Following on from Phil’s last post, this year, I've decided on a little side project. It is also something of an experiment in second guessing other people’s tastes.
It is to try to get a body of work together that is accepted into the national/international open photographic exhibitions. Around the UK and internationally, there are a number of exhibitions which anyone can enter their photographs into and which are judged competitively. So as a starter on this project, I've entered some pictures into two exhibitions this March: Vale of Evesham and Basingstoke. Each of the two exhibitions is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of about 20%.
The inspiration for trying to get pictures accepted comes from the fact that I was awarded my CPAGB last year. The next step would be to apply for the DPAGB (Distinction of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain). The DPAGB guidance notes state that the passing standard is equivalent to "open exhibition standard photography". In other words, the pictures are judged against a standard such that it would be "likely to do well in Open Exhibitions, achieving a high rate of acceptance" *. Not only that, but where the CPAGB requires 10 pictures, the DPAGB requires 15. So, to be in with a chance of a DPAGB award, I need to build up a substantial body of work that appeals to the tastes of the selectors of open exhibitions.
Here comes the problem. I had never tested my work against the open exhibition standard. So, I had no idea whether any of my pictures would meet the judges’ taste. Hence, my side project to get pictures accepted in exhibitions.
Having submitted my pictures online, I've been impatiently awaiting the results of the selection. To my surprise and delight I've had three images accepted in each exhibition. I put six forward for one, and eight forward for the other, so a strike rate of 6/14: this is about double what one might expect based on a 1/5 acceptance rate, and seems pretty good to me for a first go. Or to put it another way, I'm dead chuffed.
Of course, there is some confusion when it comes to trying to interpret this in relation to where I might stand with the PAGB judges. I put in to both of the exhibitions "The Entertainer": this was one of the highest scoring images in my CPAGB assessment. However, it has been rejected from both. Interestingly, it scored the lowest of all the pictures I put into one of the exhibitions and significantly lower than some of the ones that did not score as well in the CPAGB adjudication. Oh well. I had been hoping it would go forward for my DPAGB -- I think I can forget that! However, a couple of pictures have been accepted by both places, so that looks reasonable. I just need to test them some more by entering them into further exhibitions to see what the true rate of acceptance actually is.
I am currently finding the process of entering images to exhibitions and discovering if they're accepted quite enjoyable. When the acceptances stop coming, no doubt my opinion will be modified. However, I'm going to carry on doing this for at least the immediate future, to try to build up a body of 15-20 images that get predictable acceptances.
Incidentally, I've come across the website of the Digital Artists and Photography Associates Group. They are a Midlands-based group dedicated to helping each other get their work accepted in national and international exhibitions. Seems like an excellent idea to me. They have a Flickr pool too, which I must look at some more. We need something like that down here in the South as well.
*What is a high rate of acceptance anyway? Sounds like it has exactly the same length as a piece of string.