T his Thursday, the San Francisco APA will be hosting their very popular and highly anticipated Something Personal 2011 Exhibition and Holiday Party. Always a fun party, it is also the chance to see the personal work (more on that below) of photographers whose editorial and commercial work we are familiar with and to discover new photographers. This year’s show features the work of 72 photographers from the Bay Area and beyond.
I thought it would be interesting to ask co-chairs Anthony Lindsey and Christian Peacock a few questions about the selection process, the judging and trends in personal work. I also asked for images and they happily obliged with a nice selection that is representative of the diversity of work submitted. The full list of exhibitors can be found here.
Thank you to Anthony and Christian for the sneak peek and for squeezing in an interview in the very busy days before the show. Looking forward to another great show and party!
POP: How is ‘personal’ defined? And if not exclusively personal, how do photographers know what to enter?
We try to leave it very open to interpretation – that’s part of the fun of this particular contest. In the past couple of years, though, we have tried harder to emphasize that we are not looking for images that have been created for a client. We are really just interested in images that photographers are making for themselves.
First of all we want people to enter work they’ve created for their own artistic fulfillment - that is the primary goal. I’ve always thought that if your goal is to win any particular contest you need to study who the judges are. But how do photographer’s know what to enter? Enter something personal to you.
POP: How are the competition winners selected?
The judges look at each image, independently and without discussion, and rank it on a scale of 1 – 10 points. The 100 images with the most points are selected. The single image with the most points is Best of Show.
POP: The maximum number of exhibited images per selected entrant is five. How was this determined?
We don’t really want the show dominated by a small group of photographers; we want to see work from many different points of view. At the same time if someone is working on a really amazing project and is on to something great, we want them to have a chance to get several of those images out in the open.
POP: Did the judges note any trends with regards to personal work?
As the show continues to grow and we get more submissions every year I think the quality of work is increasing. Only the judges see every entry. We just see the winners, but I feel like there has been a real creative surge over the past couple of years. I’m not seeing as many snapshots of people’s kids as in years past.
POP: Trends in general or anything surprising?
This year’s submissions represent a wider variety in styles than we’ve previously seen. It seems that the work people are showing is truly personal and revealing more about the artists themselves than it has in the past.
We also had a nice response from the judges that there was a better quality of photograph being considered. By that I mean a well-crafted photograph, a final image that has more thought and technical craftsmanship put into it. There have always been those photos selected in the past, but it seems this year’s images really explore all the wonderful possibilities the medium has to offer.
POP: The Bay Area has a small community with many photographers with fairly recognizable styles. How do you ensure the selection is unbiased?
First and foremost, it is a blind judging process. The judges do not see names of the photographers with the images. We also recruit a wide variety of judges and even more so now that the APA is committed to embracing all photographic artists, not just those working in advertising. We feel that having judges from various backgrounds decreases the chance that favoritism or personal bias will come into play. We’re also trying harder to get judges from outside this geographic region.
In addition, the judging process is done entirely online. This means that they work at their own pace and look at the work with fresh eyes. And very importantly, because they are working alone, they are not influenced by each other’s opinions.
This year’s judges were fine-art photographer Todd Hido, Producer Jacqueline Fodor, Freelance Producer/Art Buyer Bonnie Butler Brown, Dwell Magazine AD Alejandro Chavetta, Creative Director Michael Fiore and SFMOMA Corporate Art Coordinator, Michelle Nye.
POP: How is the show promoted to a wider audience beyond the Bay Area?
Our CEO, Jeff Kausch, has a finely tuned list of creatives, curators, etc. that he sends to every year. It is also announced on the APA National site, I believe, as well as our blog. Plus this year we are publishing an exhibition catalog that will be available on BLURB.
POP: What percentage of entrants are from outside the Bay Area?
I don’t have the information about what percentage of entrants were not local but I can tell you that out of the 72 photographers that have images in the show this year I believe 8 are from outside the bay area.