I’m thinking of quitting club photography competitions – and it’s not all sour grapes!
I may not be the best photographer the world has ever known but that is not the point here. The main things l expect of a judge in club competitions is consistency, empathy and a willingness to accept that some photographers think differently from others. Too many judges in my opinion look at photography from the narrowest of viewpoints and that can, and often does, alianate some club members.
Let’s explore the problem as I see it?
Given that this is not the first time my photography has jarred with judges perhaps it’s time to start thinking about the benefits of stepping back from club photography. For example
- Time: Entering competitions is time consuming if you do it right. Making selections based on the same criteria used by judges is not a quick process. It might take several hours to select possible candidate images from your archive and several more then to choose the final two or three for the particular club photography competition your are entering
- Value: Entering and even winning competitions has little value other than a personal feeling of achievement. However it is equally valid to spend the time working on this blog, creating a photo-book, photographing a project or working on panels.
- Relevance: Judges comments, far from being objective are often related to their likes and dislikes, their preferences and their knowledge and understanding of photography in general. For me, while I often see some great “club” photographs, I rarely see images that speak to me, that make me wonder, ask questions, feel something.
To stand a chance, you need to put in the effort
The first of the points above is particularly relevent to club photography. Although it is possible to win simply by grabbing the nearest relevent image, your chances improve dramatically if you put in the effort when selecting images. That process, if done properly is very time consuming because you have to be the judge and that means you have to look for all of the positives and all of the flaws in the image you are submitting. If there are more flaws than positives, put the image to one side and move on. Wanting it to win doesn’t mean it will.
Is it worth it? What’s the value to you?
For some people competitions are like a drug, they get real value out of the whole process from taking the photo, selecting it and listening to the judges comments. For me, the last part is often excruciating, especially if the judge is floundering around looking for positives in an image they don’t get or they don’t like. While I value their honesty, I tend to see my vision of photography better met outside of the club environment rather than within it. The value of club photography for me is the people, not the process. I don’t enter competitions to hear judges tell me that my photography has no value, far from it, I want the judge to tell me that the image reminds them of the work of Vivian Maier, Helen Levitt, Daido Moryiama or Saul Leiter (I wish) or that you’ve captured an emotion rather than a subject.
If judges had a broader depth of knowledge of their subject, and less interest in what makes a good “club photography”, club photography competitions would be hugely more entertaining. And here’s the problem. Because your club is part of a much larger ecosystem, then in order to “compete” you need to produce images which meet the brief associated with your umbrella organisation. If you don’t then there is no way to compete on a larger canvas. By that I mean in national and even international competitions. That need though has very little relevence in the grander scheme of things. Pick up a dozen books from notable photographers and see how many highly coveted images would win in a club photagraphy competition. Some would of course but the vast majority, probably not. They simply aren’t relevent to club competitions!
I honestly could write more but I think from just these few points you will probably have obtained an understanding of why, for me at least, club photography is not the be-all-end all of photography.
Here are few images of mine that have bombed in various competitions yet I feel have validity in the general context of photography.
Enjoyed this article – here are a few more that you might like
- What makes a good photograph?
- 5 candid photos that define your walk home
- 5 ways to win in club photography competitions
- Did I mention I love Dynamic Auto Painter!
- Improving an old damaged family photo using Affinity Photo
Need more inspiration? Why not visit Pixtures.co.uk