Monday, November 2, 2015

10 Ways To Lose At Street Photography

I didn't win, no surprise there. I've been doing this for forty years, during which I certainly haven't been allowed to obtain or nurture an exaggerated view of myself or my work. I know my place as a very small fish in a very big pond... but to say that not one of my photos was worthy of being displayed in your selected 176- That's one major crock of shit piled high.*
Yours truly,
Stan B.

I've been posting on my competition rejections for some time- so why quit now? The above is my most recent response to my most recent exercise in self debasement and humiliation, this time at the hands of the street photography competition sponsored by Lens Culture. Now they usually show some pretty good stuff there, so I knew the competition would be stiff. But I thought I had ten really strong images (see below), you can fault them for not following a strict narrative, granted- but isn't the street itself the perfect tableau for all things incongruent and unpredictable? So I figured if I got lucky I just might make it to the finals (and then be rejected outright for lack of cohesion- fair enough), but I figured I would at least garner some kind of minimal recognition... like being selected for one of the 176 images used during the campaign to promote the competition itself. 

The work within those 176 images range from some of the actual (and very deserving) winners to... work that amounts to well exposed snapshots- and I certainly don't mean of the William Eggleston variety. Now I understand competitions are mostly just a matter of taste, current convention, etc, etc at best (and that's when they're run on the up and up- and I'm certainly not saying that this wasn't) and that those chosen 176 don't necessarily amount to a hill of beans- but if people are paying $65 for the privilege of being judged, they at least deserve to be judged fairly and evenly- throughout the competition

Disappointed? Of course. Sour grapes? I just think that respectable competitions should strive to be just that- from start to finish, particularly when you're paying more than a nominal fee. I have, in fact, previously written (as constructively as possible) on how various competitions have succeeded (or failed) to do just that  (see here and here). Stan, did you ever think that some of your "street" photography may qualify more as "environmental portraiture?" The thought did occur, but one of the actual finalists in this competition submitted an essay on life in an isolated Indian hamlet- it's definitely documentary, as to "street" photography.... go figure!

Anyway, congrats to the winners, running a competition is not easy (even in my limited experience co-editing ExNo) and very much to their credit, Lens Culture does, in fact offer a concise "review" of individual submissions for those who paid $65- something quite valuable for those starting out. As for me, well, that $65 will go nicely toward a new photo book come next year- could even be one of my own, for which I am currently editing.

* It should be noted that Lens Culture was gracious enough to reply recently, stating that the contest was subjective, etc, etc...Not the greatest response, and certainly lacking the all out creative ingenuity of this one- but still appreciated.

And now for the much anticipated 10 ways to lose:

Times Square Photo: © Stan Banos

Bay Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Brooklyn Photo: © Stan Banos

Folsom Fair Photo: © Stan Banos

Comic Con Photo: © Stan Banos

LIC Photo: © Stan Banos

Williamsburg bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Golden Gate Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

Brooklyn Bridge Photo: © Stan Banos

SFPD Photo: © Stan Banos


Kent Johnson said...

Shots 2 through 6 great series, just need 5 more and you are home!

Eric Rose said...

Why don't you host a street photography competition yourself? Can't be that hard. Then once you become one of those that "judge" you work is magically elevated to god like importance.

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Kent! I like to think I have those five somewhere about- you available for judging?

Stan B. said...

Eric- When I co-edited Expiration Notice, we did create the opportunity to sit on the other side of the fence. Fact is, you do find strength in numbers when you band together in a common cause... but what can really open doors to opportunity is when you get some kind of financial backing or commercial endorsement. Had we at least the latter, some form of ExNo would have continued...

Anonymous said...

I don't really think you need anyone to tell you what works and what doesn't after all this time, and i hope i hope this doesn't come out like that having been into this genre of photography for just a handful of years. But please take this as a "spectator comment".. after looking at your pictures i thought to myself "well shit, if none of these make it to a final selection i better just move the batteries from my camera to a dildo and stick it up my ass, that'll be a lot more rewarding". Then i went to look at the pictures from the contest that made the final cut and i felt like they were communicating something to me. Whether it was confusion, movement, uncertainty, doubt or curiosity it was more than a simple scene. You had the balls to take out your camera in some interesting (to say the least) things happened before you where i would definitely be glad mine is still in the bag. But if there were some other scene WITHIN the scene you captured, ANY of the pics above would be a winner in my book.

So the reason why i won't move the batteries from my camera to something else just yet, is not only due to my personal taste, but is that i've observed in recent years what moves people to appreciate certain things, and i'm not just talking about the internets. In this way i learned to appreciate the finer aspects a lot more. And so i've looked (i try) objectively at my work and i understood where i need to point at. I'm not there by any means (really, none at all..) but at least i think i know what i need to project my attention to.

Looking forward to more rants, really enjoy your blog.

Stan B. said...

Thanks, Francesco. Really enjoyed your comment- though I'm not sure I understood the last sentence in the first paragraph. If you're saying my selection has less "narrative cohesion" than the winners, I'd have to agree- as I've already pointed out. A very valid criticism, although in this contest, one could also argue that in the case of one the finalists, they actually chose cohesion over... actual subject matter.

Anonymous said...

I just re-read my comment and i have to apologize for the broken english. But yes, that was what i was trying to say.
To your point, i would have expected to see some of the finalists as the actual winners...

lstevenson said...

I'm always glad to see new posts when I come visit your blog Stan! I've told myself that I should try entering more competitions, to pad my non-existent CV, of course that is when I get my stuff together. Sorry to hear you were left out of another competition. I did go back through some of your rejection posts, and I did see that you entered in Fotofilmic's call back in 2013, which I entered as well (on a whim), not really expecting anything, and somehow I ended up shortlisted on the last group of 30 photographers, but the same work that I submitted there was rejected from another film photo competition later that same year. I thought it was some of the best work that I had done in that fashion (black and white Holga photographs), but apparently it wasn't good enough for the second competition (whose theme was Toy camera photography).

Stan B. said...

There is no doubt that so much of it is simply the luck of the draw (ie- the personal likes/dislikes of the particular judges). Which is why it is especially important that they remain true to both the terms (and spirit) of the contest.