Portfolio Reviews in Japan

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There are quite a few portfolio reviews held across Japan, from those sponsored by businesses with ties to photography, to those held by large organizations and corporations. To explain exactly what a portfolio review is, I’d have to take you back to the “Arles International Photography Encounter.” The origins date back some thirty years ago, to a festival where the director of the French National Library would look at the portfolios of photographers in the hotel lobby. If he saw something he liked, he’d buy it and make it a part of the library collection.

Overseas portfolio reviews are almost like a marketplace for photography. In Japan, however, they are an opportunity for photographers to get their work critiqued, and are a strong indicator of their future potential success. For these reasons, there tends to be money exchanging hands most of the time overseas and it’s very easy to attract sponsors. But in Japan, it’s more of a career step; there’s not a lot of money involved. Put another way, it’s hard to attract sponsors. Maybe that’s part of the reason why there aren’t any large-scale portfolio reviews. The Arles International Photography Encounter is, as its name implies, a place where a variety of encounters transpire through photography. This is at least how we interpret it here at the Darkroom.

Let’s invite experts of the photography world to Noge’s entertainment district, then eat and drink with them while discussing photography!

The truth is, participants in the Yokohama Portfolio Review that we host at Akarenga Sôko tend to make their way with reviewers to Noge, where the conversations continue. If that’s what’s been happening, we might as well just host it from the start in Noge! That’s what reviewers have told us. It’s point-blank feedback, but if we can do it and have a good time, then why not? So to that end, this coming spring, we’re going to launch the “Photo Festival in Noge.” The word “review” has permeated the culture relatively deeply, but most photographers and cameramen in Japan unfortunately haven’t shed their amateurism. There are too many people saying, “I’m just not ready yet,” regardless of whether they’ve graduated from the amateur ranks to become talented, developing artists. For that reason, I want this to be a review where photographers can more casually test their mettle before the bigger Yokohama Photo Festival review.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in Noge, do the same. He who mixes with vermillion turns red; he who drinks does, too. Noge was the birthplace of modern photography in Japan, so this is where I’d like everyone to be talking about photography. For details on the Photo Festival in Noge, please visit the Yokohama Photo Festival official homepage.

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