The plane trip home to Brisbane from Sydney takes about 75 minutes and during that entire time I pondered the complete failure of my entries in the recent Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA).
Four photographs entered and not one getting a silver award! Disappointing to say the least; chastening certainly since I had judged other photographers work constantly over three days. In my humble opinion one of the entries was the best shot I had taken in a decade.
But hang on a moment – my placing of entries into the very system that I had just actively participated in was not a failure, but a vindication of the system that I have promoted and supported for over thirty years.
This led me to take a closer look at the concept of success and failure.
As photographers we have many methods of judging success. Maintaining a viable business that keeps customers coming back, pays the mortgage on life’s necessities, supports a partner and family – surely they are measures of success? For the amateur photographer it may be a case of participating in an active camera club, entering competitions or improving one’s technique.
With the average person having an intelligence quotient (IQ) of over 100, you don’t need a membership of Mensa to realise that there are many pathways to measuring success. For some it is physical possessions – sports car, medium format digital camera, fast processing computer. For others it is winning competitions. Good grief it could even be garnering Facebook ‘likes’! But there is a success in returning effort into an organisation or club that has given you support over a period of time. Even giving effort back to an industry that has supported you well over a lifetime.
As a teacher it is a joy to be confronted by a former student who is now a practicing and successful photographer. One of my current business partners is a former photography student who is now recognised world wide for his photographic prowess. He certainly didn’t learn his water-based skills from me, but he did get imbued with genuine excitement for photography whilst working in my environment. I will claim success credit for some of that.
I have now reached a point in both my life and my career where I well know my own limits. Being ‘photographer of the year’ will never feature on my curriculum vitae, but having my photography judged by a panel of my peers is a valid method of assessment of personal visual output. Nevertheless I will continue to teach, mentor, assess, write and think about photography.
And yes, I will put my four best images in front of the 2015 judges.
Count on it.
This essay appeared in issue 37, f11 :: for photographers and aficionados