Competition #3 – The 2011 Altamont Fair Photography Contest

It’s my third year of trying.  It’s my third year of competing.  And as you can imagine… I’m not giving up.  Even though I’ve gone 0-for-10 on the two regionals earlier this year, those exclusions doesn’t hurt as badly as my going 0-for-8 at Altamont.  Eight photographs over a two-year span; eight cold-blooded, cold-hearted rejections.

This year, I started early.  I went through all my works from the past 18 months – digital, film, efke, Kodachrome, old film, split film, Swiss roll, vintage shots, the works.

I went over why my photos failed in the past two years.  I thought about how the judges may have approached my works at Altamont.   And I chose to work outside of those previous limits and barriers, and went with the concept of putting something in front of the judges that maybe they hadn’t seen before.

Since the Altamont Fair has no restrictions on size or construction of the picture – only that the image can be hung safely and that the artworks have no exposed glass edges – I figured it was time to go all-out.  As long as my framed artworks will fit in Cardachrome without the use of roof racks or bungee cords, I should be in good shape.

I called in all my resources for this project – McGreevy Pro Lab to develop my films, Cameraworks to clean my sensor on my Nikon D700, Ritz Camera to print everything out, Arlene’s Art Supplies for the custom-cut mattes, Hobby Lobby for the frames.  Use the best people for the best output.

I can bring a maximum of four framed photographs to the Altamont Fair this year, and the four I’ve chosen are truly representative of my work from the past eighteen months.  Some of these have been entered in fairs and competitions previously; some are new to display.

Of course, I was super-nervous about everything.  The first time I did this, I simply bought cheapo frames from Wal-Mart, printed the pictures at the local mall kiosk, and thought that was good enough.

It wasn’t.

This year, I made sure that each frame and matte complimented the picture.  And in the end, it necessitated a last-second change to one of my artworks.

I had previously framed up “Midnight at the Palace Theater” with metal frame rails.  Unfortunately, after framing it, I discovered that there was a tiny chip in the corner of the glass.  And if you’ve heard those Safelite radio commercials, you know that a tiny chip can turn into a major crack.  Didn’t want that.

So last Friday, I took the artwork to Hobby Lobby and purchased an off-the-rack “Exhibition” 24×36 frame.  The framer on duty, Vanessa, carefully extracted my artwork and matte from the original frame, cleaned everything with compressed air and soft brushes, used a special foaming cleanser to make the glass spotlessly clean, and assembled everything into a tight impressive package.  All I had to pay for was the cost of the frame itself, and for an extra dollar, she applied backing wire.

“Thank you for doing this,” I said.  “I really want to win this competition, and this frame will help immensely.”

“It’s no problem,” she smiled.  “I was on my break, but I can take my break later after I finish putting this together.  I really hope you win, this is a very nice picture.”

If anyone from the Hobby Lobby company in Oklahoma City is reading this – take note.  There is a framer in your Latham, New York store (Store #466) named Vanessa.  Make sure she gets a raise.  A big one.

On Saturday evening, after I returned from my road trip to Syracuse, I visited my friends Ed and Melissa DerGurahian for a house party at their place.  Several of my friends from trivia nights at Brown’s were there – Jason Borden, George and Loretta Hackney, trivia host Stephen Murray and his girl Tara…

Over the many conversations that night, I mentioned that I would be transporting my artworks to the Fair on Sunday, and that while I’m there, I could pick up some discounted passes to the Fair if anyone wanted them.  Murray and Tara were interested, as were George and Loretta.

“Are you entering the Railsplitter in the competition?” Loretta asked.

I nodded affirmatively.

“We love the Railsplitter,” she said.  “That one has to win.”

This is good.  More support from my friends.  This will help my psyche.

There were so many pictures that I wanted to submit this year.  But the four that I selected are, I personally think, my best entrants.

On Sunday, August 14, I drove to the Altamont Fairgrounds and brought all four of these images to the art center.  Although I’ve mentioned these artworks in the past, and did blog posts about some of them being framed up for the Fair, I resisted posting any official information on my four choices until today, so as not to influence any judging.

So the four entries I brought to Altamont this year are…

Albany County Rail Trail: The Railsplitter

Photographed with Nikkormat FTn camera, Nikkor f/1.4 lens, Kodachrome 64 film.  Photo taken in Voorheesville, New York.  Photo taken August 2010.  Framed with “Prairie” distressed-wood frame, purchased at Hobby Lobby.  Size: 24×36.

Prior pedigree: “A Celebration of Kodachrome” exhibit, AOP Gallery, London, January 2011.

This picture is going to be my “Kodachrome” entry in the Fair.  It’s also one of the biggest entries I’ve ever produced; it’s one of two pictures that are two feet by three feet in dimension.

Palace Theater

Photographed with Nikon F100 camera, Kiev MIR-20H lens, efke 25 film.  Photo taken in Albany, N.Y. Photo taken April 2011.  Photo framed with “Exhibition” frame purchased at Hobby Lobby.  Photo printed on 30×20 Kodak metallic paper.  Full framed size: 36×24.

Prior pedigree: None.

This is one of those pictures that, when I saw the developed shot, I knew I had to enter it in competition. I printed it in a wide 30×20 aspect ratio, and had it produced with a metallic finish, to make the lights just completely pop

The Agfa Bridge over Ansco Lake

Photographed with Agfa Vista 200 35mm color film AND 1960’s-era Ansco All Weather Pan B&W 616 film, all stuffed into an Agfa Chief camera.  Photo taken June 2011.  Framed with brown “Milano” wooden frame from Hobby Lobby.  Full framed size: 22×28.

Prior pedigree: None.

If I’m going to do a “Swiss Roll” splitfilm shot, then let it be this one.  Besides, I like the idea of someone asking if the film is black and white or color, and I can say it’s both – like a coin can be heads and tails at the same time.

Star Trail in St. Agnes Cemetery, Albany NY

Photographed with Nikon D700 in May 2010.  Framed with cherry wood frame purchased at A.C. Moore.  Framed size: 16×20.

Prior pedigree: 1st place, 2010 St. Agnes Cemetery photo contest.

I was looking for a fourth picture for the competition.  This photo brought me so much joy last year.  Does it have one more ounce of joy left in it?

Later tonight, I’m driving over to the Altamont Fair to see how my works did.  I’m hoping that at least one of these pictures will have earned a colored satin ribbon.  Or silk.  Or rayon.  Or Dacron.  Or gaberdine.  Or whatever they make prize ribbons out of these days.

How nervous am I about this?  Probably more nervous than Xaviera Hollander in the confessional booth.  If you’re older than 40, you know the reference.

Oh, and a personal request.  If you get to the Fair before  I do – and you see the results before I do – please don’t tell me.  As much as you would love to share any good news, please don’t send me a blog comment saying, “Congratulations, you won.”  As much as you would like to rub my face in the  dirt, please don’t send me a blog comment saying, “Nyah-nyah, you didn’t win, you’re a sucky photographer,” or anything regarding the decisions.

However good or bad – please don’t spoil the surprise for me.

Thanks.  Much appreciated.