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|| News Item: Posted 2003-04-29

Make Pictures for Readers
By Rod Mar, The Seattle Times

I'll be honest. I'm not a "contest guy".

With the exception of the new Clip Contest, I don't enter clips or contests and here's why.

Contests are fun, it's nice to see how you stack up against other photographers, but for me, it's not why I do my job.

I make pictures for our readers, pure and simple. Not for anyone else. Not for myself, and certainly not for contest judges.

To me, when a photograph leaves the pages of the newspaper or the website, it loses some of its relevance. I take pictures to tell stories, illustrate stories, accompany stories --- and when those images are entered into contests, I really feel like I'm only giving "half the story".

This is not to say that I don't think my photographs aren't contest-worthy, nor is it to say that I think I'm somehow "better than" anyone else, or their work.

And, most importantly, it's not to say that contests are a waste of time.

Certainly they can be good opportunities to showcase one's work and compare it with others, especially for younger shooters looking to boost their resume and portfolio.

But I've never been given a raise based on a contest win, and I've never had a reader congratulate me on a clip winner.

In fact, some time ago, my yearly performance evaluation said something to the effect of, "You do a great job on sports, but your daily work really needs improvement."

That year, I won First Place for "One Week's Work" in the NPPA's Pictures of the Year competition. That portfolio had only one sports photograph among a mixture of spot news, general news, and feature photos.

The next month, my annual review came up again. And it read, "Nice job on sports, but your daily assignments could be better."

Who was right? The editors, or the POY judges? My editors were. My daily work did need improvement, but the biggest contest in the country awarded me a first place. But hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The lesson for me? Contests are nice, but for a daily photojournalist, it's what you deliver to your readers that truly count.

(Rod Mar is a staff photographer with The Seattle Times and is a frequent contributor to the Sports Shooter Newsletter. He will be teaching a breakout class at the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau 2003 on balancing the demands of work with family.)

Related Links:
Mar's member page

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