If you are not sure what Photocrowd is - then where have you been? It is one of the many trendy crowd-voting websites that is full of photo contests that you can 'enter', ‘like’ and 'vote' on and get a sense of pride and satisfaction with each new like you get…
These websites exist on a diet of followers and influence. They appeal to our base instinct of being liked, being worthwhile, being complimented, being important. They pander to our own insecurities - when many like something you’ve done it’s somehow better than just you alone liking what you’ve done. Cynical? Moi? As if!
What happened to doing things the way you want to do them and screw everyone else? Photocrowd and all the similar sites would die should we all develop the ability to self regulate what is good and bad in our own images. Perhaps it answers the question to... Does a photo exist if it is left in a hard-drive?
Anyway, that aside, Bird Photographer of the Year is using it as the ready-made platform for their competition this year.
Mallard wing © Naomi Stolow
I had a bit of BPOTY luck last year, squeezing my way into the 2017 big fat coffee table book book with a highly commended kaleidoscope image of a female mallard stretching out her wing in the creative category. So I thought I’d have another go this year. Incidentally, I love that they have a creative imagery category at all - I feel creativity is an aspect often sorely lacking in the photography world of people in khaki raincoats, fearful of pushing ISO, chattering about lenses and what rules (usually thirds) to follow in order to make a good ‘competition winner’… Bring on the creativity I say.. You owe it to yourself to learn your camera, and then make it do what you want. Oh and bring on the girls too! Photography has for too long been male dominated and there are some absolutely cracking female photographers out there now - often bringing fresh creative perspectives.
I digressed. Sorry. Back to BPOTY
One thing that is very different in BPOTY this year is the fact that you can log on to Photocrowd and vote yourself on all the different category entries - so you get to see them, all 7,500+ of them if you can be bothered… You don’t know who each image belongs to, unless you happen to know the person by their style or comment on an image and they comment back and then their identity is revealed.
So I found myself at odd moments of time quite curious about what the competition is.. who has entered what? What have other people entered? It’s like a drug… I needed to know.
So you go through this process: an image comes up.. you look at it (usually for a microsecond) and deem it to be not on brief, ok, good or excellent and once you’ve done that the next image comes along and no, you can’t go backwards to see the image again.
(This not being able to go back thing has it’s own issues, as it is very easy to get into a rut of clicking ‘ok’, ‘ok’, ‘ok’ as you plough through the endless averagely ‘ok’ images but then it’s easy to miss one and you’ve already given it an ‘ok’ when it made you stop in your tracks - but dang - it’s too late to go back.)
Anyway, while doing the BPOTY people-voting several things come to mind that I thought I’d share:
I’m glad I’m not a judge. Looking through 9,000,000 images is soooo tedious.
There a few magical images scattered in there that make me want to weep they are so good and I wonder how I can up my own game and then realise I can’t as I’m me and they are them and what’s the point anyway?
There are some images (many, many more than the above) that make me question why anyone would want to actually pay good cash to enter such a crappy image. Pixely, out of focus… boring…. why? WHY?? W H Y ?
There are some amazing images that are (in my view) in completely the wrong category. So do you rank it as an ‘excellent’ because it is indeed a great image, or do you give it an ‘ok’ as the person clearly hasn’t read the category brief? You are conflicted.
And the bigger picture comes to mind too. What is a photograph actually for? What does it do? Is it for the photographer to show off some technical prowess? To raise awareness of a behaviour or species? To connect the viewer to the scene? To show the viewer something about the world? To create something beautiful out of something real? To do something that can never be explained but you do it anyway due to some kind of deep imbedded instinct?
And - take a deep breath here - often I find wildlife photography quite boring. There, I’ve said it. Sue me if you like, but I do… Most wildlife photography we’ve seen a million times before, nothing new, nothing creative, nothing that makes me stop in my tracks. But, but, big but (stop laughing, I know my butt is big) … occasionally, rarely in fact, the coin is flipped and a photo comes into view that takes my breath away and demands a scream of ‘yes’, DEMANDS a second look and then I suppose all the trawling becomes worthwhile … which brings me to my next thought….
The question - is my opinion even important anywhere apart from in Photocrowd communities where my likes and comments are counted as currency? We all believe we are right, but oh to be voted a people’s favourite!
Why did I even enter anyway? Because I want the kudos? Because I want the conformation that other people like my stuff? This makes me a contradictory person and flies in the face of everything I've just ranted about! Because I can? Because I love taking photos and I'd like to use some publicity as a vehicle to do more? But even that doesn't make sense because I can do more anyway. We all can if we want to. Photography no longer makes anyone any money, so I 'think' we do it because we need to express something that is impossible to use words for. Or perhaps it's the challenge that gets us out with our cameras? Or the need to record daily life or anything else for that matter? Confused dot com.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on Crowd Voting. What do you think? I'd like to know!
P.S. You can stroke my ego here with this shortlisted image of one of my black swans nibbling under the water here:
It's in the final round of judging going on now and will be announced in August. I know it's going in the book. I am pleased about this, I think!