I'm very honored that my photo "Carrizo Plain Ranches I" was selected for Honorable Mention at L.A. Photo Curator's exhibition "What Remains" by curator Jody Miller! I was a bit nervous about submitting to an L.A. photo exhibit because Los Angeles is a very trendy and highly competitive market for photographers. It's also my home market so I thought was time to dip a toe where I suspected that people might not be so quick to question my desire to photograph strange things (it has been pointed out to me more than once that in my personal work I tend to be drawn toward the strange and weird, rather than traditionally beautiful images).
Over 200 artists submitted their work and some of the entries just blew me away. The winning photo "Late Dad" by Paula Rae Gibson is very emotional and powerful; I knew it was a winner as soon as I saw it. You can see all of the winners and read about the Call For Entry at L.A. Photo Curator: What Remains. My photo is on the second page of the Honorable Mentions gallery and I have a full page with additional images in the Group Exhibition 3. Do take the time to view the rest of the entries and winners, there is some really spectacular work and I am humbled to be included in the list of winners. It is an on-line exhibit only but I decided to enter this competition for a few reasons. The main reason is that a percentage of the entry fees is donated to charities. For What Remains the donation went to the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund, the legal defense of the Water Protectors. What could be better than using your art to help a good cause? In addition, the first place winner receives a one-on-one review with at least one of the curators, and L.A. Photo Curator (Laurie Freitag) really goes above and beyond to promote photographers on the website and social media pages. Add to that, I felt that the theme was a good fit for my work and previous exhibitions showed that the focus was on quality fine art, not the type of photography that is popular on social media (that's a topic for a whole 'nother blog post).
This is especially meaningful to me because a few months ago I decided that I needed to rededicate myself to my fine art pursuits. I've focused so heavily on creating content for DrivingLine the past few years that people who are new to my work think of me as someone who writes about Jeeps, not as a photographer. For me the Jeep is just what I use to pursue my fine art photography and the writing is a way to share my photos and stories. I've been a photographer for over 30 years and I felt the need to bring that to the forefront again. Don't worry, I'm still shooting and writing about my off road adventures for DrivingLine, I'm just making a concentrated effort on the fine art photography that I feel I've neglected the past couple of years. I was still shooting it when I had time, but I wasn't making the time to do much with it. My theme for 2017 is #NotJustJeeps to remind people that first and foremost I am a skilled photographer.
As a bit of a niche photographer whose personal work doesn't chase "pretty pictures", I need to be highly selective in the exhibitions I enter. Fine art is defined differently by every artist you meet; I know what it means to me and I only enter when I feel there is a good fit with my work. Entering juried exhibitions is a pay-for-play game that can get quite expensive if you don't put a lot of thought into your entries. I prefer themed exhibitions rather than general open calls, and I need to feel an emotional connection to the juror's work (I always research the juror before deciding to enter). That approach has been paying off as I am two for two in just the few months since I've refocused my efforts.
My photo "Carrizo Plain Ranches I" was the selected winner both times (and was also selected as the title page image for the exhibition brochure of "A Sense of Place". I forgot to tell you about that), so I want to point out to beginning photographers how it violates one of the cardinal rules that people will preach non-stop at beginners - the building is smack in the center of the photo! I composed the photo this way because I was drawn to the dirt roads that spiraled around the building, and I used them as a compositional element. I also love symmetry and believe that it brings a certain "quietness" to a photo, with the risk of being boring if not done properly and intentionally. If I had followed the rule of thirds the image wouldn't have the same emotional feeling. Nothing angers me more than seeing a beginner photographer told that his/her photo doesn't follow the rule of thirds, without any other reason other than it's the rule. If I had followed the rule of thirds when composing this image, the entire dynamic would change and it wouldn't tell the same story. I actually did shoot this building in several compositions, but this was the composition that spoke to me, and it's reassuring to see that it speaks to others as well.
The xext time someone critiques your image by telling you that you should never center the subject and you should always follow the rule of thirds, ask them how it applies to the specific photo. If there is no justification beyond "it's the rule", take it with a grain of salt and go with your gut. Learn the rules, then learn how to break them and embrace your unique vision.
You can purchase a print by clicking on the photo at the top of this post. Now I think I'd better find the time to mat and frame the exhibition print so I can hang it in my own home.
Thanks for reading!