Until recently, I've never been one for entering photographic competitions for the simple reason that any form of art is subjective. What one person likes, another person doesn't. A few years ago I entered a competition by accident and ended up winning. I had to attend a posh dinner wearing a suit, and go up on stage to collect my award from Philippa Forrester off the telly! hehe.
It was an amazing feeling to see one of my photos displayed floor to ceiling either side of the stage. I wish I'd got a photo of it, but I was too busy worrying about not tripping up the steps to the podium... it was like graduation all over again!
After becoming an award winner, I carried on as before, and didn't even consider entering another competition. I mean, I had actually only entered that one by accident, without realising my image was being judged! It wasn't until late last year, that I decided to make more of an effort and enter the prestigious Hasselblad Masters competition.
So why the change of heart? Well it wasn't a feeling that I could actually win it... I'm still very self deprecating in that respect. It was actually the realisation of what a competition can do for a project. Often as creative people it's very difficult when faced with the prospect of being able to do "anything" not to become over awed and end up doing nothing. More often than not, competitions have categories, themes and guidelines. This all helps to focus the mind and enable to channel your creativity in a specific direction, and therefore create rather than procrastinate.
I entered three categories... Fashion/Beauty, Editorial and Portrait. For the Fashion/Beauty and Editorial categories I just entered images from my book that fit the guidelines, but for the Portrait category I wanted to shoot something specific. I actually came up with an amazing idea, but due to time constraints and not being able to get the right people involved at short notice I wasn't going to be able to do the idea justice. I'm going to be revisiting the concept at some point though. Because I had to submit 5 images for each category I decided I was going to try and capture the "Life of Man".
Because of my love of Richard Avedon and his work, I chose to shoot the images in high contrast black and white. The hope was that this would accentuate the differences in age and highlight the wrinkles and body shapes in the older models. I also chose to shoot everyone topless from the waist up. The point of this was that I didn't want it to be based on their clothes. I wanted people to look at the people.
Casting the models was easier than I expected, purely because of Twitter and the photographic community. I was genuinely surprised at peoples willingness to participate, and I'm grateful to Mark Cox, Ben Goode, Tony Good, Terri Tibbles and Andrea Lane for their help.
So how did I do? Well not very well! I didn't even make the semi finals in any of the categories I entered. Without trying to sound too clichéd, it's actually the taking part that matters. Sure I would have loved to have won. It would have been awesome! But through entering I was able to start and finish a personal project that I might not have considered, had I not taken part in the competition. Personal projects are about doing what you want, rather than what the client expects. Competitions help you to focus on the project. They point you in a direction and then give you a deadline to finish by. So even if you don't get anywhere in the judging, the point is that you completed what you started. Of course there's always a chance you might win and have to go to a posh awards dinner... but that only happens if you enter!