Thinking about submissions

When I stare at my work for long periods of time while trying to select images for juried show submissions it becomes more and more difficult to "see" my photographs. At a certain point I have no compass from which to gauge my own personal reaction to the layout of the pieces. In some ways I think this is why I often wait until I'm down to the wire to get my act together--when I have to work under pressure there's less opportunity to obsess over minutia, or to continually rearrange the order of the pictures, or to try to decide between one photograph and another, going back and forth and back and forth.

As the years pass I've continually made an effort to decide what to show based not on some notion of what a juror might respond to but on what I respond to (which is not easy. At all.) Still, there's sometimes an almost desperate feeling that comes over me: what if I substitute these images and get rejected, whereas if I'd only submitted those other ones I would have gotten in? It's a game of "what ifs" that is completely and utterly ridiculous--and somehow very seductive. Stepping back is a tough one--sometimes it has to be as simple as throwing in the towel for the day and returning fresh in the morning. Sometimes that next day brings no clarity and I just have to settle for what I think is my best, or even sometimes what I think is "good enough" because my eyes are crossed and my brain is fuzzy.

Today I've been twisting my head into knots working on my Critical Mass entry because I've never made it past the finalist round and this year is the first time I'm not going to use "Life is" for my submission. It feels like a risk because it could either finally bump me over that elusive edge to get me into the top 50, or it could be the thing that lowers me a peg to not even making it to the finalist round. A big comfort for me is reminding myself as often as I can that it's about the process of making and editing my series, and that submissions are an excellent tool to use as a means of organization and study. When I can lose myself in the process I get into the flow of moving things around, pondering what the work is about and with every entry hopefully finding ever clearer ways of saying "this is it."

On another note, I always like to include an image with every post, so below you can see one of the shots I took in Iowa--it's a page my dad found of his baby footprints taken by the hospital when he was born. It might still need some tweaking, but that could just be me obsessing again. Habits are hard to break!


eazyeazy said…
I'm glad we spoke this Friday evening, though I think Esta will never feel the same about me. I've always been hyper-productive and regretted it when moving my studio. Ugh, dozens of big ugly canvases that seemed like such a good idea at the time. Yet mixed into the stacks of crap will be something that turns the jewel and the sparkle startles me.

Honestly, I don't think I have to make all that junk to find the one ruby. In the last few years my production is down, but I'd show almost everything I've made. Making 365 pieces a year would give me a bad case of "Leroyniemanitus": everything is equally bad or good depending on how much you squint your eyes.

Your photos continue to slow down my eye and make me enter them on different (if not your) terms.

Matt W

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