Mt.Rokko Portfolio Review Feedback – Nadia Jasmine Mahfix

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Photo © Naohiko Tokuhira

When Steven invited me to participate in the portfolio reviews at the Mt. Rokko International Photo Festival in Japan, I was beyond ecstatic. The idea of travelling to a different country and also getting my works reviewed by renowned individuals from the photographic field is a rare occurrence and something that I would not want to miss. And so that is how I found myself on a plane to the Land of the Rising Sun.

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kansai International Airport took approximately 6 hours. From the airport you would have to take a bus to Kobe, which is about 75 minutes away from the airport. The fare for the bus was 1,900 yen. One thing in Japan the transportation fares would cost you a bomb so it is best to be prepared. Our first destination in Kobe was to the Gallery Tanto Tempo to meet with its director, Mariko Yamada and its editor, Satsuki Kajikawa. The meeting was brief, as the actual ‘meet and greet’ session would only be held later in the evening. As we arrived during midday, we had ample time to explore the city and I took that chance to absorb as much of Kobe as I could. Everything was strange and fascinating and I felt like a character from Sofia Coppola’s movie ‘Lost In Translation’.

Hours later we finally got to meet the person responsible for the festival; Takeki Sugiyama along with the other invited guests. After a brief introduction and chitchatting, we were treated to a welcoming dinner with the rest of the people involved in the festival. Everyone was nice and excited just to be there but some of us were a little bit nervous to get our works reviewed. For me, it was a mixture of both. To be honest, I did not know what to expect nor did I have any expectations. However, I was keen to show my works and hear the opinions of others.

Mt. Rokko is approximately 30-45 minutes drive up from Kobe (depending on the traffic condition). You can either take a cab or a bus to go there but also be reminded that transportation in Japan is not cheap.

Nevertheless we arrived at the YMCA safe and sound. The portfolio reviews were held at the YMCA while the talks and slideshow were conducted at a nearby location. All of the photographers involved are accommodated at the YMCA, where breakfast and lunch were also served.

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On the first day, they had a presentation for the ‘Two Mountains Photo Project’ where all of the photographers involved had to talk and share their works and experiences on the project. As I am also one of the 6 photographers involved in the project, I had to give an introduction on my work and shed some information on Mt. Kinabalu too. For someone who doesn’t like to present in front of the public, it was a nerve-wrecking experience. But I was thankful to be given the opportunity to do so anyhow. It was indeed a learning experience.

Finally it was time to get our portfolio reviewed. My first reviewer was Michael Itkoff from Daylight Magazine (US) and the rest were (in following order) –

Yumi Goto from the Reminders Photography Stronghold.
Yoichi Nagata from Fraction Magazine Tokyo.
Paula Kupfer from Aperture Foundation.
Taj Forer from Daylight Magazine.
Fabrice Wagner from Le Calliou Bleu

I brought two of my works to be reviewed; one from the Between Two Mysteries series and the other one was my self-published photobook, ‘Is This The [n]?’. It was refreshing to hear the thoughts and opinions of others on my works. They gave positive feedback on my works plus a few suggestions on how to improve further. In summary, what I can deduce from the reviewing session was: –

I need to better explain my works to people.
I need to get out from my comfort zone more and perhaps try to find different subjects to work on (other than my usual subject matter).

Other than that, it was also interesting to be asked (a few times), if I shoot in digital or analog. I usually like to leave it up to the viewers’ imagination because personally, I don’t think it matters. In addition the review sessions, they were also exhibitions and talks in conjunction with the photo festival. One of the guest speakers was Sohrab Hura, who is an amazing photographer whose works I look up to.

The review sessions ended after two days and we were brought to the beautiful Mt. Rokko Country Home for an outdoor slideshow presentation a farewell supper at a nearby restaurant.

To sum it up, the portfolio review was an enriching and refreshing experience for me. I believe that it is necessary for any artists or photographers to go for reviews as this would help us to build and develop our skills, It also could shed more light and a better understanding for our own works. And for that, I owe my thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to do so at the Mt. Rokko International Photo Festival.

~ Nadia Mahfix, Kuala Lumpur 09 September, 2014

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