I took part in the San Diego County Fair’s photography contest/exhibition again this year (after one of my black & white images of Santa Ysabel Creek was awarded an honorable mention last year), and after some consideration and hesitation, I decided to combine the photos that I submitted (which were on the site already, anyway) in this post. 4 of these 5 photos were rejected by the panel of judges. The only image that was accepted is the black & white seascape “Low Tide”, in the gallery below.
I have made a fairly conservative selection of images – work that is not heavily processed (except for “Silent Temple…”, which I submitted to the digital art/HDR category, where that type of processing is allowed), but for the most part has only been treated for color balance and contrast (the black & white images have of course been treated with what is a simulation of classic color filters).
But, on the day the results are posted, in a matter of minutes, 5 emails arrive, and 4 of them say “rejected” without any further reasoning (though the automated email does have a field “judge’s comments”, but it is empty in all of the messages). That is not exactly helpful of course, but I’m used to dealing with rejection – after all, I submit images to fine art and stock photo sites alike for the longest time of my photographic career already.
However… I selected images of a more contemplative nature (one could say, photos that are “not so loud”), and it appears that this is not what the judges are looking for at all. I left a comment on one of the judge’s blog posts, to which he kindly replied in another blog post, and another judge in that post also chimed in, mentioning that they are looking for “the WOW factor”.
Now, popular photography is constantly pushed for this “wow factor” (I prefer to keep it lowercase;-) through all kinds of processing, and while I do apply (sometimes heavy) creative processing to my images, I think that the pursuit of attaining maximum attention through each and every, single photograph is at least questionable, and doesn’t go along well with the history of photography and its masters. If every single image has to “deliver” in terms of a wow factor for the sole purpose of making an impression on judges that browse through hundreds of images, there is little room for a more quiet look to the inside, the contemplation of details, and silence. Personally, I think that is a regrettable development.
But, as an ex-pat European trying to compete in an American photography contest, it might very well be that to a certain degree, different worlds collide there, as well. ;-)
Either way, the rejection of a large part of my submissions was helpful – for one, I will not be spending any money on the absurd submission fees for the SD county fair ($18 per entry, for an electronically delivered YES or NO – and as I learned from the blog post of the judge, the judges are doing their work there for FREE). But more importantly, I found out that I certainly do not want to cater my photographs to the criteria of the fair’s judges. The San Diego County Fair may be the country’s 4th biggest local fair, but it’s photographic exhibition only shows a fragment of the entire field of photographic art. Mine doesn’t necessarily have to fit in, and that’s ok.subscribe via email (the subscription form opens in a new browser window/tab). It's easy as pie! :-)
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