world – resulting in the cancellation of many photography exhibitions and festivals – Magnum launched an Online Portfolio Review offering. Connecting participants with Magnum photographers working across the globe, these one-hour consultations touched upon the importance of finding one’s photographic voice, the process of researching and planning a long-term project, as well as practical advice on getting work seen by the right people.

Emin Ozmen, Martin Parr, Carolyn Drake, Larry Towell, Newsha Tavakolian, Richard Kalvar and Mikhael Subotzky took part in the second round of online reviews on July 15-16. The encounters between participants and Magnum photographers were preceded by a lecture on ‘How to best prepare for an online portfolio review’, presented by Amber Terranova and Shannon Ghannam of Magnum’s Education team. These aimed to help reviewees get the best possible experience from the sessions.

In this article, you can see a small edit of the work that was reviewed and selected by the respective Magnum members, along with information about the projects from their creators. In order to apply to the forthcoming Online Portfolio Reviews, as well as Magnum Photos free portfolio reviews for BIPOC photographers, follow the instructions found here.  

John Peter Askew Carousel in Snow

John Peter Askew: Portfolio review with Martin Parr

“Since 1996 I have visited the Chulakov family in Perm, Russia, making photographs all the way. The Chulakovs have become family to me and they joke that I am a relative who lives in London rather than St Petersburg. They always have a vacant bed in their home, a seat in the car and a plate at the table for me. I have a place in their lives; a role in their stories. What is important to me is our friendship and shared journey through life over the last quarter of a century, as much as the photographs themselves.”

Alistair Robinson writes of the book project, WE photographs from Russia 1996-2017: ‘While We is an extended epic portrait across generations of a single family, these photographs transcend their particular circumstances. Askew pays attention to our ‘best selves’, asking us to imagine the possibility of a better, more playful world, and pointing towards who we might yet become.’

John Peter Askew’s 380 page book of this work was launched at the Photographer’s Gallery, London, in 2019 to accompany his exhibition at the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art. Charlotte Cotton has described it as  “a wonderful book… a beautiful close, incredibly touching and vast photographic story…”  A companion volume Мы will be published in 2021. His work is currently being exhibited across five floors of Pushkin House, London until October 31st.


Louis Bockner

Louis Bockner: Portfolio Review with Larry Towell

“I was born in Argenta, a community of 150 people tucked on a mountainside in the south-west corner of Canada. It’s a place full of oddballs and misfits, characters you might say, who have chosen to live in this end-of-the-road place, surrounded by the wilderness.

While my own life has led me around the world for school, work, and play, I’ve always been pulled back to this Argenta and the people who, like me, call it home. For seven years, I’ve been living here permanently [again], a stone’s throw from where I was born, and now know that I’ll be here until I die.

Aside from my work as a photographer and journalist outside the community, I see one of my roles within it as being a documenter of life. While I would ultimately like to compile this body of work into a book that combines photographs with writing, it’s hard to know when a project as ongoing as this will feel complete. So, for now, I continue to drop in on neighbours, film camera in hand, trying to capture the heart of something so near and dear to me.”


Magdalena Gacek

Magdalena Gacek: Portfolio Review with Newsha Tavakolian

Magdalena Gacek explores the complexity of womanhood in a world shaped by stereotypes. She examines it across Occidental and Oriental cultures, having profoundly experienced them both by living in Europe and Asia.

In her projects, Gacek breaks away from the traditional image of a woman by revealing her duality in the context of social norms and constrained axes of relationship status, family, religion, age, education, native and acquired culture. She often does so through visually rich but expressionless self-portraits.

Gacek holds an Masters of Arts in Design from the Creative Academy in Milan and a Bachelor of Arts in Design and Visual Communication from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

She was born and raised in Poland, into a largely monocultural society with one dominant Catholic religion, scarred by war and communism. In 2015 she moved to another extreme – Singapore – the pinnacle of multiculturalism, a melting pot of religions and provenance. It was for her a perception revolution: “Had I not experienced that physical elongation, adaptation pain and another culture so profoundly, I wouldn’t have found ways to shift the engraved status quo in me.”

In her practice she experiments with a variety of media but photography and introspective self-portrait remain her central means of expression.


Omair Hussain

Omair Hussain: Portfolio Review with Emin Özmen

“I don’t have a burning desire to go out and document anything. It just happens when it happens. It’s not a conscious effort, nor is it a struggle. Wouldn’t do it if it was. The idea of the suffering artist has never appealed to me. Being here is suffering enough.”

– William Eggleston

Omair Hussain’s work emerges spontaneously from the visual contours that announce themselves against the flatness of Midwestern time. He rarely begins with an idea or conceptual framework for a certain image, but rather responds to what he encounters in daily life.  In doing so, Hussain seeks to raise the passive presentation of ordinary experience to the level of self-aware aesthetic conviction. His subject matter then joins Hussian in the process of living. The portraits are of friends, family, and people encountered during his day job providing assistance to adults with physical and mental disabilities.  In his practice, Hussain tends to make images of patterns and surface textures, straddling the line between abstraction and depiction. Through creating this body of work, he aims to broaden and challenge the definition of what counts as documentary photography.


Letizia Lopreiato

Letizia Lopreiato: Portfolio Review with Mikhael Subotzky

The Timelapse – Project Outline

“This project is dedicated to my journey of healing through art.

I used the time during lockdown this spring, to find the stillness and the focus needed to finalise the documentary film, photography and poetry project I had made over three years.

The narrative of this work is the result of a deep inner exploration following a series of losses after the passing of my dad, and the relocation of my mum from Italy to Dublin to finally be reunited as a family.  Above all this is the outcome of the acceptance, in regards to my visual impairment, that art and creativity have been — for me — the best gift of all.

Photography has granted me a new set of eyes, which have allowed me to embrace my disability and the vulnerability that came with it, as a diverse-ability, a source of strength and courage, for both my personal and artistic development.

This journey surely constituted one of those signs that only the universe can send our way, to set us back on the best path for ourselves, by asking us to leverage all our available resources.

The unfolding of my creative path has been the most life-changing experience I have had, in the acceptance of vulnerability as a tool for understanding the world within me, and all around me.

In order to create and explore the infinite power of art, I envision a community where everybody could feel encouraged to share an open message, to find support and understanding, whilst facing a time of struggle. A call for all artists to discover self-compassion, self-love, and self-respect.”


Arnhel de Serra

Arnhel de Serra: Portfolio Review with Richard Kalvar

“The project, The Country Show, was shot between 2004 and 2014, and captures the invitingly surreal world of country shows up and down the UK. Country shows are meeting points between urban and rural, between spectator and exhibitor. Tradition and commercial entertainment have adapted and grown side by side. Humour and observation are central in my photography, which exposes the peculiarities, rituals and dynamism in human behaviour when we gather together. Laughter comes when we are caught off guard, and this series of images could be said to have a lot in common with the British sitcom or the stand up comedy. As a nation, irony and humour have always played a prominent role in British culture, and I hope that this set of images will be viewed in this tradition with equal affection and irreverence.”



Arnhel de Serra
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