Success can be elusive

This week I attended the assessment of my work with which I was endeavoring to get an ARPS [Associate of the Royal Photographic Society] award. It was my third attempt – I was hoping for third time lucky. I started this process 5 years ago and wrote about my first attempt here. This time I worked very hard to get everything right. I took advice from a very good source. Got some input from fellow photographers. I made sure that I dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts. But I went along to the RPS, knowing that I would see some other submissions that would blow me away, others that would leave me cold and would have no certainty of success myself …

To apply for an ARPS, you are required to submit a panel of 15 pictures, which must be arranged in a suitable way. Here is mine:

Also, there must be a “statement of intent” that describes what the set of pictures is all about. Here is what I wrote:

I enjoy the use of indirect imaging – silhouettes, shadows and reflections – particularly to depict a mood or an atmosphere. Reflections are the most expressive. The ubiquitous utilization of glass in modern cities means that reflections are many and varied. I have applied them to illustrate the vibrance and vitality – verging on chaos – of the urban environment, using a series of individual images with a common aspect ratio that depicts a sense of scale, and a presentation that complements the reflections.

The assessment process is quite straightforward. The pictures are displayed at the front of the room. The panel of [4] assessors look at them – from a distance and close-up. A couple of the assessors then pass comments – some kind of feedback. Then they vote [this is not visible to the audience]. And the chairman announces the result. This will either be that they will be recommending the submission for acceptance [and the submitter is identified and congratulated] or that they are not making a recommendation. In the latter case, the submitter’s anonymity is maintained and the feedback is written up to send to them later. My name was not announced.

The initial comments were that I had quite an original idea and approach and the presentation of tall, thin images was novel and made sense. Then there were some specific comments:

  1. The middle images on the top and bottom rows were too similar in color. To my mind, they are not that similar, but they are consistent in tone.
  2. The top right image is not vertical. This is true, but I would contend that buildings – particularly reflections of buildings – do not actually appear vertical when you look up at them unless you hold your head perfectly straight, which normal human beings do not do.
  3. The quality of the images was inconsistent, giving the impression that they were just pulled from a library to complete the set. Although this is true, I would contend that the “quality” of reflections is incredibly variable by their very nature.
  4. The focus of the images was mostly on the reflecting surface, not the subject being reflected. I suggest that the person saying this should actually go and use their eyes and look at some reflections.
  5. The choice of glossy paper means that they attract dust. Please excuse my Anglo Saxon, but FFS! If I had used matt paper, they would have carefully explained that, for reflections, I needed high gloss.
  6. The set was more style than substance. I will refrain from comment.

I could fix (1) and (2), but the rest seem not to be fixable [to me].

Having seen a number of assessments, I always have the impression that the panel decide whether they like a submission or not in a purely subjective way. If they decide to reject it, they then come up with some justifications. They would, of course, deny this.

As I left the place and went to find some lunch, I had two questions in my mind. First, am I going to have another shot at it? I will have to think about that one. Second, what do I do now? That was easier: take some photos. I had my camera and I can find pictures anywhere. Here are a couple:

It seems that I can still do it …

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