Theory & Practice

Online Portfolio Reviews Highlights

Six participants reflect on their reviews with Magnum photographers and how it helped them develop their projects further

Magnum Photographers

Thomas Dworzak Destruction in the city center. Nothing has been rebuilt since the two wars. Girl with balloons. Grozny, Chechnya, Russia. 03/2002. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos

Portfolio reviews have been an inseparable part of many photography symposiums, festivals, biennales and fairs throughout recent decades. They offer a rare opportunity for young and emerging photographers to spend one-to-one time and build connections with renowned curators, photo editors or well-established professionals and receive advice. Whether photographers are about to embark on a personal project and like to review ideas with an expert or are already working on a longterm project that they need help with editing and sequencing, portfolio reviews can provide pivotal advice.

As measures against the spread of COVID-19 were introduced around the world – resulting in cancellations of many photography exhibitions and festivals – Magnum Photos rolled out an Online Portfolio Review offering. Connecting participants with Magnum photographers working across the globe, the one hour review helped identify participants’ next step — from finding their photographic voice, to the process of researching and making a long-term project, to practical advice on getting their work seen by the right people. 

Matt Black, Bieke Depoorter, Thomas Dworzak, David Alan Harvey, Sohrab Hura and Cristina de Middel took part in the first round of online reviews on May 15-16. The encounter between participants and Magnum photographers was preceded by a lecture on ‘How to best prepare by an online portfolio review’ presented by Amber Terranova and Shannon Ghannam in order to help reviewees get the best possible experience. 

In this article, you can see an edit of the work that was reviewed and selected by Magnum photographers along with information about the respective 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 instruction through this link.

Sara Macel: Portfolio Review with Cristina de Middel

“For the past five years, I’ve been working on a body of work called “What Did the Deep Sea Say” that reimagines Hollywood, Florida as a matriarchal space and uses family archives and large-format color photographs to explore the lives and hidden histories of three generations of women in my family within that shared space. I am currently in the process of turning this work into a book. Having the opportunity not just to meet Cristina on Zoom, but to spend an hour with her taking a deep dive into the edit and sequence of this work was a wonderful experience. In both her work and my own, the lines of fact and fiction blur in order to examine photography as a medium and vehicle for storytelling. Sharing a work-in-progress with a like-minded artist I admire and discovering new ideas from her advice was truly a gift.”

Jefferson Lankford: Portfolio Review with Matt Black

“During the portfolio review with Magnum Photographer Matt Black, I shared some images from my ongoing project, To Be, Rather Than to Seem, which breaks down and examines complex relationships, both familiar and new, among the animals, people, and places that presently inhabit rural locations across my home state of North Carolina.

The decision to apply for a review with Matt Black was due to his own experience photographing impoverished areas across the United States — which for me, provided an opportunity for a free-flowing dialogue to take place about my project. In just a few minutes of our online video chat, I found this notion to be quite accurate, as Matt Black immediately delved into the images presented to him and our conversation quickly became a process of thinking together — a back and forth on how to continue with new approaches, planning and how to further investigate certain subjects photographically. 

Additionally, I found the advice on maintaining a continuity that Matt Black shared with me to be extremely useful for the continuation of my project  — methods that have already begun to help me overcome some of the obstacles that I have encountered during this long-term journey photographing North Carolina.”

Clodagh Moreland: Portfolio Review with Sohrab Hura

“In my practice, I endeavour to create visual narratives that explore the philosophy of place, perception and an individual’s intricate connection to the land. These images are from a project called ‘Cast Shadows’ which has been ongoing for the last twenty months. It originally focused on Dublin Port which is located in the centre of the city where the Liffey Estuary meets the Irish Sea. 

I initially took an objective documentary approach that captured the essence of Dublin Port. However, I found the images started to reflect something more personal, and I researched the work of Merleau-Ponty and Derrida, who explored human existence and the analysis of perception. I realised that the recent emigration of my third daughter had triggered an unacknowledged emotional response in me. 

My portfolio review with Sohrab Hura has helped progress the work significantly. Sohrab’s unusual approach of reviewing a large selection of images (900) before the meeting to try to identify a thread within the project allowed him to have more insightful comments. He explicitly requested that we send the mistakes too, which was an interesting exercise, and it is something I would recommend to everyone. The project I now believe will continue past my MA submission as I hope to take on a universal view which will evoke the themes of loss, absence, grief, but also the idea of waiting which was the dominant feeling experienced by Sohrab while reviewing the work.”

Jess Rhodes: Portfolio Review with Bieke Depoorter

“I am a photographer based in Oakland, CA. I have been working on a long-term documentary project since 2014, but I have recently decided to focus on more personal work. I came to the Magnum Online Review focused on a new personal project. In 2018, my father passed away suddenly. This had a profound effect on me, my family and our world. Using multiple mediums and photos taken both in the days leading up to and following his death, I intend to explore the realms surrounding the idea of loss, family, memory and grief.

Embarking on a personal project can be overwhelming, so having the chance to receive feedback from a photographer like Bieke Depoorter was an incredible opportunity. Since this project is in the early stages of development, I came to Bieke with a few questions and a lot of ideas. She was able to help me sort through the process, focus on the possibilities and expand the boundaries of what this project could become while giving me specific feedback on the work itself. I appreciated her honesty, curiosity and the time she gave to understanding my visual language. Overall, the review was an immensely helpful experience that adjusted my mindset and developed my project for the better.”

Karen Osdieck: Portfolio Review with Thomas Dworzak

“I primarily shoot personal projects and document my family.  My ongoing project is centred around the lives of my two boys navigating early adolescence and new ideals of masculinity.  

Thomas Dworzak helped me tremendously during our one-hour portfolio review.  Thomas and I talked through where my project is currently and discussed ideas for how it can evolve over a long term basis. He gave me ideas on how to photographically vary the project to make it more engaging. Thomas helped me find a visual flow and a sequence for the strongest images in the project so I can start submitting my work to calls and publications.”


Oleksandr Savruk: Portfolio Review with David Alan Harvey

“It would be right to describe me as a photographer with a love for humankind looking for a better understanding of human nature, the nature of social life through photography – such a unique medium. My areas of interest are mostly street and photography and photographs of people. I admire classic European street photographers, and in my works, I am looking for metaphors, archetypes, somebody might say immanent objects. I believe that this style brings enough technical and aesthetic capabilities to play with these aspects of people’s life. I want to achieve the quality in my photography that goes far beyond a physical representation of people and reveals their values, rituals, aspirations, and aspects of their daily lives.

First of all, I’ve got validation from David Alan Harvey (probably a typical expectation in such cases) that my works have proper direction and quality, that will allow me to continue on my projects and books. David, with deep empathy and positive critique, discussed aspects of my works, and we had a friendly discussion on styles, senses, and some conceptual elements of my style of photography. For me, it was crucial to learn how to create a visual story most effectively. And, finally, David helped me to prove some of my core hypothesis and specific methods which I use in my work.”

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