Two individuals sitting at a table looking at poster.
Photography Student Chris Avosse gets pro tips from Image Salon CEO Victoria Dimaano.

Industry pros reviewed Photography portfolios


Dawson Professional Photography graduating students met with some of the Montreal photography industry’s heavy hitters May 4 for one-on-one face time at the first annual Dawson Professional Photography Portfolio Reviews.

“A notable part of our program has always been the portfolio critiques given by the faculty at the end of the fifth and sixth semesters,” says teacher and event organizer Valerie Simmons, “but this is a much more intimate setting for students to get feedback and advice, and it comes from working industry pros so it also serves as a great networking event for our grads. I worked on this for a few years, but COVID got in the way of the face-to-face experience I knew was important for the event. This year is the first time the event looks like what I envisioned before 2019.”

The tradition of portfolio reviews

Portfolio reviews are a long-standing tradition at photography festivals worldwide, from the Contact Photo Festival in Toronto to the Arles Photo Fest in France. These events give emerging artists access to industry professionals whom they would not likely meet otherwise. The reviewers usually range from gallery owners, curators, and museum artistic directors to magazine editors and established photographers.

The Dawson portfolio reviewers were a distinguished group of local experts comprising curators, creative & art directors, producers, filmmakers and photographers from companies such as McCann Advertising, the Aldo Group, Essence, and Rodeo Productions. Six of the seventeen review panellists were alumni of the Professional Photography Program. Valerie expressed her pride in drawing from Dawson alumni to contribute to the panel: “It is a true testament to the effectiveness of our program to have so many past grads, now at the mid-level of their careers, who have reached success in the industry,” she said.

Learning outcomes

Students and reviewers shared enthusiasm for meeting face-to-face at this event, part of the Promotion Design 2 course Valerie teaches third-year students. The course emphasizes the channels to explore to obtain and maintain clients.

The mantra Valerie uses in the class came from advice from a photographer’s agent when she was a student close to 35 years ago: A client needs to see you, your name, or your work six times before they hire you. According to Valerie, the most valuable part of building client relationships is the first part of the mantra (a client needs to see you), which is becoming scarce in our social-media-driven world. Students practiced the last parts of the mantra (your name or your work) in a class assessment where they created printed promotional pieces to leave with the reviewers as a memento of their meeting.

In addition to the beautiful students’ promotion pieces, guests took home adorable little spider plants trimmed from the green wall in the Colab and planted by student volunteers from the Sustainability Office.

Last Modified: May 18, 2023