Competitions are an important part of many photographers’ process as they offer fantastic opportunities for raising your profile and an excellent confidence boost to individuals in an artform often overshadowed by self doubt.
One would hope that when going in to the realms of internationally acclaimed awards that there would be more stringent measures in place to ensure awards are given fairly to deserving individuals: the competition loses a lot of its appeal if victory has no meaning. While this seems to be true in the vast majority of occasions there have been a number of controversies in recent years that show that some people are more interested in the prize than the process.
Some of these controversies include:
The most recent of these controversies relates to Australian Professional Photography Awards 2018, where an award winner has been accused of stealing the work of other photographers for use in her photomontages.
While the matter is still being debated by the APPA at the time of writing, other bodies who have worked with the photographer have rescinded awards. The full list of evidence can be found on the website Photostealers, where the original accusation was made.
Personally I think the evidence is quite compelling, but I always encourage skeptism over sensationalism: I encourage you to see out the facts for yourself and I hope the photographer in question issues their own statement soon.
So what does this say about competitions as a whole? If some people are cheating do you need to do the same to keep up?
There’s a simple lesson that I was taught as a child, as I’m sure were many of you:
It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part
Let me explain why.
The very act of entering requires self reflection, analysis and critique of your own work that can help you grow as a photographer. In the digital age it’s easy to take thousands of photos and store them on your computer, narrowing it down to a tiny handful of the very best is a difficult process that can yield amazing insights.
I often suggest to my students that entering a local competition can be an invaluable resource for these reasons, and the challenge of selecting an entry can make an individual really focus in and understand what drives them as a photographer.
Here is my simple guide to picking images for a competition:
- Find a competition with a defined theme
- Make a quick selection of your images matching that theme: anything that catches your eye
- Make a second pass and eliminate half the images. Scoring images out of 10 can help you do this
- Make a third pass and find your favourites. Be analytical: examine the image, not the memory associated with it
- Take a break for a day. This seems odd, but opinions can depend on mood. A good image is one you like regardless of your mood
- Make your final selections. Aim for as few as possible, showcase only your very best work.
If you go in to the contest with the aim of personal growth rather than prizes then you have already won, as the very act of taking that step challenges you as a photographer and can encourage you to think critically about your own work.
So what do you think?
Let me know in the comments, and share any other news stories you think could be interesting