Reaching for the peak

I just returned from attending the 2018 installment of the Mt.Rokko International Photography Festival, my sixth visit as a portfolio reviewer and also to present projects and run a workshop. I join many professional colleagues from the wider photography industry from across the globe as an invited guest with the main purpose – that is, to nurture young and upcoming Japanese photographers create more meaningful projects, strengthen their ability to project a strong story through their picture taking craft, which no doubt, all of them already have brewing inside them.

[ Also link to same post in Japanese at http://www.rokkophotofestival.com ]

The festival, headed by its visionary director Takeki Sugiyama, a surgeon by profession, and totally passionate for the ‘meaning behind every photograph’, who is also an avid collector himself, is run with typical Japanese efficiency when it comes to scheduling and timekeeping, and a certain familiarity that is unique to Mt.Rokko. The volunteer team and staff already feel like family after the very first visit.

Photos by Melanie McWhorter & Chikara Komura

Held partly in downtown Kobe for the exhibitions and having the reviews in close-quarter up at Mt.Rokko, makes for an interesting long weekend for the guests and photographers, but slightly inconvenient for day visitors wanting to participate in the workshops or presentations. However, I feel that this arrangement is already being addressed over the last two years to make the festival more accommodating.

Over the years in coming to Kobe, I have gained many connections and friends in the photography world, and have also opened my eyes to contemporary Japanese photography – it’s highly aesthetic based imagery, and the very important link to nature, family and tradition. I speak of course in general terms, and there are photographers who also make non-conformist projects that surprise.

2013.L1000362

For Mt.Rokko, I believe that it has steadily gained the reputation of being a tight-knit photo community, and being a ‘portfolio review centered’ festival, it has the advantage of fully catering to photographers seeking to maximise their exposure in gaining valuable feedback through the expertly selected workshop mentors and international reviewers. Because of the proximity of the venues and the ability of the photographers to access the reviewers throughout the weekend, there are ample opportunities for casual conversations to happen – and I believe, even more for future installments – that these downtimes are vital to allow honest exchanges on a one to one basis, in addition to the scheduled reviews.

An advantage of being a small festival, the manageable numbers also help enhance the ‘community spirit’ and camaraderie of the participating photographers who come from all over Japan, and overseas as well, and I feel this is very important, especially for first- time reviewees, and more introvert photographers, and a unique feature for Mt.Rokko.

I have been following the progress of several photographers who attended the early installments of the festival and can happily say that many of them have gained new exposure of their projects and have gone on to win international awards, recognised in festivals or have exhibitions in galleries outside Japan. I can safely say that having attended Mt.Rokko previously, played an important part in their successes.

Since 2013, Mt.Rokko festival has been much praised for their purposeful and beneficial portfolio reviews and even as we had a smaller participation size this year, the variety and standard of projects presented were of greater depth and subject matter. This may be due to the stricter pre-selection process imposed by Takeki Sugiyama, the director to improve the overall photographic standard being presented to the international reviewers.

Part of the reason for attending a festival like Mt.Rokko and its portfolio review sessions is to make new connections with the greater photographic world, with international reviewers and also other photographers from Japan and overseas. Many opportunities can present themselves to participants – especially where their projects are unique or strong, and also where the participant makes the effort to communicate and interact in open discussions or during Q&As at the presentations.

I have known several past participants who have submitted entries to the Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards and have been successful in becoming finalists and also went on to be recognised in other awards and festivals. I am glad to see this happen. I am also seeing participants who have been awarded for their projects that have become stronger and more meaningful in their edits, over the years.

2013.L1000361

The importance of education – that is, not only by the formal way but through personal development by gaining knowledge through experience and interaction, is vital to any photographer who seeks to advance and elevate his or her craft, both technically and artistically. Portfolio reviews are an effective exercise in receiving critical feedback and guidance in a photographer’s journey for deeper self-expression. I am grateful and honoured for being able to be a part, however small, of this journey with the Mt.Rokko participants.

Advertisements

Mt.Rokko Photo Festival 2018 : Portraiture Workshop 02 September.

Time & Place : The Photographic Portrait

ws3

What is in a portrait? What makes us connect with the people we see in portraits? It is the human connection inherent within each of us. The answer to this question could be more intuitive than expressive. Come and join in the discussion at my workshop on 2 September at Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival 2018.


Overview
Historical context
Current practices
KLPA 2018 finalists overview
Practical exercise in portrait photography

This workshop will introduce you to the significance of formalistic portrait photography, it’s historical context and present-day interpretations.

It will enable you to appreciate the knowledge and skill needed to set up a formal portrait session in a 1-hour practical outdoor shoot.

ws.2018.01

Brief : 2-hours
We will become familiarised briefly with the historical aspect of the portrait in paintings and from the invention of photography to the present day. We will look at the role of portraits from the invention of the camera in Victorian times, and then to the reproducible image, and the representational aspects of the personal portrait photograph.

We will consider and discuss the modern practice of portraiture and contemporary styles, and look at the importance and significance of the genre in modern society. We will examine some of the notable modern day photographers who used portraiture in significant ways, their influences socially and in journalism.

We will also look at how to appreciate and analyse portrait photographs throughout modern history.

We are able to review portrait photographs brought by the participants and perform a deconstruction and critique of each other’s works.

In the following session, I will present some of my personal choices of the finalist entries from KL International Photoawards from 2009 to 2018 including this year’s winning entries.

