Earlier this week, I attended the Palm Springs Photo Festival. This intimate gathering of photographers, clients and industry people is the brain child of photographer Jeff Dunas. It’s well run and a great opportunity to make connections will peers and people from the art buying – both commercial and fine art – communities.

I signed up mainly to have my portfolio reviewed by commercial art buyers and reps. I’ve done a couple of fine art portfolio reviews lately so I felt that I’d had enough in that department. There was however one person in the fine art world for whom I harbored a singular desire to meet, but for reasons of cost and staying on task, I didn’t.

This man was the Senior Curator for Photography at the Amon Carter Museum in Texas. For most, this museum may mean nothing, however, it was this museum that commissioned Richard Avedon to create his magnum opus, "In the American West." My recent project, The Bakken, was directly inspired by Avedon. For me the connection is and was exceptionally real.

 

Seeing John Rohrbach standing by himself in the lobby of the hotel, I nervously approached him and asked if he had time to review my work. He agreed but had another appointment with a photographer. I agreed to wait. And wait I did. Almost two hours passed until he appeared again. Patience paid off.

I’ve had my work reviewed by many, many people. I may get a little energized – though rarely nervous or anxious at a review – but that’s about it. Such was not the case during this meeting. I could barely breath as I narrated my images and responded to his questions. I spent an hour with him. He was extremely knowledgable and thoughtful. There was hardly a detail that he missed. He caught some of the inconsistencies in the work and even pointed out how one of my images was evocative of W. Eugene Smith – which was who I was thinking of when I got the shot.

For me, the exchange was intense and emotional, truly a step into the big leagues. I didn’t hit a home run, but I didn’t strike out either. The man was guarded with his compliments yet I could see that he was sufficiently engaged with the work that he returned to several images several times, often with different interpretations or questions.

After it was over, I felt this emotional wave hit me. Almost cried. More than anything, I was made aware of the difference between really good and great. Greatness, something only attainable to a few, is indeed a leap beyond. Onward I stumble…

John

Postscript: Since I originally wrote this post, I've been pleased to learn that I was accepted to show my work at Review Santa Fe coming up at the end of June. Unlike other such portfolio reviews, one's work must first be accepted by a jury to be admitted. In other words, it's kind of a big deal. Anyhow, I'll be putting his feedback to work as I present this body of work to curators, gallery owners and magazine editors from around the country.