Mt.Rokko Portfolio Review Feedback – Nadia Jasmine Mahfix


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.

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


Mt.Rokko Portfolio Review Feedback – Lim Paik Yin


Photo by Naohiko Tokuhira

A plethora of thoughts on one’s work could cause a mild concussion. Left unresolved, gives way to a splitting headache. Here is a little guide to ease the pangs of insecurities and host of questions before a portfolio review.

What is a portfolio review ?

One of the reasons of showing your work in prints is to give an overview of your entire project to the reviewers. At best you could get a different perspective of your work. Having the flexibility of loose prints on hand allows the reviewers to edit the work. Think about it this way, a portfolio review can be a space to further push the photography series to another level or it could be a mini interview for your work to get published or shown in a public arena.

Printing the digital images

The first time I held the prints from my Fujifilm 5100 in 2011, excitement weld up despite having seen the images on screen numerous times. There was no thought about paper texture nor colour calibration. Looking back it was a process that I had to go through. So the lessons that I learnt, it always pay to have the monitor calibrated to my regular printer.  After all the time spent editing on screen, it’d be a shame to have prints that is subpar.


Look into the crystal ball and imagine where your work is going to be shown. Once there is a clear idea of where your work would be shown, find out about the reviewers and think if your work would be beneficial from their perspective. A reviewer who comes from a gallery or art magazine views your work differently from a reviewer from a journalistic or documentary background. With multiple lens viewing your work, there is bound to be divergent viewpoints.

Being Reviewed

I’ve always found it easier to communicate through writing or photographs instead of talking about it. Somehow I get tense and stiff especially when there are a barrage of questions or suggestions. I learnt the hard way that it is important to be able to speak about the project as not all reviewers would read the written statement and sometimes what can seem to be a grilling session with reviewers is a process to delve deeper into the subject of the project. So to start with, I introduce myself, pass calling cards and give a short summary of the project that I am showing. In general about 2 or 3 lines. Nerves got to me on my first review and thankfully I wrote short notes with main points on each project. The notes was a good reminder on the points I wanted to highlight during the review especially since 20 minutes is all the time we have.

The 6 reviewers in alphabetical order are Didier Brousse, Yosuke Fujiki, Natalie Matutschovsky, Taj Forer, Takeki Sugiyama and Yumi Goto.

Works reviewed

I brought 2 working series with me to be reviewed, both still work in progress. The first set of photos were from work done at the Exposure+ Mentorship programme in early 2013. The documentary set is called Pockets of Verdure which explored the interactions of the residents of Klang Valley through their gardens in public spaces. Composition of the work was distinctly flat.

The second set of photographs is a set of self portraits exploring what it is to be a woman in relation to my own body and experience living in Malaysia.

Summary of review sessions

Pockets of Verdure – Composition can be worked on. Some reviewers appreciate the flat perspective and some do not. The idea of the work is interesting but visually it can be improved upon.

Self Portrait – Colours are nice but too few images to have a clear idea of what the project is about.  Lots of questions were asked ranging from the size the pictures to feelings about the projects. Since it is from the viewpoint of my ideas of what being a woman is about from the perspective of being a Malaysian, the work can be viewed differently in a different cultures. There were some suggestions on content and I found it helpful to move forward with the project.

Language – As the reviewers are from all over the world, English is not always the reviewer’s first language. There were instances where language was a barrier and some communication was lost in translation. Keep in mind to keep it simple in future.

~ Lim Paik Yin, Malaysia, 09 September 2014

Promising Waters by Mila Teshaieva

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Once in a while a great photo book catches my eye and last week, my latest collection came through Deutsche Post. This is a wonderfully crafted book. Promising Waters is by Ukrainian documentary photographer Mila Teshaieva, which has won several awards, including the Critical Mass Book Award 2012, PDN Photo Annual 2013 and NPPA Best of Photojournalism 2013 Portrait Series.  The book itself is hardcover with a silkscreen print, with 52 colour images printed on archival pigment ink on Harman by Hahnemühle 300gsm Matt Cotton Smooth paper. This limited edition book of 75 comes in a bespoke hardcover case along with two editioned A4 prints.

