It was early February when I took the plunge and signed up for formal, professional portfolio reviews at Format 19. The closer I got to the day, the more tense and anxious I became and the more I was convinced that I was not prepared for so much rejection. I only signed up for 4 reviews instead of the 8 or 16+ which were the other options available. It was so expensive with 4 that I couldn’t imagine how masochistic / desperate those who signed up for the 16+ must have been.

The first professional review of my current body of work took place in Bradford in November 2018 and I was totally unprepared for it in emotional and logistical terms. The allotted 20 minutes went by in a mesmerising blur and I emerged from it not really knowing how my work had been received: did they really say good things about the work? It was clear that they did not like the blobs on tracing paper over the images, but what else did they not like? Did I interpret their body language correctly?

When I went for the second review on this body of work, there was much more time which allowed me to grasp what was being said, mine was the only work being reviewed, and I had been told that I would really get on well with Steve Burke, the reviewer because he is such a lovely person. I could, therefore, approach this review much more positively than I had the previous one.

Having had those two experiences, for Format 19, I decided to ask a friend who had not had the review experience to be a second pair of ears at the reviews. Karen Gregory, a L3 SYP OCA photography student, agreed and could combine it with the OCA study days at Format.

When I got to the venue and saw the enormity of the event, I was convinced I had done the wrong thing, that I was going to fall flat on my face and I was going to waste Karen’s precious time.

In order to give a balanced view of the event, I asked Karen if she would analyse the event from her perspective of the day and give me 2 positive points and 1 thing that could have gone better.  

I am very grateful to Karen for taking valuable time out of her busy working life to respond and for allowing me to use her analysis:

What went well in the process?

1. It was obvious you were very well prepared for presenting your portfolio. You didn’t rush through your description or the rationale behind your work; plus you listened carefully to the questions asked and answered without waffle. During each session you included each element of the portfolio without it feeling disjointed, whilst maintaining a nice pace.

2. Timing – I don’t know if the time slots were selected by you (+see below)or if it was potluck – regardless the gaps were very valuable. They enabled you to gather your thoughts and me to read/correct my notes whilst things were fresh in my mind and for us to discuss the review. I think it was especially important post the second session after receiving such bland and unfocused feedback, because it allowed us to sensibly critique the feedback and regroup.

What could have gone better?

1. I don’t think the venue lent itself to the situation – it was cramped and very loud. The sessions ran into each other making changeovers more hectic than they needed to be and adding stress for those presenting. That said, it didn’t appear to bother the reviewers… 


  • I had selected the time slots from what was available.  I started after 11 because when I booked them I didn’t know how I was going to get to the other side of the world = Derby.  
  • I built in relatively long periods in between because I did not know how the reviews were going to be arranged.  When I wrote in to ask, the reply was that they did not know which building they were going to use for the reviews and I thought I was going to have to go from 1 building to another.  I scheduled a longer break over the lunch period.

22ndMarch 2019

6 thoughts on “Format 19: 4 portfolio reviews: Derby

  1. Such an immersive experience Anna. You must have felt exhausted afterwards. What a good idea to take an objective friend with you to listen to the feedback as well.
    I’m pleased feedback was positive. Wondering as well what it’s like to deal with situations where different reviewers appreciate different aspects but might contradict each other at times – if that does happen.
    You’ve certainly put your work right out there. Congratulations on achieving such a feat of endurance.


    1. I did not feel exhausted at all, possibly because we had at least 20 mins between reviews and we could take it all in & move on. Karen was worth her weight in gold – she took it upon herself to make sure I was ok too – an absolute rock. They did appreciate different aspects but never contradicted each other which was quite surprising given that I had so many elements for them to look at. It was a real test of all sorts of aspects of my being. But, it’s over & I do not need to subject myself to it ever again! Thanks for your comments.


  2. Well done Anna. Your write up will help me when I am ready for the outside reviews. I am so glad that the reviewers liked your work and understood it.


    1. Thanks, Hazel. I am waiting for a reply from Karen & then I shall send a copy of ‘An extra pair of ears’ to the OCA for SYP students to consider. It was lovely seeing you again & I hope the write-up helps.


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