By John Owens
The PPA team took its annual field trip up go Gwinnett Tech for the International Photographic Competition yesterday. Last year, I entered the International Photographic Competition as a wide-eyed rookie. This year, as a crusty, second-year veteran, I knew the drill.
But you know what? It was at least as exciting. And it's because the images are new and the judges' passion is unwavering.
There was also the added element of the first ever IPC live stream. When we arrived, Scott Morgan, director of information technology for PPA, informed us that roughly 850 unique users were currently watching. About 250 of those weren't even involved in the competition!
The stream features live audio from each judging room, with the digital image shown on the screen. It's perfect theater for Warren Motts, M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., A-ASP, F-ASP, whose baritone voice lent his digital judging room added drama.
What those at home can't see is the added action in the print room. The white-gloved volunteers placing each print in the turnstile. The judges' routine of getting up from their seats for an inches-away look at each corner of the image. Every color correction, every shadow, every pixel. Glasses on, glasses off.
Past PPA president and current chairman of the board, Ralph Romaguera Sr., M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., CPP, API, F-ASP, was in his ultimate element (he's never really out of it) in the print room. As one of the rooms' jury chairmen, he led the judging and addressed the live stream audience whenever possible. "Hello out there in PPA land..." began each session.
For the judges, the IPC is photographic summer camp. It's their unofficial halfway point to Imaging USA--a chance to hang with longtime friends and colleagues and share in the passion that unites them. There's an equal share of hugs and friendly verbal jousting. The kind of environment you find in a tight-knit family, one that pulls you right in and embraces you.
A particular welcome sight was Keith Howe, M.Photog.M.Artist.MEI.Cr., CPP a longtime IPC judge whose battle with lymphoma and ongoing recovery has been followed here on our blog. "I'm moving pretty slow," he said. "But I'm happy I'm here."
They come together both for each other and for the greater good of the industry. To keep the competition and quality of winner images moving forward. They come for fellowship and to be wowed be beautiful imagery. They want to see something new.
"It's amazing how much time the judges spend every year nurturing this thing called image competition," said Randy McNeilly, M.Photog.Cr., MEI, API chairman of the Photographic Exhibition Committee (PEC). "I'm more proud to be an IPC judge than everything else I've accomplished in photography."
There are currently around 100 judges in the committee, with 20 hoping to join their ranks in this year's Judges Workshop, running alongside the competition. If averages hold, 3 of them will become approved jurors this year.
As for the IPC itself, the competition continues its upward trend. Total submissions crept over 5,000 for the first time this year, with nearly 2,000 of those earning merits and going back in for a second round of judging to see who will make up this year's prestigious Loan Collection book. 1,800 critiques were given, up from last year's 1,500.
From a photography standpoint, what impresses me most is the selection process. Think about how many images you capture over the course of a given year. Now choose four. That's all you get.
Now refine them into something amazing. Find a mentor and ask for their input. Maybe even enter them in a district competition beforehand to see how they rank. Should this leaf be here? What this line doing there? How's the lighting? The cohesiveness?
Everything matters. Even the title of your image can have a tremendous impact on its... impact. That's most paramount in the print room, when the title is read the moment it is turned into the judges' view. Does your image tell the story your title implies? Does it add something to the image?
It's something to think about.
By mid-afternoon, stream unique visitors climbed to 1,030, with 345 non-participants. Clearly the curiosity is there, so now that you've seen how the machine works, we hope you'll give it a try next year.
Oh, and speaking of that live stream, you can tune in to see who's going Loan right now! Judging continues for another 24 hours!