Should You Have a Portfolio?

"Where's your portfolio?"

I hear this question a lot, particularly from those who'd like to find a flaw with what I've written about photography. They've just laid down $3000 on a lens and they're hoping I'm wrong and they're on the verge of a creative breakthrough.

The problem is, I don't have one. I don't want one. It serves no purpose I can justify.

I realize why people want it. It's so easy to create an online portfolio today, it's become the gold standard for judging a photographer's worth. Everybody can have one, so everybody should.

But what are you trying to accomplish by assembling a portfolio (online or off)?

Is it attention? If so, that's probably the worst strategy. As Hugh MacLeod puts it, "just another couple of snowflakes in the big art establishment blizzard." If you have great stories to tell, there's far better venues for getting attention than a portfolio.

Is it credibility? That's always a losing battle. The closer you get to your goal, the less you innovate. Trends become your friends.

Is it clients? You're trying to be a pro, which is fine, but then we're talking about commerce, not necessarily art. There's a different set of rules to apply.

If you dare speak out about your views on art, like I do, your credibility is really what critics are after. They'll seek to pick apart your portfolio to compensate for their lack of judgment. I don't see a reason to play by their rules.