PDNEDU

Photo Gigs: Laura Moya - Executive Director, Photolucida Arts Nonprofit

Q&A with PDNedu editor, Jill Waterman


PHOTO © TOM HUBBARD
COMMUNITY ACCESS: Attendees at Photolucida’s five-day, in-person Review Festival open their portfolios for all to enjoy during an evening session that’s open to the public.


Laura Moya headshot © Mark Hopkins

PDNedu: How did you get your job as Photolucida’s executive director?
LM: I was asked! I had a background in photography, arts administration and film production, so my skill set translated well into the job requirements. I had straddled both the photography world (Photo-eye) and the film world (Sundance Institute, the Northwest Film Center) and had produced film projects for a creative services agency. The producing skills came in handy organizing the Reviews.

PDNedu: Please describe your primary responsibilities in this position.
LM: We are a very small organization (myself and programs manager Tricia Hoffman on staff), so I cover a lot of bases simultaneously. Our programming is basically the biannual Portfolio Reviews event (spearheaded by me), Critical Mass (which Tricia spearheads) and the book publishing (which I project manage). Aside from programming, I wrangle day-to-day administration: budgeting, grant writing, accounting and so on.

PDNedu: What is your favorite part of your job?
LM: First, it is gratifying to be able to work with photographers – they are generally a good, hardworking bunch! I love hearing about the “success stories” that have come from our programs. The work I see in our programming is an interesting reflection of what is happening with the contemporary photography field at large. Secondly, I really enjoy collaborating with other organizations with similar missions (PCNW, Newspace, Rayko, Blue Sky Gallery, Daylight) – I like being able to combine resources to get more done! Third, travel is a big perk for me – my work has taken me to the Netherlands, Poland, China, and most recently, Paris.

PDNedu: What’s the most difficult challenge of your position and what, if anything, is being planned to manage or improve this for the future?
LM: I would estimate that 90 percent of the time, I am behind a computer screen, and my workdays are largely virtual. I miss seeing people in person and art in person - so much is done via e-mail, or on excel spreadsheets. That is the nature of a largely administrative job. That is why I love the Reviews – I finally get to meet the people and see the work in person that I have become familiar with online. I am sometimes asked to review work for other organizations, or curate shows, or write little interview pieces – this gives creative balance to the administration.

PDNedu: As executive director, what is your most important accomplishment to date?
LM: I can only think of a multitude of small things! The completion of a book project makes me proud. Seeing our Reviews become more and more popular has been fulfilling. Little collaborative creative efforts bring me a lot of satisfaction – I recently helped organize a panel for NW SPE called “Northwest Territory: Women in Photography”, which was a great experience for all involved. I have been to China twice: first, I gave a lecture at the Pingyao Photography Festival to a huge international audience – that was terrifying, as I am a reluctant public speaker. Last year, I curated a show for the Lishui Photography Festival, along with ten other curators. We, and about 20 American photographers all went to China on a grand field trip, where people had their work exhibited in temples surrounded by gardens. I was honored to help make that happen. Recently being asked to review work at Lensculture/Fotofest in Paris was less an accomplishment than an amazing opportunity.

PDNedu: Please talk about the organization’s non-profit status. What were the steps to becoming non-profit and what kind of ongoing management is necessary?
LM: Photolucida (originally called PhotoAmericas) was granted non-profit status at its inception, more than ten years ago. We work hard in tracking what we do for the creative community: we give “scholarships”, both for the Reviews and Critical Mass, we send books out gratis to all who submit work or jury (last year, 2,300 books went out to people in over 20 countries), and we donate Critical Mass books to over 30 Oregon public, college, and art school libraries. We strive to balance income from registrations with grants and donations. Our board operates within the non-profit framework, and we meet IRS requirements.

PDNedu: Photolucida offers multiple opportunities for photographers to have their work reviewed by professionals in the field. Given the wide growth and popularity of portfolio review events, what makes Photolucida different than other portfolio review events?
LM: You're right – different Review events are popping up everywhere, both nationally and internationally. April 2011 marks Photolucida’s eighth festival, so I like to feel like we have fine-tuned things at this point. I am not familiar with all the details of other Reviews events, I am sure they all have their strong points. I do know people respond positively to the fact Photolucida is in Portland (a great city to visit, very walkable!) and the event takes place in a gorgeous venue (the Benson is a luxurious, historic hotel). We have a “roving” room, where people can get their work looked at by a second string of reviewers and hobnob with their peers. We put a lot of work into having a strong reviewer roster - that is definitely a main draw. During our last Reviews registration, the 160 spots filled in less than a half hour after opening, so we know we are on the right track.

PDNedu: To get the most from a portfolio review experience, what is most important for photographers to bring to the table?
LM: Preparedness: One’s portfolio needs to be a complete body of work with a solid vision. Is it truly ready to be reviewed? Can you give a concise explanation of your work and the concepts that hold it together? In conjunction, do your research and honestly assess which reviewers are the best fits for your work.

PDNedu: Is there any one element to a photographer’s packaging, presentation style or follow-up that you feel is most essential to success in a review situation?
LM: Just demonstrate a high degree of professionalism on all levels: the way your work is presented (appropriate size and presentation); the way you engage with the reviewer (don’t talk or remain silent the whole time, find a pleasant way to give information as well as the opportunity for feedback); prepare nicely done leave-behinds (card with images and contact information); make sure to follow up (a polite e-mail a few weeks following the reviews).

PDNedu: Do you have any tips about what photographers should not do, say or ask of a reviewer to make a good impression during a review?
LM: Do not ask the reviewer for any kind of immediate relationship. Opportunities do sometimes happen instantly but, for most, it’s a matter of developing a relationship over time. Do not ask the reviewer to give up his or her lunchtime or infringe on social time outside the reviews to show them your work. Reviewers need downtime after working so hard during their sessions!

PDNedu: What are the requirements for a job like yours, and what is the best route to take in landing this type of position?
LM: In a practical sense, one has to have experience in arts ad- ministration and a knowledge base of the nonprofit organization world. A true passion for whatever visual art you wish to make part of your day should be a given. Know the language and history of photography. Go out of your way to know what’s going on in the contemporary photography world and how to hold a conversation about it. If you’re a student, volunteer! Be an intern! Be able to do mundane things with a sense of humor because your potential boss is probably doing them too. If there is ever a job vacancy in the organization, the first place the boss will look is across the room at the intern.

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