Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do I Care?

It's contest season. Now's that time of the year when, if you're lucky, your employer is pushing you to review your year's work -- because your employer is so pleased with your product, of course -- and enter as many contests as you can ... not because they want the publicity and implied compliment to their product, oh no. It's because they think you deserve a hearty pat on the back. If you're not so lucky, you're ponying up the entry fees yourself, in hopes of creating some buzz and a hot reputation so you'll get a (or some, if you're a freelancer) better job(s).

Most of us fall in between. At my job, they've been reviewing stories and newscasts for the past month or so to enter in various contests, and they suggested that we, as individuals, could also enter whatever we thought also needed to be entered, mostly in individual awards -- like best photographer.

I used to enter in the White House News Photographers Association contest when we were in DC, and even volunteered for the stills contest committee regularly in hopes of better understanding the judging process, so that I might better my chances. (Sad result: it remained incomprehensible; there was no consistent system.)

Eventually, I became jaded, and stopped entering in contests altogether. I said it was more about being trendy and hitting the random style of the year -- especially if the pictures were about some fashionable subject, like gay, ethnic mental patients suffering from AIDS as a result of genocide -- and the whole thing was getting too expensive, and frankly it was a lot of work preparing those entries according to whatever exacting standards were demanded. That's what I said...

But, as I said, the station is pretty supportive. So this year I have to decide: Do I care?

Meanwhile (jeez, these blog entry thingies seem to take longer and be harder than I expected), I was listening to the radio the other day. NPR, of course -- it's the only place I can get news with any frequency. And they, also of course, were in the middle of the "beg-a-thon." One voice explained that she had come in early that morning to work on her daily blog ... and at that moment I'm thinking, "DAILY blog?!" I heard nothing more of her appeal for funds. My mind was once again thrown to the difficulty of finding anything I believe is worth saying here.

I mean, this is not Twitter, where it is perfectly acceptable to simple recount the mundane activities of the day. I believe that there should be something here actually faintly interesting, even if there are only about ten of you reading it.

However, I also believe, as I have said before, that the very point of a blog (or any internet activity, even including plain old websites) is to be fast paced, changing often. You can take years to produce a book, which remains there, unchanged for all time, and a newspaper takes a day, and retains its value about as long, but the internet is ever changing, updating by the second. A daily blog would be about right ... if I did something worth writing about every day.

But instead, I've been plugging away at this for days. I had the initial idea ... but then didn't know where to go with it. I heard the "Daily Blog" comment, and thought that could be folded in. Time passed, and the Oscar telecast came and went, and that seemed relevant. After all, it's a contest of sorts, isn't it?

And so, I must confess, I do watch that show with mixed emotions. After all, it's basically a joke now that everyone knows (or think they know) what kind of speech to give after winning the Oscar. (And, incidentally, isn't it funny that -- no matter what the profession and its award, like a Grammy or Emmy or Clio or whatever -- we always go right to the Oscar as the apex of awards. Why not the Nobel? Anyway...)

So I naturally imagine my speech, and frankly it's a bit more poignant, because I'm actually in the business. I mean, in a long (very long) shot sort of way, I theoretically could, one day, make a documentary so good that it must be shown in theaters so that it is eligible for an Oscar. So, yeah, I'll admit it: I've thought about it. I've given the speech in my head.

And that's the thing. Really, I've about as much chance of finding myself at the Oscars as winning the lottery. (Yep, still buy the occasional ticket. Depending on the game, by the way, that's a chance of about one in 20 million or so. Perhaps God will provide, but I'm not holding my breath.) But I still think it's out there. Is that why I do my stuff? No. Much of what I do would never even rate consideration. I'd have a better chance if my subjects were gay African crack babies driven from their inadequate asylums by genocidal Republicans. Naw, I do stuff like VMI cadets walking to New Market. But I still ... dream?

So, do I care about prizes? Well, I guess on one level: Hell, yes. It's nice for an entire industry to stop for a moment and say, "You're really cool." I want to be the greatest guy in the room. Really, who doesn't?

Then, on the other hand, No. I didn't care about he cool kids table in school. (Actually, that's a false analogy, as I went to an all-boys Jesuit high school, so the whole cool kids thing was ... different there. But the point is valid.) A lot of these contests and stuff (like Oscar and Grammy) are about trends and fashion and who'd the trendiest one this year, not who's doing the most interesting work or what's really, really important. Check out, sometime, the number of people who didn't win Oscars, like Alfred Hitchcock.

So after all that buildup, I have to hope you're asking: did I enter. Well, yeah. Two entries in the AP Broadcast contest, for feature photography. I would have entered in NPPA's contest and WHNPA's, but my dues are not paid up. Maybe next year.

Do I think I'll win? Have I won the lottery yet?

So ... do I care? Well, welcome to my world....


I learned yesterday (March 18) that one of the stories I entered -- the Ferrari one -- has won either a first or second in the AP contest. So I guess I do care.

Also saw the judging results from NPPA, dominated by repeat winner Darren Durlach. His stuff is excellent ... I doubt I would have had a chance. More inspiration to work harder, do better; maybe there's a good reason for bothering with these contests...