I entered this photo contest.

I’ve always been a rather competitive person. I played sports growing up and always loved the rush that came with going up against other people in order to win. For many years I played soccer, I was in no way the best player on the team, but I could take (and give out) some pretty impressive hits on the field. But what happens if the ref catches you taking some girl out? Duh, you learn how to make it look like an accident. Wow that makes me sound super evil. IMG_1457

I found a better stride with swimming when I was in high school. Again, do not think this is me bragging about my incredible skills. I was not very fast. AT ALL. But it was something to do and it was way better than sitting through PE. It wasn’t even until the season started (my senior year) that my coach figured out the strokes he would have me race in until I graduated. I might still be a little bit bitter about the fact that he made me swim the 200 IM without EVER having trained for it. I couldn’t even pull myself out of the pool, my dad and my coach had to drag me out and I just laid next to the block like a dead whale while they both screamed in my face about what a great job I did. I could not breathe, my lungs felt like they had imploded. It was HORRIBLE.

Yet despite that competitive nature, contests that weren’t related to athletics were never something I really felt the need to participate in. Ever. When it came to yearbook, we heard about other schools who would win awards for their book and that’s all the people on staff with me could talk about. I was baffled by it. It’s OUR yearbook, why do we need someone else to tell us that the way our memories are documented is special?

I have held that belief about awards and yearbook all the way through college. By the time we got our new director the year I was Managing Editor, he essentially told us he wanted all of our publications to be “technically perfect” so they would do well at competition. He also said that the school doesn’t know what good design looks like. This was where I probably made things worse for myself. In not so many words I may have told him to shove it somewhere unpleasant. Or I just said, no and went to Yard House for happy hour. You can pick depending on how much you know of the situation.

What I ultimately told him was this: I will not produce a yearbook for the sake of a panel of judges that I have NEVER met. This publication is for the institution, my peers, my professors, and everyone else who attends this school. This book has NOTHING to do with you or me. It is for the SCHOOL. If CBU is happy with it, then I’m happy. That’s all that should matter. Those judges don’t know us, they don’t know what makes us Lancers. They have no place telling me that my yearbook is exceptional or not. Critique to make our yearbooks even better is one thing, competition to tell us that we document memories better than someone else is another.

I had this belief about yearbook, and pretty much the same about my photography. As long as my clients (and all their friends and families) were happy with their photos, I was happy. The only affirmations I needed were from the people directly related to who was in the photos. I never entered any photo contests, nor did I really ever have the desire to do so.

Then I got into this photo group on Facebook called Shoot + Share, which hosts over 10,000 photographers at this point. It’s actually a really incredible community and I’ve gleaned quite a bit of knowledge from reading many of the posts. Anyways, I saw talk of this photo contest they were hosting; the voting would be totally anonymous, no one would know whose picture they were voting for, there would just be four photos generated on screen and you would pick your favorite. You could vote as much or as little as you wanted to. But it was really easy to get lost in voting for hours at a time.

There were 20 categories and you could enter up to 40 photos. I entered 17 in 9 different categories, I figured why not. The worst that could happen was that my photos went unnoticed being surrounded by 26,416 other photos. Then one day I got this email with the subject reading: You Made the Top in Stylized Portrait.

I screamed. I’ve never had so much adrenaline course through my body. Top 10. I didn’t even make Top 10 for prom court. Wait did I? I don’t remember. Whatever. Wait yes I did because I made a poster. ANYWAYS. I made Top 10 somewhere way cooler. Who needs a crown when apparently thousands of other photographers think one of my photos is rad?

At the request of the people running the contest, I can’t show you the photo just yet. They want it to remain a “secret” as long as possible. But when I get the go-ahead, you’ll get the photo and the story that goes along with it.

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If anyone from CBU read this in its entirety I hope you know that I sincerely only ever stressed about the quality of the yearbook because nothing was more important to me that the integrity of who the yearbook was being made for, remained in tact. You were my audience, and your opinions were and are the only ones that matter about the yearbook. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

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