I wrote this to inspire others to face fear and try something new. For me, it was entering my first print competition. It started in 2013, when I began attending professional photographer meetings as a guest. Hearing one sentence resonated with me. Actually, it was one particular person who said it – along with her strong convictions – that got to me. Tina Timmons and her husband, Michael, operate a portrait studio and gallery in Vassar, Michigan. She is the president of Mid Michigan Professional Photographers Association. Michael is Vice President of Professional Photographers of America.
At one meeting there was talk of competition and I silently recited, “I don’t belong here. I’m not good enough.” And then, I heard someone say: The best way to become a better photographer/artist is to enter a competition.
Fear of Trying
It wasn’t until I heard “the sentence” a second time that I took it seriously. I was at an artist retreat in Grand Rapids, where Tina encouraged the attendees to enter print competition for the benefit of feedback. [Side note: I wrote this quote at a Weight Watchers Meeting which prompted me to write this blog.]
Having met some amazing people, I joined Professional Photographers of Michigan (PPM) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). This spring, I ran into Tina and Michael at an ArtPrize “Connected” event. [More on that in another blog.] There, Tina encouraged me to lug my hard drive over to Vassar for Michael to look at. Gulp. Navigate my files? But, there was a gentle nudge and some southern charm friendlies mixed in. Okay, let’s try.
Fear of a Master Photographer
I drove to Vassar and walked down to the basement of Timmons’ home, decorated with awards and prints that covered the walls and even the ceiling. I sat nervously, affixed to Michael’s monitor, my vulnerability in plain sight. It is a different from posting images on Facebook, where facial expressions don’t exist and bad posts are removed. Michael offered sound advice on my technique, raising one eyebrow while repeating two words: BACK UP. (I stand too close to the subject.) Then, he selected some images worthy of competition. Really? Exit, the happy dance.
Fear of Competition
Turns out, I learned a lot by listening to a panel of judges score other artists’ entries. My images scored well at state competition and I earned an award for “Top 7 Non-Master Photographer.” Then, I entered district followed by international competition. This is the first year it streamed live, so for three days, on and off, I logged on to hear other artists’ work being fought for or simply rejected. The fear I felt has turned into a humbling experience. For that, I am grateful for Michael and Tina’s guidance along with meeting new friends.
Three of four images were accepted into the Loan Collection (best of the best) of PPA’s International Photographic Competition. My favorite of the four didn’t make it (great scene, wrong time of day) which means keep trying, as not every image is suited for competition. I cannot show the images yet but they will be on display at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee Feb. 1-3, 2015 and published in a book. The exhibition is held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention for several photographic associations.