Just had my first portfolio review in my photography class. If you’ve been following my progress on Flickr, you’ve seen my progress through all forty assignments here. (You can review the whole assignment here).

At the review, each of us had to pick five of our best photographs and tack them in a bunch up on the bulletin boards that lined the room. Then we went around and the class reviewed each other’s work. I thought my photos looked pretty impressive and the class thought so, too.

Then the professor gave a quick “thumbnail review” of each class member’s work.

Her reaction? Well, I generally hate the overused Internet phrase “Meh”, but that about describes what she seemed to think of my photos.

She spent a long time looking at my photos, then said, “Well, you have an extremely strong vision of how you want to present things.” Now a strong vision was something I thought we all should be working toward. But she didn’t say it as if she thought it was a good thing.

“And”, she continued, “Your photography forces the viewer to look at things the way you see them.”

Hmmmm. Again, I sort of thought that was the object. To have a very strong viewpoint and to communicate and convince your audience. But again, she didn’t say this as if she thought, in this instance, it was a good thing. After a long silence, she continued, “My job with you for the rest of the semester is going to be to move you away from this vision.” Hmmmmmm.

After class, I tried to ask a few questions to get a better idea what she was saying, but she said, “Wait for my full review of your portfolio.”

Okay, but that’s leaving me second guessing.

Is my “vision” somehow myopic? Or is she thinking that she should force me to experiment with different voices for the sake of clarifying or maybe reinforcing the voice that I’ve already developed. That would be a good thing and I’m ready for that.

Or, given that I didn’t even know how to operate my camera out of Auto four weeks ago. And now I operate completely in Manual, setting aperture, ISO, shutter speed and metering individually, have I been spending too much time on the technical and not enough time on the content?

I’ve also been thinking back on all the slide shows she does at the end of every lecture where she likes to introduce us to great photography and explain what makes it great. Funny she’s never shown us any photographers who specialize in nature like Ansel Adams. She seems to favor edgy, ambiguous, gritty, urban photographers like Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin and Mary Ellen Mark. Although Robert Mapplethorpe did whole series of very sensuous and iconic flower shots, she never shows those, preferring his S&M pictures. So maybe my nature-heavy portfolio isn’t really to her liking.

Or maybe I should just wait and see what she says. And concentrate more on that “vision thing” instead of getting all caught up in the technology of the camera. Or maybe I ought to just get cracking on the two new portfolio assignments we’ve just been given that are due week after next and the week after that. But more on that later.

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