I recently had the chance to facilitate a jury of a prestigious grant (basically get them tea and coffee and watch). It was eye opening or at least re-affirming experience for a young (if I may say so) photographer who has applied for a few awards in the past year. I want to share this knowledge with you in the hope you (all who reads this blog) will share with us (all who reads this blog) other inspiring and helpful experiences (i.e. the Eddie Adams workshop or learnings and experiences while shooting abroad) so we can continue to support one another, our community, especially when we’re all so spread out of late.
It began for me at the 2nd meeting of the 3 jurors. They had already narrowed down the applicants to a final 11 people. These final 11 knew they had made it to the next stage as the jurors had asked them to send in further pics (15 8x10 to be exact), a second proposal and were given 3 weeks to do so.
The process for a gallery owner, a chair of a New York art school and a commercial photographic agent to decide the winner was very interesting. The prize was $30,000 and taken very seriously.
Reason the 11 finalists were selected for this award were:
Bearing in mind this is a concerned photography award; first and foremost it’s all about content. Does the World care about your subject? The finalist’s subjects ranged between African refugees, the photographer making a journey from there to the country bound. Women marrying under age and the consequences. Crime in South Africa. Pollution in China, need I go on?
Pictures. Were they hard to get? The subjects mentioned above require access, (the A word which if I hear it again I’ll…..) requires trust by the subjects involved and requires dedication, sacrifice and money by the photographer.
Proposal: A very well written (I stress well written – get some-one else to do it for you if you must) proposal. Outlining why they should give you the money (i.e. subject, how important it is) and how you would spend it, being realistic. They are giving $30,000 not a hundred thousand. If you’re too ambitious with the money that can count against you.
They way the jurors narrowed down the 11 to the final 1 was like this:
First they looked at the new work. They are looking for some one who pulled out all the stops and respected the request made and the chance given by working hard at making new pictures. Did that person send in the required amount? If some one sent in more they requested, they disregarded the extra and actually it went against the photographer for being unfair and perhaps egotistical.
They debated the differences, strengths and weaknesses of shooting in b/w and color (color being more modern…?) Work perhaps being too poetic and they leaned more towards work that was artistic in the framing and shot and not so much in the feeling evoked.
Then they read the 2nd round of proposals and acknowledged a well written, clear in purpose, specific in subject, not generalizing or over ambitious proposal. They looked at whether they had heard or knew of the photographer. Unfortunately this much money was not about to given to an unknown and therefore all of us who are starting out need to apply for up and coming awards, emerging photographer magazine comps and grants (just in case you didn’t know!). Even if they were an unknown and had made it that far, their referee better be known the jurors – so must be part of that niche / community. However if the photographer was receiving a lot of other awards, a lot of attention from other bodies that did go against them as the jurors really want to give the money to some one who needs it. And unfortunately age was a factor. It was discussed that a younger photographer would grow and develop more than an older photographer, when winning this grant. Being over 40 was a big disadvantage.
Lastly, it was really hard for the jurors to decide. When it came down to the last two, they pulled out the work initially sent in. The overall winner was finally chosen as the jurors unanimously agreed the photographer would grow from the help of this award to become an inspirator, a leader, a photographer who already makes images we are all responding to, as they are unique in eye and powerful in composition and subject. Therefore young enough to become a great.
It was a reminder of what matters if you want to win this type of award and become this type of photographer.