Blog of Alexis Cuarezma » Blog of Alexis Cuarezma Photographer/Director - San Francisco/Los Angeles

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Tribulations of Updating Your Photography Portfolio

This was 1 of the most difficult images to remove from my book. I did my 1st real portfolio reviews in NYC at the at the Eddie Adams Workshop (Barnstorm 24). When my team editor Brad Smith (who was also the Senior Sports photo editor at the NY TIMES at time) arrived to this image when reviewing my book he said, “we’ll definitely be doing work together & be in touch”, and we certainly have. That review with Brad has been one of my best ones to date! He also asked me how I made it & I actually do have a BTS of this particular image to share. Don’t think I ever showed him how I made it, so here it is.

Photo of Brad & me at Eddie Adams Workshop – Barnstorm 24 in 2011

Later on when I was updating my book. My very talented friends & photography powerhouse duo Victoria Will & Lucas Jackson were kind enough to help edit & structure my book. A number of images didn’t make the cut & were removed. This image however not only made the cut, but they chose it to lead off my book with it. I had a bunch of reviews later on that week in NYC & I got compliments from editors and agents on how well my book was edited (thanks again so much guys)!

(Left) Lucas Jackson & Victoria Will editing my book. (Right) Some of the images in my book. 2 of these didn’t make the cut!

Furthermore, when photography legend Dan Winters reviewed my portfolio & this was the 1st image he saw, I can sincerely say I’ve never seen & heard a reaction like that about my work from a photographer. He blurted out “oh my god, that’s beautiful!” Which that in itself is an award for me personally. I got to meet Dan Winters down in LA at the Fahey/Klein Gallery for the opening of his show Last Lunch. I drove all the way down to LA for a chance to just briefly meet him. I love portraiture and even though the show had nothing to do with his portraits, I still wanted the opportunity to meet him even if I only got a few minutes to talk with him. Luckily, I was able to join a private tour he did the following day, and got some one on one time with him which was completely unexpected. It was such a great, exciting, eye opening & humbling experience meeting him. He’s been doing photography for as long as I’ve been alive and he’s passion, curiosity, work ethic, knowledge and respect for the craft and interest he takes in his subject is second to none!! He’s also more than willing to share’s his knowledge and does so with excitement. I learned so much just from watching him, noticing his mannerism and how he deals with people. He deserves his own blog post which I plan on doing! So if you read this, please hold me to it!!

(Left) Photo of Dan Winters and myself at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in LA on the night of his opening reception for “Last Launch” (Right) I was fortunate enough to get a personalized signed copy of his book!

Dan Winters reviewing my photography portfolio/work.

With all that being said, I’ve shot a lot more boxing since then & I wanted to update this image. ALL this was in my mind heavily before removing it because some very respectable people had a great reaction to it, but I felt it was time to update my book with fresh new work & I had a lot of new boxing images I was excited about.

All the prints of my new book laid out while I decided how to order them

Funny enough, I was in NYC again with my new updated book & I ran into Brad (who’s now the director of photography at Sport Illustrated) at the Photo Plus Expo trade show floor! He introduced me to the one & only photography/portrait/lighting legend Greg Heisler! I was fortunate enough to get a portfolio review by him. After he reviewed my book, he went back to a particular image 3 times. It was the image that replaced this one. After the 3rd time he went back to it, he stared at it for a bit and said “that’s ABSOLUTELY Beautiful!” So that made me feel a lot better about taking this image out!!

Greg Heisler reviewing my photography portfolio in NYC at the Photo Plus Expo

I got a signed copy of his book: Greg Heisler “50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer”

The original image I replace was from a personal shoot. I wanted to do boxing portraits so I went to King’s Boxing gym in Oakland for a day & setup a studio with the kind help from my sister. Over the years of covering boxing, I’ve been to King’s gym many times and already had a relationship established with Charles King (the owner). An interesting note. Before all this took place, I submitted this image into print competition. It didn’t do so well & some of the comments/reaction the judges had were way DIFFERENT then the reactions everyone else had. For example, one judge said “I wish the fist was in focus instead of the face”. I respectably and creatively disagree with that comment along with other ones they made. I wanted to get a great expression in his face and throwing the focus anywhere else in my opinion would take away from the image.

That’s why I’m a firm believer in getting feedback directly from people you respect. Whose opinion/feedback do you listen to? Should you shoot things that make judges happy? Your peers happy? Or photo editors / art buyers happy? You have to make that choice. I always say to shoot for yourself and what makes you happy. Listen to what your clients requirements/needs are, but always find a way to do something for yourself creatively whenever possible. Otherwise, you’re just doing a job and going through the motions.

And ohh.. what was that image I replaced it with that Greg Heisler liked? Well, he’s looking at it in the photo above. It’s this one:

From my Portraits of Power series. Maurice Ambitious Lee poses for a portrait at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys, CA.

Speaking of updating photography portfolio books. I’m currently in the process of re-hauling not just my entire book, but also my entire branding and website! I’m in talks with a wonderful book binder, graphic artist and after talking with a handful of marketing consultants over time, I think I finally found one I really like. So they’ll help me with the edit of my new book and website. Can’t wait to get all this finished and finalized in time for my next trip to NYC! Stay tuned!!

My current photography portfolio book which I plan on updating. It’s currently an 11×17 screw post acrylic book with my logo/name engraved

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Robert Ash - February 4, 2014 - 5:38 am

I really like the way you thought through the entire process of updating your portfolio book. I also feel your advice “That’s why I’m a firm believer in getting feedback directly from people you respect.” is, well, picture perfect 🙂 It’s important to respect the right people, of course. But what you’re saying is so true. I’ve been through similar things in print competition. Some comments were right on point. Others, I just shook my head. But it’s all good in the end if you keep your head about you and focus on pleasing your core audience and client base more than anyone else.

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