Interview: APA|NY Contest Chair, Susan McWhinney

It’s that time of year again when Advertising Photographers of America | New York, better known as APA|NY, asks for photographers’ greatest photos of the year.  For their 3rd annual contest, Board Member and Photo Contest Chair, Susan McWhinney, made sure that a few changes were made.  See what she has to say in an interview with APA correspondent, Paul Cox:

Paul: What do you hope to see in the entries this year?

Susan: Great work! This is an opportunity for photographers to show images that truly highlight their particular vision and skill set.  We are asking our jury to look at 3 components in the work:

Vision – we want to see work with far reaching vision. Whether you’ve created a truly unique image or re-imagined a Dutch Master painting in pixels, or film,  the clarity of your idea and that idea’s impact are what matter.  Whether slow and subtle, or big and “wow,” does your image make the viewer want to keep looking, or come back time and again?

Production Value – Okay you had a great idea, but can you make it come to life? Once you have the idea, clearly you need to be able to execute.  Send us images that will really speak to creatives, curators, and editors.  Let them know that whether they come to you with sketches or you brainstorm together, you have the ability to pull together the elements to convey the ideas behind the image.

Technical skills – Whether you went through college, apprenticed, or are self-taught, can you make an image that your clients can actually use?  Without technical knowledge begged, borrowed, or owned the rest is moot.  Let the jury know that you know what you are doing on all levels.  This is your chance to show that you have the skills and vision to make them shine.

Paul: How is this year’s contest different from last year’s?

Susan: There is so much cross-pollination going on now that we really wanted to reflect and build upon that.  APA|NY has only done two contests and has previously tied them to a theme.  This year we are throwing it open and setting it free from the confines of a specific theme.  We simply want your absolute best work.

We have searched out a diverse and dedicated jurist panel. The jury is made up of members from the Advertising, Editorial & Fine Arts worlds, reflecting our belief that so many boundaries between genres have melted away that, at this point, a truly diverse viewpoint needs to be represented within our jury.

We have also reshaped this year’s contest as an ongoing interactive event, designed to highlight our winners, sponsors and the creatives.  The belief behind this being that in a true community, all members benefit from actions taken, and when all members are supported the community as a whole becomes stronger. From the exhibition of winning work and ongoing interviews published on our soon-to-launch contest blog, year long mailings and contest website, we hope to foster interaction and relationships between the various components of the photography community.  Within the current proliferation of contests, APA|NY’s goal is to organize and promote a contest that speaks to the community at large, encourages dialogue and generates ongoing benefits for the participants.

Paul: What sparked the changes?

Susan: Well for one, we have a new Director.  With new people change comes about and Kaia Hemming has really taken on the Photo Contest as a cornerstone in APA|NY’s mission.  That mission is to educate, inspire, and create a collaborative environment in the photographic community in order to help photographers of today and tomorrow succeed. This is a pretty interesting time in the world of photography.  There has been a great deal of upheaval and while that can be frightening, with change comes many opportunities for creativity, new relationships and new models for the way we all do things.   Advertisers are mining areas that were not very familiar territory for them in the past, such as the Fine Arts and Editorial sectors. Photo Editors are looking everywhere.  Many old paradigms in photography have shifted, so photographers have many new options open to them;  as a result, we really wanted to open the contest up and simply say, send us your most fantastic work.   As a relatively new contest we felt this was a great time to redirect.  There is such a great range of work, from  tintypes to complete digital fiction, being utilized in all aspects of the photography market that we wanted to engage jurists who represent that change, photographers who are rising to the challenge and sponsors who fuel the technology.

Paul: Regarding the contest, what are you most excited about this year?

Susan: All of it!  We have gotten such a great response from everyone we’ve approached as jurists and sponsors–it is just very encouraging.  We really believe there is some fantastic work out there and we can’t wait to show it off.

Paul: What are some words of wisdom you can offer to the entrants?

Susan: Send your best work; send work that is reflective of what you really want to do.

Prizes – learn how to use them.  While some sponsors have donated specific items, many provide services.  A lot of the services are really great tools, but you have to learn how to use them.  You will have direct contact with the sponsors who donated those prizes during the contest, s0 talk to them, go the their websites, utilize their learning centers.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone win a really great service and never use it because they don’t realize what it can do for them.

Work it – There are contest winners who sit back and wait for the work to pour in and those who really market themselves as contest winners and tell people about their awards/honors.  Once you’ve spent the time and money to enter a contest you’ve laid some good groundwork for building relationships with members of the jury and the creatives who see the ongoing contest promotion.  This is capital – use it wisely.  Think about what promotional materials you might sent out to remind people that they have seen your work before. There are a lot of contests and a lot of visual information bombarding us every day–you have to work it to make people want to take the time to look at your work.  While winning a contest is great, it is simply one more piece in your promotional arsenal–you have to work it thoughtfully if it is to be beneficial.


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