And the Winner Is

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I have always thought that photojournalism contests lead to bad photography. They encourage young photographers to make images like the ones that won in previous years instead of pursuing their personal vision. Shooting black and white with a 24-millimeter lens at f/1.4, and overprocessing the result, does not automatically make a great image. Following your own passions is more likely to lead to important photographs.

via NYTimes Lens Blog.

There Are 6 Comments On This Article.

  1. I have a hard time with a few of the contests that I have viewed and considered entry into. I am not afraid of criticism and not making the cut.

    What I find difficult to swallow is the over baking and digital processing of an image. It is this processing that seems to win the contest more so that the content which most lack originality. One winner was a shot of the famous barn in northern California that appears frequently in someones portfolio. Nothing wrong with it but how about something new?

  2. Contests are now big moneymakers for PDN, CA and others. CA seems to have a new one every month. They will just get bigger and bigger, but the work probably won’t get better and better. Too much chasing what people think they should enter in order to win.

  3. pop-idol meets photography..
    entering grants and competitions seems to have filled the void left by reduced editorial space and has become the starting point for many new photographers..

    “bad photography” in photojournalism competitions may be the least of it, since it is not really the photography which matters in this genre – it is the story being communicated to people outside the photo industry.
    i wonder if photographers now focused on winning a grant or competition sometimes miss the point of photography as a communicative tool.. ?

    intentions of communicating to people outside the photo industry may be neglected in favor of the simple satisfaction of another listed “nomination” or “shortlisted” notice in a bio section.. another room of photos on a personal website..

    in this age, where photography has eaten itself, some students i speak with spend a great deal more time working towards industry awards than they do promoting their chosen story outside the industry… as though there is a linear career path which begins with a BA or MA, then moves to competition-win and so on..

    competitions in general do seem to breed mediocrity, and an over emphasis on them may produce a warped perspective of ones practice..
    plenty of excellent photographers work without subscribing to them, and plenty of winners work will fade in memory by the time the next round of submissions open.

    ..and still as we talk here about derivative work, cliched stories and collected judges tendency towards familiar aesthetics we talk about inward looking, photo-world phenomenon.. blahblah.

    isn’t it the case that longevity comes to those who pay little more than a sideways nod to the photo world as they push on with their own path through the real world? it’s worked for me, at least.