While my main purpose for engaging in competition isn’t really about winning I can’t deny how excited I was to open the Australian Photography Magazine on my App and discover that I had finally won their ‘Your Best Shot’ monthly competition. This time I was not Highly Commended or an also ran but the winner. There is a certain thrill in discovering that amongst all those images entered mine had resonated with the judges. I am looking looking forward to receiving my prize—a Sling Bag from Peak Design—besides the thrill of seeing my image published in the magazine.
The competition this month was’ Leading Lines’ and I knew that a popular set subject like this would be heavily subscribed. To be noticed I would need to think outside the box for this one. You can submit a maximum of three images so there isn’t too much room to play. There are many good reasons for doing photography competitions and primarily for me it isn’t about winning. The idea that your image might be ‘judged’ means that you pay more attention to how you present it. Engaging in competitions has certainly improved my visual literacy and made me more disciplines about processing the images I choose. It has made me think about how I might present the image, cropping out distractions, looking for harsh highlights and making sure the composition is balanced. Once I have done that, I look at my image objectively and ask myself, is my narrative clear? Will the viewer get it? For me, the joy of doing well is closely linked with knowing that my visual narrative has been conveyed and understood.
Here’s a little excerpt from what the editor said: "The lights lovely, the leading line is spot on, the composition is perfectly balanced, and most importantly the image tells a story - which is something that we should strive to do in all our photography.”
Story telling has been an integral part of human existence since time immemorial. Indigenous people around the world including our ancestors used to sit around their campfires and tell stories. There is some innate desire in each of us to immortalise the experiences that we find meaningful. These can range from a stunning sunrise and a family gathering to storm clouds formed by a foreboding storm. The desire to tell stories is embedded deep in our amygdala. When we look at images or hear someone narrate a story, we resonate and connect with those that link us to our own experiences
Long before I took up photography I was passionate about writing and story-telling so it feels natural to me that this is primarily what my photography is about. I find it interesting that of all the beautiful imagery I have submitted over the months to this competition, the one that finally won was taken after the recent floods in the Central Coast. Flood Risk Management was the area that I worked in for more two decades of my professional life on two continents and on both sides of the fence—local government and consultancies. Funnily enough it is how my partner and I met and part of the work that we still do. So this win is special. It confirms for me that the best narratives are often the personal ones. If the narrative resonates with you, chances are it might resonate with your audience and convey a sense of authenticity.
If you are interested in challenging yourself in your creative journey, try some of these monthly competitions. If nothing else, it will give you a brief each month to focus on. Here’s the link to the Australian Photography Magazine competitions. https://www.australianphotography.com/poty. There’s an online monthly competition that is free and open to everyone. However ‘Your Best Shot’ requires you to subscribe to the mag or be a member of the Australian Photographic Society.