Talent Or Luck: On Winning Fame Through Art Contests

To borrow the lotto saying, “You have to win it to be in it,” contests lure you in with that elusive hook…. you just might win, if only you played the game. For Lotto it surely is about luck when it comes to winning. What about when the contest asks something of the contestant besides just plopping down a few bucks for an admission fee?

When it comes to the arts, is it a game of odds or talent with contests that call for submitting  your photography, illustration, song writing, animation or any creative works? For ‘calls for submissions’ it’s more about the quality of work, and when it comes to art that can be subjective. But certainly a little luck wouldn’t hurt.

It is a journey of the unknown when anyone decides to submit work in the hopes of a nod from a judge, who usually is pro in the field.

“Wall’ Charlottsville, VA

Take the ‘One Life’ International Photography Competition underway right now. The judges are individuals from publishing and academia realms that include: Sarah Filipi, Deputy Photo Editor for Fast Company, Rebecca Kimmons, Photo Editor for Redbook, Michael Norseng, Photo Director for Esquire, John Gimenez Photo Contests & Events for Photo District News (PDN), Michael Stueven, Photo Editor for People, Rob Baid, Creative Director for Mother New York, and Steven J. Bliss, Dean of The School of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

While online art contests don’t award millions they do give participants a chance to be seen by industry professionals and could potentially open doors for freelance opportunities. The prizes for One Life are a $25,000 grant, a gallery exhibition, a feature in PDN Magazine, a photo essay in the One Life Catalogue, and lastly, web exposure to a global audience.

Signage points to freaks along board walk, Coney Island, New York.

Digital publishing has created a niche market for numerous web ‘call for submissions’ opportunities. While entry fees are associated with the contests, the dollar amount usually isn’t too steep. Some might consider these organizations as opportunists similar to a vanity gallery practice, by charging high fees for the privilege of exhibiting in the space. I don’t think online art contests fall into that category of simply making money off of participants.

Online or brick and mortar, it doesn’t much matter where the venue is – what matters is the costs associated with putting together an event of this magnitude. In today’s markets any business endeavor comes with some expense associated with marketing your work.

Another contest of note that is free to enter is the Smithsonian Magazine 10th Annual Photo Contest offering Grand Prize of a Smithsonian Journeys trip or cash equivalent of approximately $3,000,  five category winner prizes of $500 and one reader’s choice winner of $500.

The National Geographic Photo Contest 2012  begins September 1, 2012 and entrants have to November 30, 2012 to submit work. The cost is nominal, $15 per image, and signed personal and property releases are required where photograph contains people or notable artworks or buildings within image. While these rules may seem restricting, they are intended to protect the rights of subjects for publication purposes.

To see the entire collection of images I submitted visit for One Life, visit: http://mwaage.see.me/onelife2012#.UDj3xsNvLvY.tumblr

Have you used online resources to promote your work? Contests are just one  way to get work seen. Personal web sites and posting updates to social networking sites like Facebook are efforts at marketing that at its core say, ‘look at me’ and that’s precisely what you want to do for your work.

A new site I just discovered is The Ground Magazine.  Artists signing up to the site can upload their work. Exposure opportunities like this are a good alternatives for gaining visibility within a like-minded creative community. To repeat the Lotto catch phrase – “You have to be in it to win it.”

To Tweak Or Not To Tweak: What constitutes good Art photography?

Photography and post production are two parts of a skill set that can result in fortifying a creative concept when it comes to achieving beautiful imagery. Or so some would have you think.

Traditionally photography was always about capturing the moment. The emphasis was on the act of using the camera as a tool to record the exposure. To do that effectively,  a science process was employed. Measuring the light combined with correct film development made photography a two-part equation: a) exposing the film material and b) developing the film and print materials.bjo

In CNN’s blog titled, ‘Art photography: When ‘reality isn’t good enough’ writer Ashley Strickland talks about the rise of digital manipulation in photography and infers the question, ‘What constitutes art when it comes to photography?’ Strickland interviews commercial photographer David Allen Brandt.

From Brandt’s point of view, a photographer should try to make an optimal image in camera, that is to say, when shooting the subject matter. Years ago before digital memory cards replaced films such as Kodachrome and TriX,  the professional photographer distinguished him or herself from consumer photography with the use of extensive lighting knowledge.

