Divin’ Fer Dollars – Or The Gentle Art Of The Photo Contest

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Suppose there is a local business that sells a pretty definite commodity – anything, really – water pumps or ice cream or anti-tank shells. And suppose they want to promote their product with a photo or art contest. They might invite submissions based upon their specialty and then award prizes for the best results. Then have an exhibition of the works of art or science to show off their support for the artists  – and to put their product before the public in an interesting fashion.

Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? If they were to offer some cash prizes – or at least a choice of pump, ice cream, or A/T round the artists would go away with something tangible as well as the feeling of pride in having shown their work. A win/win situation.

Okay, reel back almost to the start. The firm offers the prizes, organises the exhibition, and hangs up the resultant entries. They engage reasonable judges – impartial and skilled in observing art and photography. And the judges – cold sober – discover…

That about 60 % of the artists have mined the Drobo, scraped out the hard drive, and sifted through the attic to find canvases that never sold, and then entered the stuff into the contest. Never mind that the works have nothing whatsoever to do with the local business’s main subject – as long as a paragraph can be concocted and typed up drawing an imaginary link to the water pumps, the piccy can go in. Never mind that the thing looks like it has been exhibited a dozen times before…whack it in and hope for the best.

It really becomes – to some extent – the school of the desultory. The organisers have to award something to someone…

What will happen next? The viewers of the exhibition will screw up their mouths in wry grins, the winners will take their prizes, the losers will re-rack the art and throw away the captions…and the organisers will look next time to sponsoring a soap box derby or a greased pig chase. Score -1 for art.

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