Un”Competitive” Competitions


Over the last few months I got to see and participate in couple of photography contest and I should admit or I should frankly say that – organising contests in a ethical and fair and proper way in our part of the world is really impossible if not for difficult. I would not like to name the organisations which ran the contests but have to narrate few things which I got to see.

a. An online contest for XXXX Photographer of the Year for so many sub categories ran by a premier photography magazine. The end date/time was set for a particular date at 12midnight and the rules and regulations (though handful) were mentioned in the site  – which included a min image dimension of say min 800px by 533px.

Experience 01 – apparently the person who coded the image acceptance form made it a hard coded values which forced people to prepare a portrait image which had a min 800px width which was caused by the web based form not being able to accept 533px by 800px image !

Experience 02 – on the D day the website stops accepting the entries at 11pm which was at least an hour before the stipulated end date and the application shows up a thank you for participating without even accepting the images which were on the process of uploading.

I did write to the organisers about the issues – but as expected neither did I got a reply nor they responded publicly to apologise to the numerous photographers who had publicly put the issue on their social networking sites and blogs.

b. A contest run by another prestigious conservation oriented magazine over here. Firstly they ask for images to be submitted as RAW files without even thinking about the copyright policy a photographer can talk about when giving away a RAW file, secondly how about lesser mortals who still continue to shoot in JPEG due to what so ever unavoidable reasons or the equipment not being supportive enough to capture a RAW image ? Over and all they ask high resolution images to be sent in CD or DVDs and they never bother to acknowledge the receipt or even intimate the participants on the how about of the progress of the contest. Based on discussion with one of my friend who is apparently a very well known photographer himself I got to know that – results of the contest are pre-decided by the organisers and at times or many a times the organisers don’t even bother to open and view the content of the mail or cd in which the images are sent if its not from some reputed photographers. It seems they sometime even manage to get to see images even before contest is announced and decide on the outcome.

c. A lovely salon / competition run by a very well known photography society in our State. Organisers announce the categories for submission like Landscape, Digital, Wildlife etc and put a very “stranded in air” condition that the images have to be from our state only and should depict our culture and flora and fauna that we have. Competition goes through fine and eventually when the results are announced I got to know that many if not all of the winners are ones who are members of the society. Secondly some of the images which won the main prize are shot in places which are at least even 3hrs flight distance from the place where I stay ! And most importantly of the 12 prizes at least 3-4 have been won by the judges or the organisers themselves ! Ain’t that really interesting. Upon enquiry I had been told that it gives you a special weight-age if I am a member of the society and the judges will automatically come to know about the member and their images. Secondly being at the judging event (which apparently is open to public – but public according to them are participants and the member of the society only) in person and knowing the judge adds a lot of weight-age to the points that one gets to score for the photos. Lastly – a black&white landscape image submitted by me got rejected by all Judges – the reason being – its shot in color and has been converted to B&W which accounts to digital manipulation and is not allowed in the contest (which never got highlighted in the rules) – what if I had shot the same on Kodak Tri-X and sent the print to them ? Is it still un-ethical cos I captured a color scene on B&W film ? Its feels even more disgusting to see that most of the winning images are run of the mill action or typical “shots” which in now where shows the capability or the creativity of the person behind the camera. And talking about creativity and image manipulation the organisers manage to keep one more category called DIGITAL Creation which has winning images which clearly looks like a composite of >3 images or even a work of the digital artist on top of a mediocre image for hours using software tools to get the glamour effect !

How unrealistic can the world get by doing such things ! Usually am a person who stay away from contests irrespective of its print or a soft copy based competitions. I know where I stand and I frequently analyse and criticise my own images up against the world and know where I am doing wrong or right with coming up with something new and I don’t believe a competition is a clear indication of where a person stand for his creativity in field of photography or art. Though the above events happened over a period of last few months I forced myself to keep quite until the last one happened and it did really turned me off with the magic hat rules and regulations change during the time of judgement or by the judges themselves at the time of judging.

Probably contest organisers especially Photography contest organisers in our country should learn from the likes of BBC or NWF or TOPY – the way they conduct and finish the contests and they way the participants are treated and updated through out the process of the contest. If this is the way we see the world in future too – then god save the art and the artists of this country who spend their valuable time creating images which people haven’t seen before. Anyways what said above are my views and my opinions and what i got to see and each person might have their own view on this which is subjective.

One comment

  1. This is such a sad state of affairs Shiva. Competitions are everywhere, but not just in our state, entire photographic community in India is bubbling with unwarranted politics, disrespect for good work. People are extremely self-centered, downplaying other’s work has become a prime priority for their own upcoming.

    There are many reasons that I don’t participate in any competitions. Some of the reasons you have already mentioned it here. I guess we need desperately need to revolutionize our thinking pattern by acting responsibly by acknowledging good work of others and not take them for a ride!

    -Pramod Viswanath

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