The little email from the 2021 New York State Fair Photography Competition

I’m used to many things during Competition Season. I’m used to a postcard of notice from the Iowa State Fair. I’m used to arriving at the Altamont Fair on the opening night, and then slowly making my way to the Fine Arts Barn to see the results. And I also enjoy doing the “double dip” of visiting the Big E and the Durham Fair on the same day.

But there’s one tradition that still gets me in the feels. It’s the notification from the New York State Fair as to whether any of my images made the cut.

A few differences for 2021. This year, instead of postcards o’ doom, I instead received an e-mail with all the details. And instead of the event being hosted on the second floor of the Harriet May Mills Art Center on the State Fairgrounds, instead the accepted entries will be on display on the first floor of the building – and due to other spacing limitations, there are fewer entries accepted this time around.

Okay. Got the e-mail. Let’s work up the nerve.

Recap. I first entered the New York State Fair’s photo competition in 2009, and one of my entries, a basketball photo that involved me climbing to the rafters of Blue Cross Arena in Rochester and shooting straight down at the basket, claimed an Honorable Mention, my first official ribbon at the competition. By 2010, I had claimed a second place silk, and in 2011 I snagged first AND second place in the experimental photography category.

Then came a bit of a fallow period. 2014 – nothing accepted. 2016 – nothing accepted. 2017 – nothing accepted. 2018 – one item accepted, but no ribbon. 2019 – an honorable mention for my macro dandelion photo After the Rain. 2020 – COVID shuts down the Fair.

I called this period of time the “Syracurse.” Essentially, although my artworks were winning prize money and claiming silks all over the Northeast, they were barely getting sniffs in New York.

This time around, I had two years to pull my best entries. Lenticular. Milky Way. Macro. Aesthetics. Whimsy. I drove them to Syracuse and personally dropped them all off, amidst fear that the postal service might delay my entries for some nefarious Louis DeJoy-inspired reason.

So I waited. And on Friday evening … results.

Here they are.


I would first like to thank you on behalf of the entire New York State Fair Staff for your participation in our Fine Arts and Photography Exhibition this year. This year’s fair is one of many challenges and we understand the turnaround time was incredibly tight from entering to bringing in your art however we are proud of the turnout and appreciate each entry!

Now onto results. They will be posted online after our exhibitor reception on August 18th 6-8pm. Speaking of which, I’d like to formally invite you and your immediate family to attend the reception! This is a private show before the fair opens (The Fair runs from August 20th – September 6th!).

This email is also to notify you of all entries that were accepted or not accepted into our show. Below is a list of Entry numbers (found on your entry slip that you received upon dropping your piece off) in corresponding groups.

Accepted: 13, 14, 15, 17, 18

Non-Accepted: 16

Thank you for your patience and I hope you look forward to entering next year as well!

So … what you’re saying is … just confirming …

These five pictures MADE THE CUT?!?!?!?

So what you’re saying is … I’ve had more entries accepted in Syracuse in 2021 than I have had in the previous five of six years???

Holy shit. So let me parse this all out.

My shot that was taken in the middle of the old Catskill Game Farm, taken as an opportunistic afterthought after getting other nighttime photos – is going to hang on the wall.

My splitfilm shot of the Ferris wheel at Altamont, a photo that was a former Photo Regionals Honorable Mention accepted entry, one that’s already snagged a second place from Durham in 2019 – is going to hang on the wall.

My first post-COVID trip out of state, with the goal of photographing one of the few remaining tourist steam trains in America – is going to hang on the wall.

My first lenticular image of the waycool marquee in Glenmont, a shot that I’ve dreamed about and finally achieved in 2020 – is going to hang on the wall.

And my focus-stacked macro photo of an 65-year-old minor league baseball, with its stitching looking more like anchor boat cables – is going to hang on the wall.

In fact, the only picture that didn’t make the cut was my other lenticular print, the one featuring the Grateful Dead logo on the side of an old beat-up VW Super Beetle. But that picture did claim a blue silk at Durham in 2019, so the picture still earned its love.

But man oh man … FIVE Chuck Miller artworks will hang at the New York State Fair this year. And the jury’s still out on whether any of them might claim some pretty ribbons and prize money.

Sweet lord. There is some good news there.

On Tuesday, however, I must make the proverbial “Drive of Shame” and go claim The Long, Strange Trip and bring it back home. No worries. At least this time I’m only bringing home one photo, and not all six.

Yeah. This feels amazing.

And here’s the thing – three of those images (Five Tickets, High and Tight, Strasburg 90) are also entered at the Iowa State Fair, and it’s still possible that any one of them could land on the walls there. And Five Tickets and Strasburg 90 are also earmarked for the Big E. And I’m also short-listing Strasburg 90 for Durham this year.

In other words, there’s a lot of anticipation right now in terms of Competition Season 2021.

Lots of GREAT anticipation.