My long ‘to-do’ list of photographic chores has been a subject of great contemplation and some inner turmoil. There are entries to be finalised for a couple of professional awards programs which I am keen to enter; several folders of work created on a month-long trip away from home still to refine; a portfolio of personal work for a submission
and a vast archive of my life’s work of negatives that I am slowly archiving into the Queensland State Library data-base. In spite of my well-documented history of procrastination I felt that it was time to take a more positive and proactive approach to this lethargy and work towards some quick but nonetheless worthwhile solutions.
The competition award entries were tackled first. I am more than aware that my role in both of these events is clearly defined within the role of an assessor and as one of the judges.
But in that role it is equally important that I am seen to be entering and supporting the organisations involved. Besides which, like many creative sorts, I also have an ego that needs to be stroked and maintained!
Some years ago I was given a format that I have now adopted. This is based on the firm premise that I am not in competition with any of the other entrants. Instead, I endeavor to compete against my own performance from last year. The peer assessment manner in which these awards are judged ensures that my standard is not limited by my own inadequacies. It meant of course, that when I failed to achieve silver awards with any my entries a couple of years ago I had a period of serious soul searching to endure. I soon realised that my best for that year was just not up to scratch. It was of a professional standard, but it was clearly not award worthy. Whilst I am comfortable with the strong and consistent possibility that I may never stand at the podium receiving trophies and accolades, I am also conscious that I want my entries to be of a standard that enables me to confidently and comfortably feel able to construcively criticise the work of other entrants. For the record, and as is the case for all judges, I am never in the position of judging my own work, this does not happen with well organised and scrupulously managed awards programs.
So the first edit has been made and some test prints nailed to the wall so that I can live with them for a little while. This is a great way to assess if I am bored with my own work – a sure sign that other judges may come to that conclusion much faster than me.
Several folders of a couple of thousand files have now been sorted in a rough edit to find a collection of photographs that may be useful as award entries, or suitable for the personal project I am working on. This is followed by a longer period agonising over those thus sorted. Doing this over several sessions means that I have time to contemplate my choices. I also have access to one or two trusted and highly valuable mentors with whom I can share a few of the more difficult choices.
The personal project continues with a similar approach to that of finding award images. A steady process of post-production followed by either elimination or acceptance of photographs worthy of the presentation I wish to make in the next few months.
Then comes the sorting of my entire professional life’s output of negatives and transparencies. This is a job that has a certain amount of tedium that comes from peering at the results of some fairly banal commercial assignments, then followed by happy trips down memory lane as I re-discover other, long forgotten but far more interesting assignments. Of course the recurring theme of rampant sexism in some of the photographs was just a by-product of the ‘anything goes’ 1970s.
I do now wonder why it seemed necessary to have so many girls in bikinis draped over washing machines or gas stoves. In my defence, all I can say is that, at the time, it was entirely at the direction of various art directors at whose pleasure I served.
It is possible that your own ‘to-do’ list could be similarly reduced or tackled with a clear cut analysis of what needs to be done, and a rational approach to sorting the tasks slowly and steadily. My list, made a couple of weeks ago, is now under control.
Though I must admit that it did take a few sleepless nights to work out precisely how to achieve all of this within a tight time frame.
This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p154, issue 55 :: June, 2016.