Contrary to the theory of relativity time appears to have marched on an at an ever increasing speed and as a result this weekend will see the running of the 2018 Australian Professional Photography Awards at the Melbourne Olympic Park Function Centre (feels like the dust is still settling on the 2017 awards!).
This year, I will be judging the Nature, Landscape and Travel categories on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If you are planning to stop past and check out this years entries (I recommend you do if you are in Melbourne) and you get the opportunity, be sure to stop past and say hello (I will likely be floating between the judging rooms depending on the final schedule and timing).As we approach the weekend and the stress level of entrants rises I wanted to share a few of my own thoughts on APPA (as a regular entrant) that might help as-sway some of the fear, anxiety and doubt for first time, or indeed even long term entrants.
For those of you who might not be all too familiar with APPA its a bit of a strange competition that has its own somewhat ‘oddball’ culture. It really is a unique competition (I have never seen another like it) that sees just about the full gamut of diversity in people, personalities, opinions and photographs. At its heart, its a photographic print competition and being a photographer who is ‘all about the print’ this places it very near and dear to my heart. On the other hand, its also a competition that sees some very strange idiosyncratic results at times. I have seen prints score extremely high, that barely (in my opinion) made professional practice and I have likewise seen a great many prints barely scrape in a Silver award that should have gone Gold or Gold with Distinction. As a result long term entrants often refer to APPA as a ‘lottery’ and in many ways they might be right. Much can depend on the prevailing mood of the judging panel, each individuals experience on the panel (with the subject at hand), their own biases to the print, and of course the quality of the actual print. There are many factors that need to come into alignment for a print to score true to its soul and the judges (myself included) don’t always get it right.
In many ways the best man (or woman) doesn’t always win at APPA; but that isn’t what is important. Understanding its not winning that makes APPA important is the key to an individuals success at APPA. Whilst we do crown an ‘Australian Photographer of the Year’ (as well as individual category winners – I won my chosen category in 2014) this isn’t at the heart of what APPA is truly about. And entering with a laser beam vision to winning is a short, quick road to disappointment (and oh the tears do flow at APPA!). They real key to success at APPA is understanding that you are competing against yourself – not other entrants. The best approach is to set yourself a realistic goal and work towards that goal. Whilst it might be nice to envision yourself as the winner of your chosen category (or even the grand prize winner!) its far healthier to set an expectation that is more easily obtainable. If you are a first time entrant then strive for prints that are the best you can do and set the expectation of reaching ‘professional practice’ (a solid result for a first time entrant!). If you are a regular entrant, then strive to beat last years result. Or, strive to make enough points for your next merit award. Always produce the best work you can, and always create your work with a vision to it being the absolute best it can be. But set your expectations realistically and strive to beat yourself. Adopt this approach and APPA becomes a far more enjoyable event that will see you benefit in exactly the way APPA intends. It is after all, an opportunity for professional photographers to self improve.
In my own case, I am sitting this year six points short of my 2nd Gold Bar and a Double Master of Photography honour. Six points is a lot to achieve in a year. Is it possible? In theory, sure it can be done as eight points is the maximum achievable in a single year (and I have done it in previous years), but it is far from an easy goal. For me, this will be my stretch goal for this year. I hope to achieve Silver or better with each print with a stretch to make enough points to make that next honour. Will I get it? We will find out at the conclusion of APPA 2018. See you there!