A poor quality scan of the original 4x5" tranny from which the entry was made - a Cibachrome lovingly hand-printed. But the score for this masterpiece? Just 74 out of 100. After all, it was just another travel snap.
It's amazing how close emotionally we get to our photographs. The photo above was taken on Easter Island many years ago and was one of my favourites. I had lots of photos of the moai (heads), but it was this lone tree surrounded by a mound of loose stones that I really liked. It was shot in the late evening with a beautiful soft light and I loved it! (The original is not nearly so contrasty as this rendition.)
I entered it into the AIPP National Print Awards, the forerunner of the current Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards. It was one of four entries and while I can't remember what the others were, I clearly remember the score for this one and a judge's comment.
Standing at the back of a darkened judging room, with five esteemed judges and a panel chairman sitting around an evenly illuminated print stand, I held my breath as one by one they stood up to inspect my print. It seemed to take an age before they would carefully enter their scores, but I fully expected a tally of 80 or higher - surely this print was a Silver Award?
Well, no. The panel chairman read out the score: 74. He then asked if any of the judges would like to make a comment, to which Ian McKenzie (a past AIPP President and still an active AIPP member today) said, "Well, it's just another travel snap".
A travel snap! Couldn't the judges see the print quality, the fact it was shot on a large format 4x5" camera, the luminous nature of the light and the exotic location?
Flash forward five years or so and I am cleaning out my studio. I find a bunch of old prints and, being in a bit of a hurry, quickly flip through them one at a time, throwing them onto the rubbish heap. Yuck. Horrible. What was I thinking... Many of my old prints simply weren't that good.
And then I picked up my Easter Island tree. This print, unlike the others, stopped me in my tracks, but not because I still liked it. Gone was the emotional baggage associated with the wonderful trip and the effort required to shoot it. In front of me was a plain, rather boring print and all I could remember were Ian's words: It's just another travel snap.
He was right.
So, why am I mentioning this? Well, the Better Photography competition for non-professionals is about to close and entries are also open for the 2013 Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards. I have no doubt that some entrants will have a similar experience to mine later this year. And I hope that, in the fullness of time, it benefits them like it did me.
Are the judges always right? I still have some prints that bombed in competitions that I still like. Competitions are great because they put your work into context within the world, but it doesn't have to be the only context.
I think the judges were generous giving my Easter Island tree a 74. And I still have great memories of being at that location all those years ago.