For nearly two years, Sophie Bernard, a journalist who writes about photography, and Chantal Nedjib, a photography image consultant, investigated the various photography contests that currently exist in France. They interviewed no less than 70 photography professionals and drew up a list of the best contests. Following is an interview with Sophie Bernard and Chantal Ndjib.
How many contests did you find?
We compiled a list of 72 that meet our selection criteria. We only selected contests with a call for entries, contest rules, and a jury. Most of them are French contests. 90% of the contests we selected are free, with no entry fee.
What advice would you give a photographer thinking of entering a contest?
Make sure you read the rules! Only apply to contests that match the kind of work you do, instead of entering every contest out there. The photographer needs to remain true to himself, and, for instance, avoid entering a thematic contest where the theme doesn't inspire him at all. The jury will review his photos, yes, but what the jury is looking for and what the contest sponsor is looking for are also factors. You also need to read the rules because the photographer agrees to certain terms, for instance to represent the contest, to attend such and such event on such and such date, and so on. It's not selling your soul, but still, you are bound to a contract.
Photography is a very popular art form. Many people are self-taught. Are these contests open to all or is it necessary to have studied photography?
No, most of the times these contests are open to everyone. A self-taught sophisticated amateur sometimes starts out this way. And it's not a question of age, either. Some people only come into their own with their work much later. However, our book isn't about amateur contests, only professional ones.
Is there any one contest you recommend in particular?
No, but we do advise photographers to enter them. Entering a photography contest is a good way to assess your work and to look at how it compares to the work of others and to what you want to achieve. It forces you to write a little text and to select the photos to enter. This really helps you take stock of your work. It's one of the advantages of entering photography contests.
What are some other advantages?
Contests can help you make real connections. Even photographers who didn't win sometimes get contacted by people wanting to commission a work from them. Or maybe their work made a lasting impression on jury members, and so they get invited to art openings, lectures, and so on. It's a way to stay in the world of photography and to generate new ideas inspired by the new connections you make.
By Coline Olsina and Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Prix photo, mode d'emploi
Par Sophie Bernard & Chantal Nedjib
Filigranes Éditions, 20€