Chuck has a lovely portfolio of Prairie winter photographs in the latest Lenswork. To see the images you have to purchase the magazine of course but here's a link to Chuck's home page. There are a couple of points we could make about this portfolio. I was raised on the prairies and these images speak to me of my experience. The images are not dramatic, they aren't scary or depressing, they don't have any political agenda unless it's to remind us of our roots. Each image quietly goes about illustrating one aspect of winter in the middle of North America, the flat lands. Many find photographing flat difficult, being only able to see the grandeur of peaks and canyons as being worth while. Here is a reminder that closer to home can be very productive.
The other point is that each image of the portfolio reinforces the others, fills in a few gaps in describing prairie winters. Brooks Jensen has always had a preference for and encouraged and promoted portfolios of related images rather than a "best of" strategy and it's very clear here that the photographs work together.
It might be tempting to think that weaker images combined can have sufficient strength to make a good portfolio but in reality, any portfolio is heavily biased by the weakest image therein. Two weak images and the portfolio is in trouble, three and it's more than likely game over.
This does not mean that photographers who are eclectic are precluded from creating portfolios - it simply takes longer. If every year or two, you illustrate a particular subject again, then within 20 - 30 years you might well have dozens of potential portfolios. Many well respected photographers did exactly that. The downside is it takes patience and we do not live in a time or a society that is enamoured of patience - we want fame and we want it now. The only possible solution would be some sort of a compromise - mostly eclectic but one or two projects which could turn into portfolios in a reasonable length of time. After all, since you photograph all manner of different things, surely there must be fodder there for a project.
Anyway, this started out as a heads up to Chuck's images and I think they well well repay careful study.
The other portfolios in Lenswork 87 are quite different and perhaps not to everyone's taste. Here too study can repay. Brooks presumably thought them worth bringing to our attention and perhaps we can figure out why they work. Sometimes we can learn from styles entirely different from our own, while not compromising our own style and taste.