During the past six months I have been submitting images to an online Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) photography challenge organised by #CharlotteBellamy https://www.charlottebellamy.com/ . There were 11 themes in all and I managed to contribute to each of them, sometimes with just a few hours to spare to meet the deadline! It has been an interesting, testing and ultimately rewarding experience overall.
The themes were: #trees, #green, #inthehouse, #water, #abstract, #animals, #architecture, #flowers, #blackandwhite, #people, #festive and here are the eleven images that I submitted:
When put together like this, they reveal to me an interesting insight into my journey through the challenge. Each one has a story behind it and I have certainly learned a lot about :
creating and/or selecting an image to fit a theme
attempting to submit something that is distinctive
considering what might appeal to the judge
looking at the other submissions, identifying what stands out
appreciating the qualities of other peoples' submissions and how they have provoked an emotional response in me
But the key learning that I think I will take from this experience is to have more faith in my own work. I doubted my instincts at times, especially when I was trying to second guess what might appeal to a particular judge. I have tried out something new without thinking, such as playing with photoshop for the abstract image which didn't go down well with the judge. I have left things until the last minute and had to submit something in a rush.
On reflection. I wonder if by doing these things I am subconsciously sabotaging myself. If I don't put in a lot of time and effort and leave it to the last minute, and it doesn't do well, then I have some ready made excuses. And beneath it all, it reinforces my sense that my creations are not really any good and so not worth submitting. On the other hand, what is the point of creating all these images if at some point they are not shared with others?
As well as developing my photography, I am also currently enjoying and learning from #BethKempton #wayoffearlesswriter (https://bethkempton.com/fwpodcast-shownotes/) about creative writing. In Episode 8 she discusses cultivating the courage to share your writing. Many of the things she identifies in the podcast applies to photography too. For example, writers who want to get their work published experience a lot of rejection from potential publishers. Beth notes that such rejection is a key part of the writing path. This can be very painful if you see it as a rejection of yourself, rather than of your words. It can make you question why you are doing it at all. But if that initial rejection leads to you trying again, reshaping and improving your writing, it is worth the pain. And that is now how I am thinking about photo challenges and competitions, potentially as a way of developing my photography in 2023.
I particularly like Beth's concept of exercising a 'bravery muscle' by sharing our creations, as I think I have been brave at times during this challenge. I do however also need to recognise that, initially, participating in this challenge was too much about my own ego, seeking validation. I was too focussed on my own anxieties, as Beth puts it: Will they like it? Will they like me? Is the work good enough? Am I good enough?'
I also appreciate her advice to be selective about who we share our work with, and what kind of feedback we ask for. Charlie has successfully created a network of fellow ICM photographers who appreciate each other's efforts and will be constructive in their feedback. This might not apply to other more open competitions. If my intention in sharing my photos is to give pleasure to others, and to provoke new ideas to flourish in the group in the way that I have been inspired during this challenge, then participating has been worthwhile.
I have taken time over the past few weeks to look back through the sets of images for each challenge, reading the judge's responses and Charlie's feedback, with the aim of learning as much as I can from this experience. I have come to appreciate better the qualities of the images of my fellow contributors and thank them for their bravery in sharing them.
I was delighted though when Charlie chose this image as one of her top three overall.
I am looking forward to next year's challenges with less fear, real excitement and more joy!