Competitions, Exhibitions, Magazines and Judged Shows - When do you know you're ready?
The truth is you probably never are, not really. When you have been doing photography for awhile and people tell you you photos are amazing (mostly family and friends) and it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling…I mean we all need to see that Like or Love button occasionally on Social media…right?
But there comes a time in many photographers life, indeed any artist, when you want to know if you can take it to the masses.To be Honest it is scary, just submitting your images and portfolio for selection by a gallery or show is truly terrifying, well at least to me. Each step is like a little hurdle, submit something to one of the 1,000s of online peer programs, Gurushots is quite popular, but I found it time consuming and a little frustrating, but it is also inspiring to see other artists work as well.
There are also small competitions to win Texture Packs and Software Bundles, they can give you experience without having to face the big crowds, and no win, no hassle, right? Often run by Facebook Groups, Other artists, Companies and such. Feeling a little more adventurous? There are larger online Galleries Like Light, Space and Time, Blank Wall Gallery and 1,000s more, all over the world, you have to pay a small fee to enter, but it won’t break the bank.
Then there is local camera groups and community fairs that often have a photo competition, some are even free or with a small manageable fee. These will take a little more of your time and money as you need to print and mount your work, often you need to be there for the judging, and that can be painful; you need to be able to take the criticism.
All that seems pretty daunting, right? Hitting that ENTER button to submit seems like the MOST impossible thing in the world…but do it once, do it twice, suddenly it no longer seems quite scary, at first it may be a Special Merit, or a Honorable Mention, believe me the thrill of those is awesome, the sting of nothing can bite too. But when you win something…WOW! now THAT is cool.
Then there are more elaborate set ups with larger Affiliations AIPP, VIPP, AFPS, WPPI and so many more, they cost money and time, but are serious competitions, with some serious prices…but I would not necessarily suggest those when starting out.
What about Magazine? I adore Magazines I am a frequent contributor to several, sadly the days of a paper a magazine are mostly over, but there are still Digital Ones, loads of them, have a look online and find one that YOU like, has the sorts of styles and genres that appeal to you, they usually have a contact page with information on how to Submit…again hitting that enter button is terrifying, thoughts will flood through, what if they don’t like my stuff, what if I am no good…the self doubt is only natural, but do not let it stop you, if this is something you really want to do. Your work will not always be accepted by every magazine for every edition, but keep trying. If you did not succeed, perhaps ask them if there is something special they are looking for, maybe what you actually submitted didn’t win them over, but something else will. I have just starting Writing for a Magazine, that was scary to send in the first editorials and images too…but they loved it and asked for more!
What about Galleries and Exhibitions? NOW these are downright terrifying and I have done several, both in Australia and Overseas as well. These will cost you money and there is no guaranteed payoff. My first Exhibition was a group Exhibition at a local gallery in Melbourne, with possible 25 other artists, mostly Photographers. I had in 10 Pieces, all beautifully framed, mounted and printed quiet big. I must admit it was thrilling to see them in print hanging on a wall in a gallery. I was so scared opening night, I was too scared to talk to people I did not know. To be honest once the doors opened I was barely in the room with my artwork at all. Silly really, I know that now, I should have been in with the people, talking to them about my art. But fear of rejection is real and big and scary. People can say horrible things about your work if they do not know you are the artist, but they can say the most wonderful things that make you want to cry and hug them too! I have done several Group Exhibitions, I think at first this is the way to go, it costs less and is not quite so ‘Deer in the Headlights’.
Solo exhibitions are a big leap of faith, they cost a lot, not just the artwork, but venue hire, opening night/day so many things to take into consideration and even thought it does give you a foot in the door and a trump card to add to your CV there are no guaranteed sales. Just getting an acceptation or invitation to Exhibit can be quite a thrill, but this is not for the faint of heart.
What if you do not feel the need for any of this? That’s great too! If you are only doing this for yourself and the fun of it, there is nothing wrong in that, you are free to experiment and play and just create for the sheer joy and passion of it, and that is truly wonderful. It does not mean you are not just as talented as others, you just don’t care what others say. You create because you want to, need to…you just don’t have that little voice in the back of your mind, that some of us do, am I good enough to play with the ‘Big Boys’ (Or GIRLS)
I guess the answer to all of the above is, you don’t know if you are ready, until the thought pops into your head…once you start to think about it, then it might be time to start looking around at your options. Start small and be prepared to fail occasionally, not every door opens immediately, but you need to be persistent. So your work was not good enough this time around, work harder, develop your skills, maybe take a class. Or perhaps just try a different avenue.