As a visual artist on the rise, Dharma Taylor considers that printing her work helps her to translate her vision and stories in meetings and presentations. Take a read into her tips on how to create a great paper portfolio.
In “How to Create a Great Paper Portfolio” we ask visual artists about their view on printed photography portfolios and invite them to share their experience when it comes to producing a high-quality book.
Today, it’s Dharma Taylor who joins us for a chat. The British visual artist and designer specialises in menswear and already had her work showcased during London’s Fashion week. Her pieces are inspired by the notion of separate realities and parallel lands, exploring sources ranging from technology, poetry, ancient civilisations and the dynamic differences in cultures.
(…) the photos are made to be printed. It kind of completes the photograph’s life-span or journey, if you like.
So let’s go straight to the point! With Instagram, individual websites, and platforms like Cherrydeck, is a printed photography portfolio still needed?
Absolutely, I think it is actually an essential part of presenting your work. I always feel that there are so many different ways of presenting work now, most of which are on screens.
From all, what format have you found to work the best?
A4 for sure works best for me — I think this size is a standard, tidy format that everyone is familiar with and is able to connect with in meetings or a presentation.
I wanted to create something with loose A4 prints that were not fixed bound, so the person I’m presenting to can lay them out in front of them and be able to look at several images collectively. This works well if I’m showing them to a group. Also, it’s ideal to be able to add more work to the series in the future or take work out.
Additionally, I recently created an A1 size print on white paper with work not included in my main printed portfolio, and this is designed to fold out like a single large map and folds back down to A4. This includes text and process imagery and again is great for presentations and encourages conversation.
Why did you decide to print your portfolio?
I think it makes sense to create a physical printed portfolio that is tangible. Firstly, because the photographers I have worked with have shot on film and used a medium format, so in this respect the photos are made to be printed. It kind of completes the photograph’s life-span or journey, if you like.
Also, the design product that I make and present is physical, it’s to be touched and felt, so it’s nice to be able to present the story of the product visually through something that can be picked up and brought closer.
For this particular portfolio, I wanted to make it so that the aesthetic subtly relates to sewing or cloth in some way. That’s why I’ve bound the whole thing in a jacquard woven fabric design.
What specificities did you choose? What should you pay attention to?
I chose to create a bespoke jacquard woven solander box to house a series of printed photographs from past collections; with a red lining book-cloth inside (size: 460 x 370 x 32mm). The presentation-box’s outer fabric is made up from custom designed woven material created on a loom.
It’s important to think about why you’re creating what you’re creating when putting a portfolio together and if the finished article relates to or complements the work inside.
I decided to keep the A4 prints inside loose and bare with no sleeves so as not to produce glare but also because the photographs print out so well — it’s nice to see that quality not obscured by a sleeve.
What is the average price you should be ready to pay?
I see this sort of thing as priceless and you do definitely get what you pay for. If you’re going to create something tailor-made it is worth investing in this as a really nice project and factoring in everything, including the cost of printing and the quality of paper.
In this case, all my prints are in colour so I used a gold fibre silk paper and had a photographic lab to do it. They came out really good — with a lovely finish that has a slight sheen to it but not as reflective as glossy paper, producing vivid colour as well as textured whites and deep blacks.
The box itself was hand crafted from scratch by a bookmaker specialist. This in itself can be expensive but this way of making a portfolio is ideal as you can create something specific. A well made printed portfolio is something that could very well last a lifetime (or beyond) so it’s worth spending a bit on it.
What would you say is the optimal number of pictures to include? How did you make your selection?
Fifteen to twenty images is perfect for your portfolio if you’re going to present the work in a meeting. The good thing about creating a box portfolio is obviously the ability to add or take away images as you see fit.
I tend to edit the selection according to the nature of appointment, and it’s deep enough to house everything when it’s in the workshop or at home.
How do you treat consistency in style? Is it better to approach a portfolio in a sense it showcases variety and versatility or a consistent personal style?
I really rate consistency and feel it’s key to have a clear style that’s recognisable and cuts through.
When collating a set of images, you’ll want them to flow — in terms of the colour, tone and distinctive feel. So maybe the key is something as simple as choosing one type of paper and keeping to that throughout.
Even though there’ll be imagery from over the years and from different projects, it’s important to be able bring these together and make more meaningful connections between them. I think when you have a personal style, it’s almost difficult not to be consistent.
As a final takeaway: what would be your #1 do and #1 don’t?
Don’t compromise on material or paper quality.
Do wait until you’ve got a body of work — this way your style will be clear and will help shape the look and feel of the portfolio.
To see more of Dharma’s work visit her Cherrydeck profile or her Instagram, here. For more insights on printed portfolios, check the latest interview we had with Andreas Knaub or keep an eye on our blog. 🍒