Practice : 1-hour
The workshops practical session follows with staged portrait shoots of participants in the studio or gallery space and outdoors. You will be able to make small prints of your portraits.

Note to participants
Please bring up to 5 portrait prints taken by yourself, or from magazines/online that you wish to present or review. Please bring your camera.

To workshop registration here.


Steven Lee is the founder director of Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards.

Mt.Rokko Photo Festival 2017 Workshop

I’ll be heading out to the Mt.Rokko Photo Festival in a week’s time. I’m always looking forward to this time, late summer in Japan, and to meet the photographers, and see new faces and new photography. Thank to the Takeki Sugiyama the festival director, once again, for inviting me. I’ll be running a similar workshop to the previous years and it’ll be fun. 

Deconstructing the Photographic Portrait

Historical Context
Contemporary Practices
KLPA2017 finalists overview
Practical exercise in portrait photography

ws3ws2ws1

Pictures from 2016 workshop, from Mt.Rokko Festival.

Brief

I will present a brief slideshow on the historic referencing of portraiture from the daguerreotypes of the early to mid 1800s to the camera obscura, and then to the invention of reproducible film and the negative. We will examine the influences of photography on painters and masters and it’s representational forms.
We will consider the modern practice of portraiture and contemporary styles, and look at the importance of the genre in modern society.

We will review portrait photographs brought by the participants and perform a deconstruction and critique of each other’s works.

In the second session, I will present some of my personal choices of the finalist entries from Kuala Lumpur International Photoawards from 2009 to 2017 including this year’s winning entries.

The workshop practical session follows with staged portrait shoots of participants in the studio or gallery space and outdoors.

Note to participants
Please bring up to 5 portrait prints taken by yourself, or from magazines/online that you wish to review and present. Please bring your camera.

Details

Workshop : Sunday 27 August, 2017, 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Event Page  & More Info

https://www.facebook.com/events/151517582093908/

Portfolio Reviews at Mt.Rokko

A warm and humid Kobe greeted us at around midday when the Kansai Airport bus dropped us off at Sannomiya Station on the 28 August. ‘Us’, being the four photographers and myself, ‘Team Malaysia’ on our way to attend the 2nd Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival 2014. I was here in November last year (see here and here ) so there is a familiarity surrounding the event. Not so for the ‘four’ as the thought of attending Portfolio Review sessions over the next two days had put slight fear and anxiety into some of them, as for most, this is their first ever review, and an international panel for that.

10410638_10153124374294829_5369280283083634906_n

10624931_10153133896764829_1044921737845162389_n

The four were Ailsa Bowyer, Syefry Moniz, Lim Paik Yin and Nadia Jasmine Mahfix. The first three photographers were selected from the alumni of EXPOSURE+, a photo-mentoring program run by myself and several photographers and colleagues in Kuala Lumpur. Nadia had been involved as a participating photographer in the TWO MOUNTAINS PHOTO PROJECT which was part of the Mt.Rokko program of talks, and attended to present her series and took part in the reviews also. They essential presented their portfolios of photographs taken from their experience with the EXPOSURE+ program and came to Mt.Rokko armed with prints in portfolio boxes, folders, dummy books, and not forgetting calling cards. These photographers were selected based on their previous works, and are at a stage in their photography careers where they would benefit from having their works reviewed in an international environment.

No iPads at this review.

Portfolio reviews are an essential and important part of a photographer’s journey to becoming a better and more focussed artist. There can be a limit to attending workshops which give direction and practical tips in self-development, but with reviews, the act of photography takes on a new step, which is the presentation and editing aspects, and are often neglected nowadays, due to the use of on-screen presentations, and lack of opportunities for critical feedback of works.

Reviews are also about communication. Without clear and concise communication through discussions with the reviewer and the photographer, a photographer’s works will only be limited in visibility and understanding. Experienced reviewers can guide and suggest new methodology and editing which may help create tighter narratives or explore new directions.

996148_10153133931379829_6093432663307595935_n 1477363_10153133931164829_2999851816998917724_n 1521868_10153133932549829_6282938636916523765_n 1555471_10153133932639829_4637143527213216213_n 1604563_10153133931764829_8044825748958316386_n 10376937_10153133931849829_7798439297538520866_n 10419405_10153133931564829_25214466152617035_n 10445991_10153133931464829_5374850778902202385_n 10522590_10153133915374829_6453015534254632071_n 10590531_10153133932304829_4173790542386567271_n 10609720_10153133932104829_1791140657238568197_n 10615539_10153133932194829_1519387078218120487_n 10628135_10153133897394829_4390328806632427910_n 10636119_10153133931964829_2738903295649960972_n 10660386_10153133932774829_659482713404798112_n  IMG_20140829_093859 IMG_20140829_093928 IMG_20140829_230228 IMG_20140830_095346 IMG_20140830_102240 IMG_20140830_102245 IMG_20140830_230416

Each photographer had the opportunity to meet about 5 to 7 reviewers over both days, and also in casual chats outside the official sessions. In addition to the review sessions, they also displayed their portfolios at an Open Viewing session, open to the public and fellow photographers and reviewers from the festival. This allows a more casual sharing of each other’s photography, and was a valuable opportunity to make new contacts and networking.

Individual feedback from the photographers will follow.

—————————————————————–

Follow EXPOSURE+ Photo Mentoring program here