This event was exhausting, exhilarating, inspiring and life changing for me.

Art has always been important to me, but I was never the student a teacher called out as a good example with artistic endeavors. I’ve always taken pictures, but six years ago I began to take photography seriously. I began to play with my cameras settings, spent more time thinking about what I want to capture and how I hoped to compose an image. Then play became more serious, and while all of those things are important, so is, in my opinion, light-hearted play. After all, play, and failure, is how I’ve learned my most important photography lessons.

Sometimes we can become so serious in our work, we can’t see what the heart wants, and hear the voice of ourselves. This is not how the best art is created for me.

Writing was my first love, my first act of creativity. Recently I’ve returned to poetry and find I can tell stories in a way that carries truth and vulnerability with that form.

Last year I began a series where I hoped to combine text with photographs. Getting this right is not as easy as it might sound.

Finally, I was at a place with this series where I wanted more input, critiques from curators, gallery owners and publishers. I needed their help to guide me to where I want to go.

After lots of hemming and hawing, and quieting that internal voice that says “who do you think you are,” I decided to invest in a portfolio review event, and last week I went to FotoFest 2024.

This event was exhausting, exhilarating, inspiring and life changing for me. To occupy a room with so many incredible photographers all exploring unique forms of creative expression was heady stuff. Making new artist friends was even more rewarding. I had worried all attendees would be far younger, but most were within ten years of my age.

During this event I met with 20 reviewers. I was so nervous with the first one, I almost cried. How embarrassing! But, by the end of the first day of the five-day event, the nerves were gone and I was just hungry for feedback.

Everyone attends an event like this for their own reasons. I wanted to know where my series exploring my own mortality might fit. What was working, what wasn’t? Was this exhibit-worthy or more of a book project?

In all honesty, I’m still digesting all of the wonderful feedback, but where my work most resonated was with art book publishers. I suppose that was what I hoped for without really knowing it.

In the coming weeks, I am going to play. Take my time. Explore creating an artist book. Really think about this work being publication worthy. And along the way, I’ll share my process with you so you can see me make mistakes and hopefully, get it right in the end.

Above photo from “Clues I Will Leave You” ¬©Robin Enright Salcido