Contests: Burn it Down!

The lede of the story in the Sunday Herald said it all:

One of the nation’s most acclaimed young photographers has pledged to burn his folio of entries for the Scottish Photographer of the Year awards in a protest against the event’s organisers.

Finally, I thought, somebody so fed up with contest judges that they were going to take action, even if it was photographic hara-kiri. What a great bit of press! Roddy Mackay was on the list of finalists for the Young Photographer of the Year. He must have been so excited, like he was nominated for an Academy Award or something. But then when the awards were presented, no award was given in his category. The judges explained by saying the entries were, “not good enough.” Ouch! Mackay was quoted saying the judge’s actions harmed him, “mentally and physically.” For the record, Mackay (or someone using his name) left a comment on the Herald’s story saying he was misquoted and had no intention of burning his photographs. I, for one, would like to encourage Mackay to go through with it. Burn those images! The mere threat of burning your work has brought you a lot of attention. Think of all the attention you’d get if you actually did destroy the photos, Roddy. A lot of people try to comfort the losers of contests by saying that winning contests doesn’t matter, that it’s not important. But the fact is, everyone who says that has won awards and used those awards to get better jobs. For young photographers who haven’t yet won an award, maybe burning your photographs in protest is the new way to move up the ladder. And the first one who does it will get the most points for originality. Not since Brett Weston threw his work into the fireplace in 1991 have we had a good old negative burning! Okay, now I’m being serious. To all of you young photographers looking to be the next big thing: Invest your emotion into your work, not into contest wins. Contests are not science. The results are subjective and unpredictable. If you work hard and stay focused on your art, then recognition will come. I’ve had more than my share of contest success. But if I burned all the photographs that didn’t win, most of my portfolio would be in ashes.


M. Scott Brauer: Hey Trent, Saw your post got linked on the APAD blog. I like the spirit of it, but the facts of the story may not be what the Herald originally reported. At the bottom of the link you posted, there’s a comment from the photographer in question that says he was misquoted; instead of saying he’d burn his pictures to protest the contest publicly, he said he’d burn his bridges to protest the contest publicly. Big difference!

trent: Yeah, that’s what I said in the post.

March 25, 2008 .:.