Hi Janna, i recently found your blog, liked your work and decided to follow. I have a question i need some advice on and i was hoping you could help me out. I am currently applying to MFA photography programs and wanted know if you could give me some advice on how I should structure my portfolio. your help will be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Marc-Anthony
First of all, good luck! Applying to grad school is really stressful and I hope I never have to do it again.
The only piece of portfolio advice I can think of that holds true for everyone is to apply with your strongest work. Everything else is circumstantial. Some schools/professors only want to look at work from one, cohesive body of work, while others might admit you with work from several different projects. I vote for submitting one body of work—I think your chances are better if you prove you can sustain an idea—and if the people reviewing your portfolio want to know what other kinds of work you can do they will look you up on the internet. (This is specifically related to photography, by the way. Different genres work different ways.)
There’s so much more to applying to schools than the portfolio, though. I mean, the photographs are of course the most important part, but it’s also important that your write well about yourself and your work, and that you do a ton of research to find schools where you think you’d be a good fit. You should be interested in the work that faculty and current students are doing. That doesn’t mean applying only to schools where people make work similar to your own, because programs may be looking for students who do work that is totally different from everything else coming out of the school. And in terms of the written parts of the application, read everything three times, then make someone else read it, too.
The whole thing is a crapshoot, really. I got into some great schools and was waitlisted or rejected by some only ok schools. There’s no telling what different schools are looking for at different times. The application process seems just as mysterious to me now as it did when I was going through it myself. It’s good that you’re starting work on your applications so early—the longer you work on them the better they will get.
I will look at work if you want! Email me.
I hope this was helpful.