It must appear that I’m always talking about print competitions. In fact I often am. This is because I enter three of them each year and have served as a juror myself. The three competitions build on each other. There is the state level — Professional Photographer’s Association of Massachusetts (PPAM); and Professional Photographers of America’s Northeast District Photographic and International Photographic Competitions. Since these take place at a different times it does seem to be endless! Are these competitions events where I invite friends and clients to vote for me so I can declare myself an “award-winning photographer?” No. It is indeed exciting to win an award. But the real award-winning experience is my sense of personal accomplishment and growth. These competitions are evaluative and are an essential way for me to learn and improve my work. All entries are anonymous. Every print entered into competition faces the scrutiny of a panel of five jurors and a jury chair. These jurors have spent years working as photographers and every panel has at least one who is a PPA Affiliate Juror which means he/she has taken the PPA Judges Workshop and passed a variety of competency hurdles. So why do I continue to enter? Having a panel of educated and qualified jurors review my work and discuss the positives and negatives teaches me a lot! If you take into consideration the three rounds, that’s fifteen pairs of eyes and I learn something from all of them. Sometimes I’m so close to my own work that I miss things that are obvious to the judges. Sometimes these flaws can be attended to in the print. Sometimes not. But it’s always fair criticism and I use the comments to improve on the next project. The feedback I have received from entering PPA competitions has been, as they say, priceless. Print competition has helped me to develop my style and technique which has in turn helped me provide better work for my clients and personal growth for myself as an artist. Of course it’s good for business to be able to refer to myself as an ‘award-winning photographer’ but it’s certainly way more than that.
Having my work critiqued by a panel of judges has been educational but just as educational has been my experience on the other side of the fence: as a judge analyzing the work of others. As a PPA Master Photographer, I have served as a print juror and taken the PPA Judges Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. Judging has helped me to “see” photographs and think deeply about what makes a photograph more or less successful. Studying the entries in photography competitions and conferring with my fellow jurors has been challenging, pleasurable and intensely educational . I have served as a juror for several New England state organizations: The Professional Photographers Association of Rhode Island; the Connecticut Professional Photographers Association; the New Hampshire Professional Photographers Association and Vermont Professional Photographers. I have enjoyed helping other photographers learn how to get photographs to tell the story they want to tell. Helping other photographers improve their work and watching them become ‘award-winning photographers’ is a win-win.
2016 has started out well for me! I entered the maximum of six pieces into the state, PPAM, competition and was one of only two photographers who received blue ribbons on all six. In addition I received a Judge’s Choice Award on one of my landscapes in the Illustrative Category and a Best in Category in Baby Portraits. I had also decided to enter a body of work as an ‘album’ and received the top Album Award — A Court of Honor! That was a personal challenge, as I had never entered an album before. All of the images submitted as an album must be able to stand alone but work together to tell a story. Of course image competition can be disappointing too, but that’s when I find a big opportunity to learn. While I can’t present this year’s PPAM images here, since they are going on to the PPA International Photographic Competition and need to be anonymous. I am putting up some from past years.
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