A question that I get a lot and that will be essential in your application to Columbia for the Photography MFA program is:
“What should I put in my portfolio?”
The portfolio might be one of the most important parts of the application, and it likely plays a large role in the awarding of the Follett Graduate Merit Award and other merit-based scholarships. So, what should it consist of?
Basically, the portfolio submission should be a cohesive group of images that demonstrate your ability as an artist to work in a uniform style with a consistent subject matter. That’s pretty vague, but it’s a place to start.
If you are a photographer that’s done a number of different things over your career (weddings, portraits, documentary, staged work, video, etc.), there is always the want to display all of the different things you can do. But don’t. If you were to submit a portfolio with all of those different examples included, it would look disjointed, and your point-of-view would appear unfocused.
When I applied to the program, I submitted two separate bodies of work. That is not always recommended. In my case, both bodies of work had been resolved and were currently being exhibited. They were also loosely related in style and subject matter. So, I felt confident that they were each strong enough to be considered on their own. However, I also felt that it was important to include both bodies because they showed the evolution of my practice.
I submitted 6 images from my first body, and 12 images from my second. Installation of my work was also something that was important for me to show, so I used two spaces in the portfolio for installation images. I felt that if the 18 images I had submitted weren’t good enough, then two more weren’t going to help all that much. And the installation images gave a good idea about size and presentation, as that was a unique element.
It always helps to go over your portfolio with someone else. Have them read your statement and see if the images match the statement and if the images match each other.