• Andy Whysall

Competition entries and getting it out there

What do these photographs have in common?

Joyce had never been abroad before 2019

Leo's birthday 2016

I have them in two competitions with decent prizes, but in a way, while the prize is nice, it's really about getting your name out there and your work seen by industry bigwigs. They might not give you a prize, but one might like your work and write your name down for future reference. Do I care about future reference at the age of 60? Of course I do; I reckon I have another 20 years' work in me and if I can do a decent bit of it with a camera all the better.

I entered the British Journal of Photography's 'Portrait of Britain' and the Association of Photographers' Student Awards (and that does feel odd still at this age).

The BJP is publishing a book reflecting the nature of the people of Britain and is gathering images through the competition for that. It's not a unique idea and various people have had a go at such a thing in the past - many of them single-handed. Clearly Martin Parr is having a damned good go at it himself, but taking decades to do it.

The picture I submitted was one of my daughter, a single mum, and her son on his birthday, with an insane firework in his cake and the room lit by that and the daylight bulb in the vivarium which is home to Bernard the Bearded Dragon. It's a good picture of a happy moment in a little British family. It was hard to choose a people picture, and I'm hoping it stands a chance.

One of my favourite attempts at a single-handed book about the British is by Nick Danziger. Indeed he called it The British and it was, wonderfully symbolically, a book of two halves - the haves read from one end and the have-nots read from the other, with the book turned round as well, so for each the world of the other is upside down. I don't want to go on about kit, but I remember being impressed that he had produced the work using Olympus cameras and good old Tri-X film. As a long-time Oly user I will say that you can see the Olympus signature in the pictures. Gorgeous. (it didn't win a best-produced book prize for nothing).

Another fascinating, but hardly exhaustive attempt came from Neal Slavin, titled Britons. He used a 20x24-in camera for all the shots. They have a very special quality because those 20x24-in sheets were POLAROIDS. When I look at the book I just feel the weight of the cost of each shot bearing down on me. Great pictures though.

Neal Slavin, Britons, 1986 TWENTY INCHES WIDE!

The Association of Photographers competition was was divided into categories that allowed you to submit almost anything. I put in the four images of Joyce had never been abroad before, which is the key work in my degree show in less than a month's time. It's esoteric, even high-brow if you want to see it like that, and that's a bit out of character for me; but it's got a special something I think. You might disagree; they might disagree. One can only give it a go. And if they remember my name.....well.

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