Photography competitions and workshops can be a great way for photographers to hone their craft in specific ways, given certain guidelines, rules, and themes. For those more competitively-oriented, the possibility of some top prize or internet recognition can be all the motivation one needs to join in. But, for the more “casual” like myself, I tend to avoid the stress of the competitive scene in an art I am not currently pursuing for profit. Thankfully, not all contests are geared to the competitive persona!
Before I get started on my photographs from South Korea, one final Lightroom album from early Spring caught my eye to make a catch-up post. Back in mid-March, a D.C. Shoot Off contest sent me on a 24-hour search to find 3-5 photographs that fit a specific theme. In the short timeframe, entrants had to not only capture the photographs, but coordinate with their mentor to narrow down shots, build detailed captions, and develop something of a photo story to share with the panel and the rest of the workshop. Given that the workshop is based in Washington D.C. and not Japan meant getting up very early and staying up very late to get the work submitted on time.
At 3 a.m. that morning, the one-word theme was sent out to the group and for me to awaken to: Control. I knew I wanted to head to Tokyo to make the shots, regardless of the theme, since the megacity is full of diverse locations and variations in detail. But with such an oddly-specific theme, it took me a few hours before I could narrow down what exactly to pursue. Control…control of light (traffic lights, store lights…?), control of clean food distribution in such a big city (small shops, fish markets…?), control of human impulse (pachinko buildings [gambling], maid cafes…?)?
What about, Tokyo’s precise control of infrastructure and city planning? Hmm, I can make this work. So after getting off the train in Roppongi, I smartly wandered around like I do on most of my other photo-walks: not with a plan or specific route, but with an idea and eyes open.
By the end of the day, I ended up with a good number of photographs to choose from to sample a closer look at the systematic designs of various parts of the city, captions in hand.
To make a long story shorter, my image collection did not win, or even make it past the first round. In fact, of the 30+ people participating in the small competition, the event’s livestream showed that the judges did not even stop to look at a majority of the captions explaining each photographers artistic intention. Honestly it seemed pretty disrespectful towards everyone who put in an effort, especially to those that had some amazing images that were immediately nixed by the panel. But…I digress. All judges bring their own bias to the table, regardless of craft, and though I very much disagreed with the final picks (there were axed entries that showed much more attention to “control”, artistically and story-wise), that’s just the nature of any competition.
It’s definitely not all bad news, though, as I went into “tourist mode” from time to time while searching for my images in the Roppongi area. From the base of Tokyo tower to the heights of the Mori Building, I ended up with a few more photographs along the way to hold onto.
That’s all for this little competition catch-up post, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! Who knows when I’ll enter another competition, I may just hold off until I head back to the States. At least there I won’t be on such a strange time crunch to make those submission deadlines… Anyway, I’ll leave you all with one little picture pun from the day, and as always, have a good one!