The “unfortunately” letter

I’ve learned through the years to accept failure.  I don’t have to like it, I don’t have to celebrate it, but I do have to acknowledge it.

Failure can mean anything from my photos not getting accepted into a show, to missing out on a trivia competition, to drawing four kings in poker and losing to someone who pulled four aces.

I say this because yesterday I received my “unfortunately” letter from the gallery hosting this year’s Capital District Photo Regionals.  None of my five entrants made the cut.


Now here’s the thing.  I’ve been in the Photo Regionals before.  Three times.  But three times doesn’t mean all the time.  And despite my best efforts, I was not able to make it to the gallery walls this year.

Maybe next year.  We shall see.

I know, I’m being sanguine about this.  Heck, long-time readers of my blog would almost expect to see me dangling from a bridge abutment after not making it through to a gallery event.  Those who remember my use of the portmanteau “Altamont Curse” – well, now it’s the “Syracurse” – understand.

And I can’t make excuses for not breaking through.  Sometimes my photos and the judges’ desires don’t match.  Sometimes it’s a numbers game – there’s only so much room on gallery walls, and better photos than mine will get there before mine do.

So I received the “unfortunately” letter.  It’s the letter where they tell you that they had so many entries this year, it was hard to cut the list down to a scant few,, and unfortunately yours was not one of the scant few, but keep trying and you’ll do better next time.

I get it.  Trust me, I get it.

So in situations like this … what can you really do?

In my case, it’s just pack up the entries and re-submit them for another event, another show, another gallery, another competition.

Keep on going.

Who knows?  Maybe a photo I hadn’t previously considered might make the cut in a future show.  I can’t give up on this.

Infrared Horizon 787. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, color infrared film with yellow filter, printed on aluminum substrate. (c) 2018 Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Case in point.

Last year, I submitted Infrared Horizon 787 to nearly every competition I could.  And it was met with varying levels of ennui.

But it was this picture – and none other from my archive – that was selected for a gallery art fundraiser as hosted by the Albany Institute of History and Art.  And trust me, it was selected over jumbucks and dancing neon shoes and Milky Way / covered bridge photos.

That picture received plenty of “unfortunately” letters … but nevertheless, it persisted.

Another example.

What you see to the right was my Lodge’s in Polaroid PolaBlue picture, during my experimental phase with Polaroid’s instant-developing 35mm film.   I thought the picture was a great experiment, but I never believed it would succeed in competition, especially with so many other images in my collection…

And yet, this photo is the only photo of mine to take a blue ribbon in the photography competition at the New York State Fair.  Way back in 2011.  Man, those were the days…

The crazy thing is, though, these pictures were afterthoughts.  I was chasing something stronger, bolder, more dynamic and more delineated … and when those other pictures didn’t make the cut, these pictures claimed the silks and earned the accolades.

So as long as I understand that what might be rejected today could be an award-winner tomorrow…

It means I still can push my best images forward and keep shooting and keep trying and keep believing.

And I’ll be okay.

Heck, I’ve received “unfortunately” postcards from Syracuse for the past three years, and four out of the last five.

So maybe between now and July …

I can get another picture taken …

That won’t receive an “unfortunately” letter.

Besides, there’s always next year’s Photo Regionals.  Right?