Remember how I said I would post once the “Chase the Light” selections were made so that you could see which one of my images they selected? Well, here it is! This is the one they selected for the online pop up show. You can read more about Chase the Light here. In case you’re curious, you can see all of the images I submitted (the pile they had to pick from) here.
After shooting for this and subsequently looking at the images, I had a couple of takeaways. For starters, the image they selected really fit in with a lot of the other images they selected. Almost as if they curated the show right? (Well, they did curate the show, and they had very good curators, so that might explain it. Ah ha!) This may sound like I am donning my “Captain Obvious” hat here, but it’s something to consider if you routinely submit work for shows. They don’t often choose the work they like best, rather they choose the work that looks best with the other work they have selected. They are experts at pulling together work to make it look like it all belongs. It’s part of what they do, part of their professionalism. Sure, I bet there are times when they do play the favorites (we all do, bias is a fact of life, we can only minimize it at best) but, for the most part, curators work to get a consistent show not pick out single images they like. This is just something to think about if you submit your own work for shows a lot. If your work looks different, very different from other work on the topic, it probably won’t get selected. In that case, it might be better served as a 1- or 2-person show rather than as part of a group exhibition. For group shows, they often try to pick a simple theme (this one was “light”) and then select a cohesive exhibit from the entries they have amassed. For a 1- or 2-person show, they evaluate the work, the body of work, on its entirety. (In this case, they basically get you to do the curating, well, at least start the first collection.) Just something to think about if you are showing, or trying to show your work.
Another takeaway I got from this is that I was a bit shy about submitting my work, because I didn’t like it very much (I didn’t think it was super strong.) As it turns out, it was probably better than a lot of work in the show, not as good as some, but stronger than others. (I would say probably middle of the pack.) For this show, we had to shoot over one weekend, so there was no culling from the archives. It’s kind of sink or swim on the photographer’s shoulders. My takeaway here is that I really need to do better work, but my work wasn’t much worse than what a lot of other people did. Sure there was some interesting work, but we all really need to raise the collective bar here. I guess what I am trying to say is that we (collective we, myself included in this) need to push ourselves to do better work. When I think about what I could have done verses what I did, there’s a gap. I’m capable of doing much better work, I know it. One of the things that happened to me was that, especially for this show (for some reason) I get into a sort of “analysis paralysis” where I think about what might sell, what they want, trying to be different, trying to submit this or that. I know flowers sell a lot. They picked a lot of images with people in them for this show. I should have just shot work I thought was strong, submitted it, and let the chips fall where they may.
If there’s one takeaway for me, it’s that last point there. Shoot work you feel strongly about. Shoot work you think is strong. Don’t overthink it. Don’t try to sell. Don’t try to give somebody what you think they might like or might want or whatever. Dive down into your gut, shoot what feels right, shoot the best you can and then let the chips fall where they may. They ended up picking an image I thought was typical of the theme and was a fun summertime image. I did have a lot of fun shooting for this. I had a nice walk, and got outside, which was a blessing (believe me, in this time of COVID, phew! Outdoors. Hello!) If I want to do stronger work, however, I need to dive deep, shoot from the heart, go with my gut, and just say to hell with anybody that doesn’t like it. I have to grow more of a backbone, yes, but I also have to push myself to do better work, not just to shoot some but to shoot better. I know I am capable of shooting better, I just need to do it.
One last thought on this show is that I hope by sharing some of this it helps other photographers who might be submitting work for shows or just trying to improve their work (there’s no difference really.) Honestly, I hope this little “peek behind the curtains” helps you out, so you can see part of the process.
Until next time…