Pedestrian or ubiquitous photographic works today flood the visual landscape. It’s hard to decipher if the image maker is a professional – someone who makes income from their works, and more importantly, if they are good.

From what appears as original photography seen on Facebook or Tumblr,  I might call pedestrian photography. I mean ‘pedestrian’ in the sense of frequent and over abundant snapshot-like photos. I do not mean to diminish the quality unecessarily, but to emphasize the quantity of photographic works that have resulted since the impact of digital apparatus, cameras and computers. The use of software technologies to enhance what might otherwise be a straight forward image, has also contributed to a proliferation of imagery.

The question then becomes, as Strickland so simply states, “What happens (to photography) when you can do anything?”

That question implies: manipulating a photograph changes the inherent representation, (and I say this questionably), of what, reality? I think the writer refers to what is understood in a general sense, that an unmanipulated image, like a quick snapshot, appears as an unbiased recording of a moment.  But this too I find questionable because any image whether intended to be unbiased or not, is taken from the point of view of the taker and therefore somewhat subjective.

Isn’t the point of any creative visual endeavor to pursue the limits of the medium in a manner that bests explores the intent of the maker?

Initially what piqued my interest in Strickland’s article was the title, ‘Art Photography: When ‘reality isn’t good enough’ because it seemed to say, photography which is perceived as a medium that captures reality, is in fact misleading. I think the point being made was that straight, unmanipulated photography is a more accurate record of capturing what appears to be real, as opposed to images that are obviously manipulated. That would have been a more accurate statement.

This is made clear in the popular Instagram app. Take for instance these two images below. The first image is taken through the Droid mobile device with no adjustments made to the exposure.

In the second, the same image is manipulated using the Instagram app.  Does one image appeal more to the eye than the other? Does the use of the manipulation make the source image seem less interesting in comparison?

Both images are neutral subject matter. Some would say the 2nd is more interesting because the contrast is deeper, resulting in an overall effect of drama.

Would you say if using software increased the interest level of an otherwise boring image, and is just part of employing a processing workflow? Or do you think relying on software defeats the purpose of getting good images in camera?

The tools one uses to get to an end result, I think, is a personal choice, similar to that of framing a view with camera in hand and making selective decisions when to click the shutter. That is just as personal a choice as using Photoshop or Instagram. I don’t think relying on any one tool is going to be the answer to making better pictures overall. A combination of composition, lighting, and tweaking are all ok to use as long as you, the image maker, is pleased with the result.

What do you think – to tweak, or not to tweak? Should there be rules that define what constitutes art in photography?

In Lieu of Lightning

There’s alot to be said for setting goals. With photography I’ve always wanted to capture that flash of lightning as though that would define my skill. I’ve yet to capture that bolt of electricity as it comes from the sky.

Even with forewarning from predictors like WTNH Weather.com  to get a good lightning shot you need to be prepared. A tripod is the tool of choice and even more important than that – the luxury of time – to set and position the shot means you need to prepare.

That’s the lacking ingredient for me. My work gets incorporated into employer’s product.  I don’t always have full arsenal of tools that I’d need if I were out and about with weather as an assignment.

Thunder storms were predicted this evening even though it was sunny at 5:00 p.m. Off into Avon, CT I travelled and didn’t see any lightning. I stopped to zoom in on Queen Anne’s Lace and as the sky darkened kept my eye out for bolts of lightning. I saw a flash up ahead while I drove 40 m.p.h., not the most opportune time for me to set up.

Instead I decided to make my own lightning by capturing the colors from street lamps and wet pavement and then back at myself. Light is light and self can be as compelling as you make it.

Do you have goals you set for yourself – even in the midst of having little time?

Don’t think time is something  you’ll have one day.

Instead, if ‘one day’ were today, you can start now – doing what it is you like.

Isn’t that the whole point of living your best life?

 

This Moment

“A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.”

“This Moment” is a ritual found on Life inspired by theWee Man adopted from SouleMama which was introduced to me by Sarah-Jane, author of Almost There. If you find yourself touched by a Moment and would like to participate, post your picture on a Friday and leave your link in the comments section.