Photography News 05

Competitions

17

What have been the big changes since the first event you organised? Obviously the most significant changes have come about because of the digital revolution, which has seen us accept digital entries and display images in online galleries, and enabled us to reach out to all corners of the globe, but we are still very much committed to continuing with our programme of touring print exhibitions. What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as exhibitions manager? Developing and increasing the number of exhibitions and competitions and reaching out to an ever-increasing audience worldwide has been a very rewarding achievement. The positive feedback I receive makes all the hard work worthwhile. It’s interesting that you ask for digital entries online and then only the shortlisted entrants get asked to send in prints. This has benefits for all concerned: less physical work for the RPS and less expense for entrants. Were these the motivations for this approach or were there other reasons for it? Last year was the first time that we invited digital entries to the International Print Competition, alongside print entries. Our primary motivation was the benefit to overseas entrants. We had nearly double the entrants and most of the increase came from overseas. Obviously, moving to digital does also cut down on the physical work, but this has always been managed successfully so this was not a driving factor. Many of the big competitions are now being run digitally, in keeping with the times, including the Taylor Wessing and even the Royal Academy and this year, we are running the competition wholly digitally. The selectors have the expertise and ability to assess the quality and visualise the image as a print. Some of the images are actually scans of photographic prints from film, such as those that have been produced using special processes, such as tintypes, cyanotypes and wet collodion. The 300 or so shortlisted images will be supplied as prints for the final selection of 100 prints for the exhibition and catalogue, including the Gold, Silver and Bronze award winners. Where does the exhibition get shown? The exhibition usually opens in London and then tours the UK for approximately ten months to another four or five venues. It also occasionally travels overseas and has been exhibited in the Ukraine and China. I have shown RPS exhibitions in a variety of venues in the past, including the Palace of Westminster and the Royal Albert Hall. Is it possible to assess an image’s quality as a print on-screen? How many entries do you get, and have entry numbers varied much in recent years? When it was print entry only, we generally had around 600 people entering, but last year, with digital entry, the number of entrants nearly doubled and we anticipate a further increase this year. The International Print Exhibition is open to members and non-members – what’s the ratio? Last year it was approximately two-thirds members to non-members. The Society has over 11,000

members worldwide, so we expect to have a predominance of members entering. However, since the competition opened this January, we have seen a high proportion of non-members entering. You offer cash prizes. Is it a challenge getting sponsors in this cash-strapped era? Yes, it is a challenge getting sponsors and we are currently in negotiations with some potential sponsors, but we are fortunate to not to have to rely on sponsorship. We had sponsorship for many years from Kodak and more recently from international legal practice, Allen & Overy LLP. Olympus has also been a great supporter of our Youth Award. How do you choose your selectors? We have an exhibition committee who meet and discuss names for selectors. We always aim to have a panel of selectors from a variety of backgrounds in photography, who have expertise in their field. How big is the teamworking on the event? The ‘team’ consists of myself and my assistant, with support from the exhibitions committee and volunteers who help with hanging and taking down exhibitions when needed. Which are the most successful countries? The UK is obviously the most successful. China also generally does well because of their large entry, and a proportion of good quality and imaginative work. The USA usually also does well and last year was Italy’s year, with all three medal winners! Which are the up-and-coming countries? We had acceptances from 24 countries including the UK last year. There are no clear frontrunners.

Photography is so much more accessible worldwide that selected entries can come from almost anywhere these days. This year, we are already seeing entries from countries not seen before. What are the current imaging trends? We can see how trends have changed by looking back over the exhibition catalogues that we produce every year. Recently, of course, we saw a lot more digitally manipulated and Photoshopped work but we are now seeing an increased amount of black & white photography coming back in, and some very good straight portraiture work. If you look at our current 157 competition site, you can click on All Images and see what is being entered, so you can get a good idea of the diversity of photography that is out there today. Obviously we have a lot more manipulated work now. You do find that when a new trend comes in, you get a saturation of entries in the same style, such as recent HDR and slow shutter speed sea and water scapes, so it is exciting when a new trend or technique emerges. I think that a lot of us are happy to see the current movement of going back to basics, using film and traditional processes or presenting work with very little manipulation, and I definitely think that this is a growing trend. What, in your opinion, will be the next big trend in imaging style? From your personal standpoint, what sort of imagery excites you most? I ama big fan of TimWalker’s work. I saw an exhibition of his at Les Rencontres d’Arles a few years ago and was blown away. I like the juxtaposition between reality and fantasy.

ABOVE Play Nice by Monika Drzewicz.

ABOVE RIGHT Skyrider by Clive Downes.

We can see how trends have changed by looking back over the exhibition catalogues that we produce every year. We are now seeing an increased amount of black&white photography

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Issue 5 | Photography News

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