Updated: Sep 16, 2019
Ever debated with yourself to enter a paid competition or not? Yes, any photographer probably has been in this dilemma, at least once. So you are not alone.
" I've seen your work online and I thought it was brilliant! I would like to share our next open call... "
" Last chance! Only 1 day left to apply! Don't miss out this once in a lifetime opportunity to exhibit your work at the next no-one-else-knows-about festival and get seen by some our friends and relatives who are really good with artsy stuff... "
" We have discovered your work and we really think you are so great! Why don't you join our platform with some other guys we sucked their balls like yours, whose vanity justifies them spending some cash for us? We will take your money and spend some small part of it to book you some shows that are good enough to make you think they will make a difference and we pocket the rest! "
" Apply for a Noble Grant to take your work further! We are such good people that we help poor photographers like you, achieve and complete their projects and we do it in the name of some great dead photographer, to make us look even better! We only need some money out of you, because we just want to help you out! yep, really! We will make a few hundred thousand dollars out of you, little suckers, and we will give back the 10% to the winning bloke! Sounds fair? "
"Hey, we think you are one of the top contemporary photographers! We want to include you in our prestigious catalog. We are going to print 5000 books and spread them across top museums and curators in the world! We include 300 photographers and you just have to pay a $2000 fee to be included..... hmmm... 300x2000 = $600000 ... That's a pretty darn expensive book init? And guess what, if you give a book to a Museum, they will take it I guess..."
...and... the best one.... here it comes:
"Don't miss the chance to be exhibited in the international festival of xxxxx (actually a serious one). Click... well, not actually in the festival, but at a gallery in the same city, at the same time. Cool huh? For one image, you have to pay... for series...."
So just take my advice or leave it. Paying to enter a competition is just a satisfaction of young photographers' vanity. You are the one doing the work, maybe no one pays you to do it, but you do it because it's what you love. So if you have to pay for the world to see it, then the work probably is not good enough to be seen.
A friend photographer of mine, Stratos Kalafatis, told me something that I think made me wiser as a photographer. There will be some point in your photography path, that the work you have done will be able to make such impact, that the world will have no choice, but to turn to your direction and see it. This is the only kind of work that makes sense, in photography and in any form of art.
Everything we see today comes and goes really fast in front of our eyes. We therefore think that we can create something really fast and maybe get 1000 likes on social media, or become viral. Nothing works like that. Even if once a while it does, does this mean that this work has any significance?
The means of photography poses a significant obstacle to new photographers. It is easy. You can grab a modern camera, click and make a more or less right exposure. This does not make it art. A musical instrument for example forces you to understand that. Just sit on a piano and try to play music. You can't. Anyone understands that you need many years to learn how to play the piano, before you can make your own music. This is the same with photography and any other form of art.
So instead of spending time in entering competitions, I will try to spend my time in working and trying to master my instrument so that I can create work that resonates with myself and the rest of the world.
Will be happy to start a discussion and hear your thoughts!