Close But No Cigar – Instagratification 2014 Reception

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The opening night reception of INSTAGRATIFICATION 2014 at Goodfellas Gallery finally arrived! To mark the event, I’ve included a photo I took with…what else…Instagram. After all, this is an exhibit of mobile phone photography.

There were less participants this year than there were last year. This is my second group show with these guys to mark my participation in Scotiabank’s Annual CONTACT Photography Festival, which invites photographers from around the world. Goodfellas Gallery is one of the open group events again this year and what an amazing opportunity for amateur or up-and-coming photographers like myself to participate in something this grand early in our photography careers (I’m certainly not making a career out of mine yet, but I’m getting a good footing). Last year’s event was great with no pressure from the participating photographers other than sending in our photos and then a jury decides on Best in Show and People’s Choice. There were lots of competition last year and I was actually impressed by the photos of the winners. I thought my photo last year deserved a running, but who knows – it sold immediately after the show any way at another exhibit I showed it in. But I digress.

This year, the competition got interesting with the addition of Facebook “likes” to determine the winner of the People’s Choice. With so many votes immediately out of the gates, I took to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to campaign for my black and white photo of State & Lake (you can see that photo here). I posted on open group pages that stated they “like” photos. I enlisted friends and family to use their Facebook networks to get the word out that I needed votes for my photo for a chance at winning the coveted People’s Choice Award. I walked that fine line of “harassing” people I work with and “spammed” their inboxes with a simple request. I started getting votes from the large Asian community that my friends and relatives are associated with and I started getting votes from people I didn’t even know in countries that I knew no one. I guess that’s the power of networking (or “spamming” those Facebook group sites paid off!). I did well. Or so I thought.

The competition got really aggressive towards the end and it was down to a photo of an old couple in a hospital holding hands (insert awwwww reaction here) and my photo of a street corner under a subway bridge in downtown Chicago. I was miles ahead in votes in days prior and still miles ahead in votes by the 6pm deadline of May 3rd opening night (mine: 570+ votes…old couple: 547 votes). Cocky in winning the title, I got dressed in what I can put together as an artist (I clean up well), and headed to the event with a smile beaming for miles (this must be what it feels like to go to the Oscars). And then the inevitable. I walked through the gallery looking for my two photos, one of which was nominated and another one just for the show. Found them, although not in the greatest spots (I know how gallery arranges art), but I moved on from that quickly. Nothing will ruin my winner attitude tonight. Lo and behold, as I walk through looking at the other photos, my biggest competition – the old couple. I looked at it and thought “It stirs emotion and I’d champion for that photo. Good job”. Then a gallery staff walked in front of it and placed a red dot below it as I stood there. There it was…a red dot. It can only mean one thing. The photo has been sold OR it has won. I approached the staff member and asked who and when they will announce the People’s Choice Award winner. He said he didn’t know when but the photo of the old couple won…hence the red dot. My heart sank (this must be what it is like for actors to hold a smile and applaud the winner at the Oscars). I quickly took to the Instagratification 2014 Facebook page and checked the votes again. My eyes didn’t deceive me, did it? I still had over 570 votes, right? I’m still ahead of the other photo, right? You tell me. You can still see the votes here with my photo still holding the lead. With that information, I came home with my head down and tail between my legs empty handed. My photo was not awarded the People’s Choice even though the criteria that the photo with the most votes (or “likes” on Facebook) wins. Injustice? Perhaps. But definitely confusing. I don’t know if there was any other criteria that wasn’t clear in the public information offered to the participants, or in my communication to clarify the voting procedures and end dates with one of the gallery’s reps, but this experience surely leaves an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth.

As any social media enthusiast, I took to Twitter to publicly announce being a sour grape in 140 characters to alert my 250+ followers of mostly friends, fellow artists, celebrity friends, and twitter bots. Interestingly, I got a reply from the exhibit’s Twitter account stating that I won “also”. It can’t be the one People’s Choice Award. There was only one of those…”also” means an honourable mention, which is on the competition description. “Meh” I thought. “Woo-hoo!” my friends said when I told them. It’s a win, sure, but an empty one. Sure I get a prize pack also, but it’s the principle. My beef is, if you are going to run a contest with metrics that are on public display, make sure you see through it. Otherwise, it is not worth the contest. Yes, I have a bit of sour grapes, but who wouldn’t?

I get it, the photo that “beat” mine has an emotional “awwwwww” attached to it. Mine only has that architectural composition that often require a photographer a city permit to halt traffic to get the stillness of a bustling intersection of any major city like Chicago – that on any regular given day is littered with locals and tourists walking shoulder to shoulder. This was a chance shot that happened to be on a very brisk and sunny fall afternoon where both foot and motor traffic stopped just in time for me to get a shot…and then life continued. It’s as if time stood still in this photo. I remember people being around me as it was the Thanksgiving weekend, but somehow it felt like everyone was on slow motion to give me just enough time to take a snap shot. And the result? A capture of beautiful lines bathed in the contrast of black and white that only a perfectly timed sunlight would provide. Someone even said “Burtynsky-like” in the comments and I thank the viewer for that comparison. I’d like to think, as an artistic eye, that my photo deserved recognition without the “votes”. But since the People’s Choice Award was based on that, I’d like to think that my photo also deserved the title. After all, the metrics didn’t lie.

Perhaps I am just a sore loser and I’ll take it. Congratulations to the recipient. It is “obviously” deserved even with less votes than mine…but that’s just me griping and life moves on.

On a more happier news, photos from another collection of mine will be exhibited at Gerard Art Space (GAS) next week. So yey me!

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