Unfair advantage is always suspect – whether it is in sports, business, or legal proceedings. A very great deal of legislation is produced to prevent it being used, and a very great deal of money is expended finding ways around these laws. Whole lives can be dedicated to finding it – sort of a disreputable Eldorado*.
Yet nothing sours any event more than the taint of it, when detected. You get a pole vaulter in the Olympics sprinting down the track toward the crossbar with a coil spring sticking out of the bottom of the pole and there is bound to be trouble. Likewise if one of the lawyers in a trial went along the jury box winking and passing out bars of chocolate and dollar bills there might be a bit of a stink. But what of the amateur photographic contest? Is there still a place for biased behaviour? You bet there is.
Note that I specify amateur contests. Contests that should embody the highest forms of sportsmanship and honour. All starting even in a fair way with an equal chance of success. Equal opportunity and equipment – a Soap Box Derby race for visual artists, if you will. It should be ever thus and it never will be:
a. Different people have different amounts of expendable money ( EM ).
b. The ones with more EM can buy fancier equipment with more capability – cameras, lenses, computers, and printers.
c. The same people can spend far more on travel to take them to exotic and picturesque locations.
d. They can afford professional models, lighting, and studio spaces.
e. People with EM may not need to work, and thus can devote more time to their photography.
When a photographic contest is dedicated to a specific subject, it can sometimes limit people’s ability to participate – or to participate successfully. If a contest committee decides that the comp will be limited to images of South America or Fabergé eggs or helicopter views of Norway, the people who are on a pension in Palmyra are going to miss out. Too many of these contests and the pensioners will decide to stay home and watch television – and amateur photography misses out.
Even open commercial contests are a minefield as there is no doubt that there may be a lot more exotic eye-catchers available in foreign parts than in your local suburb. Fortunately the very nature of financial restriction acts as a spur to the imagination for some photographers – they can make the world for themselves or find the great beauties in everyday objects and scenes. The minefield becomes a playing field if the shooter is determined to make it so. Or at any rate, a level minefield.
All the same, I think there would be a good point in separating contests into geographic locations – perhaps divisions as basic as ” Foreign ” and ” Home ” – as the UK does with their governmental secretaries. Have Camera club ” Home Secretary ” and ” Foreign Secretary “. Just as long as you did not have to include a Camera Club Secretary for War…
* Nowhere near as disreputable as some of the cars the Cadillac company produced in the 70’s, though…