A couple of years ago, I participated in my first portfolio review. The whole thing was put together by Lisa Wiseman back when the NAOPA was doing a lot of events. There were two buyers from local agencies, an editor from a magazine, and a rep. I had just finished my first book, and even though it was a pretty small event, I was excited and intimidated. I was still at the tail-end of the dying-for-someone-to-tell-me-I'm-a-real-photographer phase (hint: you will probably not believe anyone who is willing to tell you this), and I'd only really shown my work to friends, family, and photography peers, so my insides were all churning.

There was some sort of take-a-number arrangement to ensure that each participant met with each buyer, but I think I was late or there was some snafu or the planets aligned or whatever. I any case, I met only with Jen Small, who was at Ogilvy, I think. In writing this now, I can tell I was quite nervous, as all these relevant details are now fuzzy or missing.

To make matters worse, this guy, who wasn't really involved in NAOPA, barged on my session with Jen, because he insisted that she look at his book after mine, and wouldn't leave while she looked at mine.

She looked through my book, alarmingly quickly, and we talked for a bit. She had good things to say overall, and she has a cool perspective. The thing that has stayed with me was her response to a concern I had.

I told her that I thought maybe my work was too dark, too grim, too anti-example, for advertising.

She told me that she has a list of a hundred photographers that can do happy, sunny, uplifting, sweet work. And she has a list of like five photographers that can do dark, grim, anti-examples, and make it work.

And ever since then, I've looked around, and that ratio's about right: twenty to one. Twenty ads of an attractive person talking on a cellphone to one ad of a shattered phone because someone sat on it. Twenty earnest groups of young adults having fun on the beach to one guy about to get run over by a train because he's not paying attention.

I'll take the ratio. I'm just glad there's room.