My acquisition of this amazing book has a two fold interest. Firstly, it was put up by Mila to raise funds for  Rhonda Wilson of Rhubarb Rhubarb, who is on a road to recovery following a debilitating illness. Rhonda is a well known figure in UK contemporary photographic circles, and have keenly initiated many social programs and exhibitions to promote the art in Great Britain over the last 10 years. She has worked tireless to help many emerging photographers hone and promote their skills along their career paths in the industry. I met Rhonda in 2008 in London when she asked if I could be a portfolio reviewer in an event called Cultivate.  The funds raised would help Rhonda return to normal life and I’m glad to have been part of her appeal, from which Promising Waters had been put forward, so generously.

Poujols by Pascal Lapierre, 2002


In 2002, I exchanged prints with a fellow French photographer from a photo blog. It was pretty much the first time I had ‘purchased’ a print without parting with any cash. The photographer was Pascal Lapierre from Annecy who actually got in touch with me and asked if I would like  to exchange one of my Parisien photos with any of his. I chose this one (above) from his website titled ‘Poujols’ of a mother and child twirling to music in the foreground, and several couples from a village dancing in the open-air, in what must have been a village fair or fete. I still think it is a lovely image, one of those photos that are timeless. I can stare at this picture endlessly.

I only just pulled the bubble envelope out from my filing cabinet and discovered this A4 sized print last week, having been stored away for so long. Today, the window mount which I ordered arrived in the mail, and I have finally framed it. Just need a prominent wall to hang it.

Leica Oskar Barnack Awards 2013 finalists

Congratulations to Fabio Bucciarelli and Javier Arcenillas for being selected as finalists in this year’s Leica Oskar Barnack Awards. Both photographers are past KLPA Winners. As much as the conflict, drugs and abuse stories need to be told and brought to the world’s attention, one cannot hide from seeing a set of beautifully photographed series of the simple human condition, that is, exploration, companionship, home, and longing that this year’s winner Evgenia Arbugaeva’s portfolio, “Tiksi, comprises.

Personally, I also liked My Doll and Me by Ilona Szwarc for it’s strangeness and surreal compositions.

Man Ray Portraits at the NPG


Man Ray, Lee Miller, 1930
Lee Miller Archives © Man Ray Trust

I caught the Man Ray Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery last week, and wow, stunning is the only word I can describe it. This is quite a small exhibition but what was displayed was some of his most known portraits of Paris avant-garde artists of the 1930s, Hollywood actors and of course his muse, lover and student Lee Miller. It was Man Ray and Miller that gave the process of solarisation it’s artistic expression, (apparently, if you watch the video,

it was a rat that caused it). His studio portraits are not as dramatic or polished as as say Karsh or Klein’s but the surrealistic tendencies show through in some. You will see portraits of  Marcel Duchamp, Catherine Deneuve, Picasso, Kiki,


Berenice Abbott, Matisse, Virginia Woolf, Henry Miller, several self portraits of himself, amongst many others, including Blanche et Noire study of Kiki (below)


Man ray portraits dali

Salvador Dali, 1929


Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924

Man Ray in some respects have been more well known for his photogram images which we are all familiar with and have at some stage in our photographic development, have experimented or copied during our dakroom days, so seeing his signature portraits, like these, including Lee Miller’s studies is so satisfying up close in real prints. Sadly his Glass Tears photograph isn’t on show, as are some of his Surreal and Dada favourites. As a portrait exhibition purely, this is not to be missed. The exhibition set out portraits from his early New York stint, and then when he moved to Paris in the early 1920s, through to his studies with Miller and Kiki, and other Hollywood artists.




Most of the portraits are printed to 11″ x 14″  or smaller, matted and framed in black wooden frames, and is starkly in contrast to modern day prints on aluminium or some fancy medium. This is studio and experimental portrait at it’s simplest form, true to the period of the 2o and 30s. There are some stunning miniature colour prints of Hollywood stars also, his later work.

Seeing one of the most respected and studied masters of photography in a great setting will be a treat. Runs till 27th May, National Portrait Gallery, London.

