First, a disclaimer: We think anyone who has the courage to enter their work into a juried show is a winner. When we released our 14th annual Call for Entries for this year’s SlowExposures, we channeled hockey star Wayne Gretzky who said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you want to keep your work for your own enjoyment, then a juried photography show is not for you. That’s a completely laudable position. However, if you want to get your work “out there”, to get it seen by a larger audience, to advance your career, or to roll the dice and see what happens, then it’s worth the fee, the angst, the rush, and, the potential disappointment. Here are some ideas we’ve gleaned from SlowExposures.
Well, everyone doesn’t get a trophy. It would be great, but our instructions to our two-jurors-a-year are: Pick 75 (or a few more if you can’t help it) out of the 1,000+ images that are entered. Our wonderful cadre of volunteers sees all the images before we send them to the jurors—we all have our favorites and some of them don’t make it into the show…but a lot of times, they get in the next year, or the next—or, they get invited to do a solo show during Slow or at a gallery. That “word-of-mouth” thing really works despite the promise of “discovery” on the Internet. The theme is always “The Rural South” but as the jurors select the work, an overriding theme will often organically emerge that makes some images fit better than others. We never know exactly how they do it, but our understanding is that about 40% of the images are chosen right out of the gate by each juror viewing them independently. Then, they horse trade for their favorites.
Next: I’m going to borrow from one of our wonderful 2016 Artists-in-Residence, Angela Wells, who has been both a juror and an applicant for several shows. This is straight from the syllabus she uses for her photography students at East Carolina University—and it works as a framework for evaluating an image. The 3 C’s are (comments in parentheses are mine): Craft: An ability to use tools and execute techniques (the most basic disqualifier of an image—we’ve seen wonderful images that were marred by faulty focus, lighting, composition, etc.); Concept: The ideas that frame the technique; and, Creativity: The level of innovation exhibited in the execution of craft and concept (what differentiates your rusty tractor shot from others…the image has to be more.) One of the most valuable comments by one of our Jurors was that a winning image has to “ask more questions than it answers”—a look at the first place winners throughout the years backs this up. I can’t underscore how invaluable the Juror’s Talk at any show is—the discussion is the best 60 minutes in which you can invest for understanding the how and whys of the jurying process—even if you do not agree with the picks. Ultimately, the choices are personal—isn’t that what art is all about? The miracle, and the every-so-often triumph is that some extraordinary images resonate with the many.
So, why spend the time and the money to enter? Try shooting with the knowledge that people will be looking closely at your work and evaluating it—it really sharpens the experience, even if you decide, ultimately, not to enter the images you think are good. It’s an investment in your work…in your vision. It’s exhilarating to have your work resonate with others. It gets seen by leaders in the photography world—and, maybe leaps that vast “discoverability” chasm. (Check out the “SlowSalutes” page on our website to see where some of our photographers have gone). We salute those who enter and everyone who does—juried in or not–is invited to our annual private “Soiree” at SlowExposures where creativity, and risk-taking, are honored.
First Place 2014 (The Conlan Prize) – Jurors: Aline Smithson and Alexa Dilworth
First Place 2015 – Jurors: John A. Bennette and Jerry Atnip
Second Place 2015 – Jurors: John A. Bennette and Jerry Atnip
Christine Curry is our special guest today at F/4 Studio. Chris has chaired the highly organized and very dedicated planning committee for the annual SlowExposures photography exhibition for a number of years. The juried exhibition, which ‘celebrates the rural South,’ has grown into a highly respected, full-fledged photography festival with pop-up shows, juror talks, music, great food, and wonderful fellowship with talented photographers. An article on Lenscratch talking about SlowExposures can be found HERE. The call for entries is currently open.
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your wisdom and insight with us.