PhotoLucida Critical Mass, Call For Entries

- - Getting Noticed

The big photo contests in the editorial world are the American Photography annual (here), SPD (here) and the PDN photography annual (here). I’ve mentioned in the past that the Critical Mass review/contest (here) put on by Photolucida is a good resource for finding talent and this year I’m happy to be reviewing work again. The last time I was a reviewer I discovered many, many photographers I’d never head of and it seems like the other reviewers do as well. Amy Stein, a former winner and current reviewer says “I can’t begin to tell you the number of gallerists, curators and editors I’ve met who’ve told me they first saw my work through Critical Mass.”

The call for entries is now but you should keep in mind like anything, these contests favor a certain style of photography and you should look through the past winners and finalists and if you think you’ve got something that might pique the judges interest, give it a shot. I’m going to try and find a few overlooked gems, that PE’s might be interested in and after all the reviewing is done, highlight them on the blog.

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

  1. Much thanks for another heads-up.

    I just signed up and I’d like to know your thoughts…
    I’ve been shooting editorial on and off for a few years but I’m fairly new to gallery photo. I’m a wee bit intimidated by the ‘pricing and print information’ as part of the application process… I shoot film, but you’d be surprised at how little printing I’ve actually done.

    As a judge (especially the gallery judges), you think “inquire for pricing information” on every single print comes off as unprofessional? I should know my prices anyway, but I’m obviously a bit short on time to start figuring this out now.

    And last, should I get out there and start printing asap? They seem to push this, but I don’t see how print ownership actually relates to the submissions. Thanks again.

  2. Seems like a wonderful pyramid scheme to me. Good luck with that.

    Kind of funny when the highest income growth potential in photography is supposedly prestigious, juried contests.

  3. I’m laughing out loud at Jean-Marie’s comment above…give me a second…

    and I couldn’t help but notice: “these contests favor a certain style of photography…” yeah, that’s really the PROBLEM, isn’t it?

    It would be like if I was judging a cake baking contest and came in and said, “I ONLY do chocolate icing, folks. If you made a cake that doesn’t have chocolate icing, don’t bother bringing it in. Well, bring it in (we need your $550 entry fee) we’ll have a nibble, just don’t expect to win anything…”

    Hard NOT to see it as an elaborate pyramid scheme.

    Rob, pleeeeze, try and bring a bit of real-ness to the proceedings. Take it down a notch, bro, a bit closer to street level where most of us hang out.

    Of course it’ll be a cold day in hell when the photo-academia-gallery-mafia realizes what a life-choking stronghold they exert on the world of “fine art” photography. Is it any wonder Salgado doesn’t limit his editions, etc etc…

    The more I learn about how “fine art photography” functions, the more disgusted I become. Bon voyage…


  4. Interesting. I always felt their intentions were good. They built amazing software for the judges to easily view thousands of images. This seems more effective then the thousands of dollars people spend sending promo cards into the abyss. My only quip was the obvious fact that 200 people voting on the best imagery will give you something expected.
    Spare me the indignation bro.

  5. I just found your blog and I love it!

    It’s true that there is a certain overall look to the photolucida winners but there is some variety. A similar style seems to be in a lot of the advertising imagery as of late. The other catch is it must be a cohesive body of work with history or meaning. You are absolutely correct about the promo cards. I would rather try this for 75.00 + and get exposure from the right people, even if my work isn’t chosen.

    I do find it frustrating to break in – my work’s been published, been in FotoFest, (I also won honorable mention from Wendy Watriss of FotoFest), had a solo exhibition in a museum but am still relatively unknown and haven’t formed a gallery relationship. I just keep on trying.

    Thanks for your info!


  6. picture miss

    Photo Editor,

    I also LOVE your blog, what a wonderful resource you have given us all.
    I would like to know your opinion on The Photolucida Critical Mass’s two part submission process…..a $75 entry fee and then an additional $200 if the ‘pre-screeners’ select your work to be viewed by a full panel.
    I think this is outrageous money making.

    • @picture miss,

      I have to agree about the additional fee. I don’t have a problem with the initial fee of $75, though it is a bit steep compared to other contests. The secondary $200 fee is another matter though. It reminds me of the great poem – confirmed by some fine astute and well learned people – I wrote and now that got selected for print and how I for a nominal fee could get a copy of said wonderfully prestigious book with my now glorified epic within.

      Good intentions or not, That extra $200 (which I’m sure will only be offered to a very select limited few) on round two if I am blessed enough to get selected amongst the prestigious few raises a HUGE flag for me.

  7. The work on a similar scheme.

    Their judging panel consists of Sothebys, VII, Tate Gallery, Leica, Heffel, Artrepco, Communications Arts, Ilford, PDN ….

    Entries are high as well. As far as I remember $ 35.- /image with a rebate on 5 or 10 images ..

    However, I didn’t see it as a competition. More a way to put some of my pics in front of those people. Although they judges are heavy on the ‘arts’ (of course), and I’m not. But you never know :-)

    They needed a year or so for the judgement and did came out with the results on 19th Oct.

    Although the judgement roster is high class (imho) there is not any media coverage out there.

    PDN was in the jury – not a tiny note about it on their site …

    And no, I didn’t work out for me. No success story like Amy Stein above, sorry :-)
    Maybe other contributors had one .

    But to be nominated in two categories and to see my images in the neighborhood of a JAMES RUSSEL is a ample reward for my snapshots, especially in categories like Professional-Adverstising and Professional-Sports :-)

    Best, Reini

  8. le cinémasagiste

    So I’m on to round #2. Wherein I get to pay each of the 200 Jurors $1 to look at my images? [exasperated gasp]… Ten years ago on 42nd St., it was the peepers that had to pay to look at the goods. Now it is the other way around?

    I think I’ve been lucky enough with nominations and a NY gallery landing this year that I can say…”that’s crazy!”. Not a definite yet, but jeez. On the other hand I could feel less sleazy if I pretend I am just gambling $200 on a very expensive publishing opportunity. It’s a 1/58 chance right?

    • @le cin√©masagiste,

      Well coming from a poker standpoint you have already put in the ante of $75, so whats another $200 to see the flop? Ask yourself how much that publishing (not the opportunity, the $75 paid for that) is worth to you. Only then can you figure out what kind of odds you are getting and if its worth the risk for you-do you have a pocket pair?

      Oh and congrats on getting through the first round, as usual the blinds now will start to go up. :)

      p.s. Check out what Laura Moya the Director wrote on APE’s recent follow up post here:

      It may help you decide and good luck.