Review : Klein + Moriyama at the Tate Modern

Review  Summary : New York 1 , Tokyo 0. Black and blur is good. ****

You have seen the posters advertising this duo retrospective all over the underground, on sides of buses and in the papers. It runs at the Tate Modern till 20 January, 2013 at £12.70 per entry and it does not disappoint.

When there are two photographers being exhibited together, one will always ask the question, “who is better?” Well, to cut to the chase. Klein wins hands down. Not that Moriyama’s hauntingly haphazard black and white photographs of 60’s Tokyo and his observed New York weren’t any good, but, when ‘juxtaposed’ (that dreaded word again I’m afraid) against the width, breadth and depth of William Klein’s monumental works, including his abstract colour typographical screenprints, early film documentaries, colour photographs, street people, Vogue fashion, gigantic photograms and pop-art contact prints, tend to render Moriyama’s works into one dimension.

You see, if you didn’t know Klein, he’s a sort of master of all arts. He started as a painter, filmmaker and graphic artist before he discovered photography. He’s a sort of expat New Yorker living in Paris and he bought Cartier Bresson’s early Leicas. That makes him a ‘God’ to many.

For me, Klein’s black and white street photographs do not have the wit and humour, (dare I say it, the ‘moment’ of Cartier Bresson’s photographs) of Erwitt, Frank or even Doisneau. They were somewhat more honest and personal, which is what I like, as pure, up close, urban city observations. I think, today, street photographers try too hard to create  or seek out these moments, so much so, they are derivative and predictable.

I did find many of Moriyama’s black and white images rather banal, although some would say seminal, to his later series of urban Tokyo. His early style was influenced by Klein as well as Kerouac’s photographs. Both artists commonly print in high contrast, grainy style with over-blacks, often blurry, even out of focus. This was considered the ‘rebel’ style to much of what was published in the 50’s & 60’s, in documentary and fashion stories. Klein broke the mold. Moriyama led the way.

I also looked forward very much to seeing his Stray Dog, (which I wrote about here ) possibly his most famous image. I did not see one, but 8 Stray Dogs instead. I came away with a feeling that both of these great photographers deserved their own exhibitions, rather than Daido taking second place, in both the headlines as well as how the show was laid out. I guess seniority rules in the end.


The last major retrospectives  I visited and written about were Anne Leibovitz’s in 2008, Lee Friedlander‘s in 2007 and also Diane Arbus at the V&A in 2005, before I begin blogging. – SL

SlideShare 22.11.12

What a great evening we had at the Lightgallery! Thank you so much for all who came along and watched the presentations, and enjoyed the spread of mince pies and mulled wine. Thank you Claudia Leisinger, Matt Richards, Rebecca Brand and Daniella Cesarei for showing your multimedia slideshows to an attentive audience!

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Will be looking forward to the next one in 2013!

SPACES OF MEMORY ~ Fernando Pérez Fraile

Diary Date : Thurs 11th Oct, yes, this Thursday at 7pm. All welcome to the Opening Reception of Fernando Pérez Fraile‘s SPACES OF MEMORY exhibit. Fernando will be speaking briefly about his photographs, and there will be (limited supply!) of jamon, chorizo and Spanish wine. Venue : Lightgallery, 5A Porchester Place, W2 2BS.  The exhibition will run from 12 to 31 October, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 12 – 6pm.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)

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I found magic by the river

On my roadtrip back from Penang, I took a detour off the E1 North South Express way and came off at Tanjong Malim,  headed down south towards Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB) on the borders of Perak and Selangor. I was in search of the green hilltop abode of Antares, called Magick River. After numerous phone directions from the man himself, I found myself in what I can only describe as raw tropical rainforest scenery on the road to Fraser’s Hill. Magick River flows strong and fast, and is more than a city getaway for Antares. This area has been his home for over 30 years.

Antares is a very special kind of person. Articulate, headstrong, opinionated and thoroughly in tune with Nature and the Earthsong.  This was our first face to face meeting, brief it may have been. You could read his bio here but then, it is perhaps a greater opportunity to meet him, and his home, by the river. Thanks, Antares and thank you for the music.