|Scranton Lace #7460 ©Michael Borek|
- Earned a spot at Photo '11 at Artisphere
- Reached the final round at Critical Mass
- Launched a solo show at Multiple Exposures Gallery
- Joined an exhibit of PhotoSlam winners at Photoworks at Glen Echo
- Received second place honors in Fotoweek DC's 2011 International Awards Competition
Below, Michael describes his approach to gaining recognition for his photography and how he decides what to submit:
Congratulations on your recent successes. Have you always pursued opportunities for exhibits and awards or does your recent success reflect a new focus on gaining recognition for your work?
I haven’t really changed my focus, although I think I have gotten better at editing my work. I have also realized that good photographers show only their best works. I’ve always pursued what I found interesting, without thinking about whether it will be a success, so that hasn’t changed.
How do you decide which opportunities to pursue?
I am trying to have my work judged, juried, and hopefully recognized by people from whom I feel I could learn something and/or who work for the galleries or museums that I respect.
Several of your recent winners were from your Scranton Lace Factory series. How do you choose among your many wonderful images when deciding what to submit if there is no specific requirement or theme you must adhere to?
|Scranton Lace #7553 ©Michael Borek|
After selecting what I feel are the best images comes the hardest part—sequencing them and eliminating those that don’t fit in. I may have several pictures that I feel are good, but if they don’t go with the flow, I don’t submit them. My goal is to have a consistent body of work that flows naturally. And it is good to start and end with your best images.
Many photographers feel rejected when they submit work that isn't selected by the jurors or judges. Have you ever felt similarly frustrated and if so, what did you do to make sure it didn't stop you from pursuing opportunities again?
I deal with it the same way as I do with parking tickets. When I get a parking ticket, I write the check immediately, mail it, and forget about it. Obviously, I cannot write a check after a rejection and consider it done, but I try not to dwell on it and just move on. There’s no need to read the entire letter that starts: “Dear Artist, there were many excellent entries this year and the judge had hard time deciding, blah blah blah....” One has to realize that there are many more good photographers than opportunities to show.
Rejection comes with the territory. If you spend time and energy feeling frustrated and sorry for yourself, you are not spending that time and energy on your photography. And there are only two logical explanations for your rejection: either your work wasn’t good or original enough, which you can change, or you are a misunderstood genius and it is just a matter of time before you will be discovered. So it is a win-win situation.
|Scranton Lace #7594 ©Michael Borek|
What advice do you have for photographers to increase their odds of success when submitting work for awards or exhibits?
Statistically, you can increase your odds by submitting into more competitions. Many people feel that $30-40 fee is exorbitant, although they don’t hesitate to spend $1000 on a new lens. New equipment won’t make you a better photographer, but I have found the whole process of submitting your work will – if you do it right.
By “doing it right,” I mean being thoughtful, editing your work, discussing it with people whose judgment you trust, and having an original body of work. And maybe doing a little test. Ask yourself whether you would buy the photographs you are submitting if you saw them in a gallery. If the answer is no, don’t bother submitting them. If they don’t excite you enough to “buy” them, how can you expect that they would be selected from hundreds of other entries?
You also have to decide on the appropriate level. The odds that you will be selected in an international competition with thousands of entries juried by a prestigious curator are very low, particularly if you are a beginner. It may be better for you to start on a local or regional level. On the other hand, if you are being consistently selected on these levels, it may be time to move up (but prepare yourself to deal with possible rejection).