Hammered again! Why do I do it?

You’re probably thinking at this point that by hammered I mean blind rolling drunk. Regrettably, no, although I wish I had been. What I actually mean is that yet again I enter a competition in good spirit and faith only for my images to be misunderstood or worse still, sidelined. Now, before going further I need to come clean and say that these two particular images actually did reasonably well, one getting 17/20 and the other 18/20. It is however not so much the scores, judging is highly subjective after all, it is the comments that I find the most telling.

Let’s start with the candid image above. Firstly, in your whole life, how many times have you seen an image like this? Seven lads, all obviously together, all on their phones rather than chatting or interacting. It’s unique. You’ll never likely never see this image again, ever. It’s also a social statement, about how we now interact with each other. We all do it. I do it everyday. Sit with friends and tap away on my phone. With regards the judges comments, the most pleasing was that it was reminiscent of Martin Parr. I was happy when I heard that as I am a huge fan of Martin’s candid photography. Thank you judge. Less pleasing was being told off for the title “The future of social interaction” as it was unecessary to spell out the obvious. Not sure about the relevance of that one. Beyond this the judge did praise my ability to “get the shot” without being sworn at, beaten up or chased off but then she went on to say that had I got lower, I could have got more of their faces. I personally think that lying on the ground in front of them would have probably given the game away and I would have lost the opportunity to take this uniquely candid shot. Worse still, it might have offered the opporunity to give me a good kicking! Personally, I know the value of this image, both to me and as a unique and hard-hitting comment on society today, and for these reasons it is priceless.

If my first image failed to capture the imagination and wonder of the judges, my second one (see above) did somewhat worse. Personally, I love this image and as for the first one, it captures a moment we see all too often today. The loneliness and isolation that the pandemic has created for so many of us. It is an image of our time. Simple, elegant, dark, asking lot’s of questions. Err, not exactly (imagine sound of a needle scrapping across a record)!! According to our judges, it’s probably a personal trainer on a break! Oh, and they wanted to see more detail of the head. Apparently, capturing him wearing a hoody or a hat was simply not good photography.

With comments such as these, and bearing in mind that critiquing other peoples work provides an opportunity to “do better next time”, I am really not sure what I am supposed to do with these. My normal approach is to fester and froth for a while when I get bad feedback, eventually coming around to the idea that I can learn from it. Thie real problem comes when you get no useful feedback as you really struggle to know how to improve and move forward as a photographer. If the assumption is that to do better in club competitions you need to get better at taking the types of photos that do well in clubcompetitions, then that’s simply not going to happen. It’s not important enough for me to want or need to do that.

I write this piece tounge-in-cheek really as I knew I was on a hiding to nothing entering images with a social, urban context in a photography club competition. My entries were actually unique in that the vast majorit of the 60 entries covered the more usual genres of abstract, wildlife, sport and portraiture. Within these there were some wonderful photography, worthy of high points and placings in the top three. Would I have chosen the same ones? Truefully, no, but then again I have a particular perspective on photography and what I like doesn’t necessarily resonate with others. Does this experience make me want to enter competitions? Sadly, no. I think I am much better suited to project work and that is probably where I will focus my attention in the future. I think creating a body of work has more meaning in the overall scheme of things and ultimately is the evolution I seek.

Bonne chance mes amis.