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|| News Item: Posted 2001-11-26

Leading Off: Why do We Enter Photo Contests?
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Jay Drowns

Photo by Jay Drowns
"Can't we just get along?"

I have been getting e-mails forwarded to me from colleagues about the recent split between the University of Missouri and the National Press Photographer's Association over the management of the Pictures of the Year.

Most of these e-mails are of the "whiny photographer" variety, you know, "what did MY dues go for?" or "am I going to get MY POY book?" or "what contest will I enter MY photos in?"

Hello, we're missing the big picture here (pun intended)!

As most of my close friends know, I am a traditionalist. But I am also a realist.

People in the industry say money for funding of such programs like POY have been drying up. Evidently, it's now Death Valley out there for sponsoring PJ endeavors.

We have to remember that the photojournalism market is a very small sliver of Kodak, Nikon and Canon's total market. Can we expect "The Big Three" to commit thousands of dollars to not just one national PJ competition but two?

Since the answer is obviously no, then we must be prepared to pay. Now for TWO contests?

And why do we enter contests?

Ego? To get a better job? Make the resume a bigger hit?

How about recognizing outstanding work. Or showcasing images not seen nationally?

How about promoting good photography.

Maybe the only people happy over the NPPA/Missouri split are the "Contest Hogs" you know the types, wear all black all the time, use expressions like "good moment" and "moody light" and won't cruise for wild art unless they're only a few points from the lead in the local monthly clip contest?

Now the "C- Hogs" (it's in the Sports Shooter glossary) have TWO contests they can shuffle the assignment deck for so they get the choicest shoots!

I've always thought that the best category in (the old) POY was "one week's work" or as I call it: "making chicken salad out of chicken s**t." This was the one category that showcased good work from those everyday, dog-of-the-week type assignments. The real nuts and bolts of what most newspaper shooters do day in and day out.

Photo by Jay Drowns

Photo by Jay Drowns
Yes there is a place for the "disease of the week" style picture stories. But recognizing good work ALL good work shouldn't have to come through just a contest. Or two.

Contests by their very nature are a flawed and totally subjective creature. How else do you explain a photo of a boy roping a sawhorse winning an award in the sports category of an unnamed national PJ competition?

Since POY is no longer a collaborative effort between Missouri and NPPA, it is in essence a new contest. Just like NPPA's newly announced "Best of Photojournalism" competition.

So is this anyway to run a contest?

Which brings me to the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau what a great day!

Nov. 10 started out with a fun-filled talk by Sports Illustrated's V.J. Lovero (did he really show semi-nude photos of Tawny Kitaen?) that centered on what other skills photographers need besides pushing a button.

Rod Mar from the Seattle Times closed out the morning session with a high-octane presentation that gave the 60 students and teachers more tips, insights and secrets than 10 years of News Photographer magazine (and his Ichiro impression was priceless).

Other highlights:

- EVERYONE wearing tacky Hawaiian shirts!

- The Sporting News' Robert Seale wrapping Nikon's Armando Flores in Christmas lights for his portrait lighting seminar.

Photo by Jay Drowns

Photo by Jay Drowns
- Kevin Sullivan walking into Nikon to the applause of all because he had 6 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts!

- The LA Times' Robbin Goddard lei-ing everyone! No, she gave out flower leis she donated for all of the participants.

- SI's Robert Beck waltzing in fashionably late touting his new surfboard.

- All of the students scarfing down the Hawaiian lunch from local eatery The Loft (most popular was the Island Fried Chicken and the Bacon Fried Rice!)

- A cameo appearance by former Seattle Times and AP/LA shooter Craig Fujii. (Yes, he really is a registered nurse!)

- Nikon's Ron Taniwaki's 5 quick changes he sported 5 different Hawaiian shirts during the day.

- Students scrambling around during the portfolio review session, lining up to have their work looked over by Rick Rickman, Brad Mangin, Alan Greth, Karen Warren, Myung Chun, et al. (Next time yes there will be a workshop & Luau next year we will allow more time for the portfolio reviews.)

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Workshop & Luau. Its success just shows what dedication, a desire to share and help and having fun will do. I hope you students and teachers that attended had as much fun as I had in presenting this day for you.

(Check out a gallery of photos shot by Jay Drowns at the Workshop & Luau at Follow the link to Sports Shooter and then the Workshop & Luau page.

* * *

The thing that Sports Shooter does best is give photographers an opportunity to share their experiences. This month Brad Mangin and Eileen Blass give readers their views on recent assignments; Al Tielemans debuts his semi-regular column "Stupid Photographers Tricks" (with apologies to Dave Letterman); Mongo returns bitching (what else?) about airlines and airports and Rick Rickman tells us that we ought to go out and hit the waves.

So sit back, turn down that Shelby Lynn CD, adjust the contrast on that monitor and enjoy Sports Shooter v.37.

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