The Review Santa Fe Photo Festival
In a large room with Native American art hung up on long, beige walls, photographs scatter across the surfaces of large, foldout tables covered in plastic, white table cloths. At each table, two people sat across from each other, their heads buried in details on the glossy prints. The room roared with the low murmur of constructive criticism. Artists who finished their reviews early walk briskly towards the exit carrying their square, portfolio briefcases on their way to lunch.
From Nov. 2-6, CENTER hosted its 2016 Review Santa Fe Photo Festival. CENTER is a not-for profit organization, founded in 1994, which provides opportunities for gifted and committed photographers. The festival is a renowned juried portfolio review event that allows photographers from around the world, like Mila Teshaieva, to apply to get their work critiqued by photography reviewers.
As an intern for CENTER, SFUAD photography student Whitney Wernick spent her summer learning about new photographers while she went through their Review Santa Fe submissions. She also volunteered for the festival over the weekend, helping to keep schedule by making sure each review kept its 20-minute time limit, running raffles, and organizing participants.
“I’ve been helping with the process, so I figured I should probably go to the review and actually experience it,” she says. “I’m really glad I did because I was able to get into reviews. I was able to show my thesis work and I was able to gain some great insight.”
The 43 reviewers, most of them gallery owners and art directors, came from all over the world to critique the work of those photographers selected to attend the festival. One such reviewer is Angie Rizzo, CENTER’S Visual Arts curator, whose job is the scout out projects that CENTER could feature in upcoming exhibits.
“Reviewing is a way to provide feedback for the visiting photographers and make lasting connections,” she says. “It’s also always good to get an outside prospective. It’s also very important to know the contemporary trends as a contemporary art curator,” Rizzo says.
Visiting photographer and brony-lover Andrew K. Thompson, was urged to apply for Review Santa Fe by a trusted friend and mentor. He specializes in sewn photographs. The pictures themselves are taken with a film camera, and then he sews details into his photographs with a needle and thread.
“Being here and getting your work reviewed is a really prestigious thing to do,” Thompson says. “But the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Thompson teaches photography at California State University in San Bernardino and Chaffey junior college in California.
“It’s been really good for me. The feedback has been helpful,” he says. “The festival is kinda like speed dating for me because it’s more about building relationships to grow in overtime, and sharing the work that’s important to you.”
Teshaieva, another visiting photographer from the Ukraine, has been a photographer for 12 years and works with conceptual and documentary photography. Currently she is working on a long-term documentary project called “Promising Waters” that tells the story of different Soviet countries through their landscapes.
“I find [the reviews] helpful,” she says. “I get to meet people from the US and it helps me to concentrate on new work. It’s also a good place to make connections and find opportunities for the future.”
Wernick volunteered at the festival for similar reasons—she wanted to get more experience in reviews as she plans to participate in them in future.
“I’d like to partake in that review in five or seven years,” she says. “It was really nice to see how it actually worked and what to expect for it next time. I also got to meet some reviewers that I probably would have never gotten to meet otherwise.”