And with that it is all over for another year. The Mobile Photography Awards (MPAs) are done. A very-deserving winner has been announced – Jian Wang – a photographer whose work I was not previously familiar with. Entering the competition I had high hopes. I believed I had put together a strong collection of images across a number of categories and felt that this year I was in with a shout. Previous years, I had not that feeling. This year was different.
Back in 2013 I entered the MPAs and got two honourable mentions. More importantly, it focussed my attention. Sure I was enjoying photography as a hobby, but this competition provided a benchmark to assess my progress and a target to aim for. Here is what I wrote about entering the MPAs in 2013:
And there is the thing. If you enter a competition, you want to win. You want all others to come after you. There is no other motivation. When you don’t win, you can feel despondent. You examine your work. You hold it up to that of the winners. You cast an overly-critical eye on it and wonder where the hell you are going in your photographic journey. But, this feeling passes. And it passes because the endeavour, the hobby, the passion you have for it cannot be diminished by the choices of a judge or judges. No, the passion, the desire to show what you see and to show how you see it surfaces and you get out and you shoot again. And you enjoy it. You get back to looking at others’ photos and they inspire you and the whole things kicks off again. You want to learn. You want to sharpen and sensitise that eye to see better. And you begin to dream that next time will be your time. You’ll win.
And dream I did. 2014 passed. It was a a year I was lucky to get to travel to Asia again and this meant I was shooting intensively for the weeks I was there. I was honing my skills and working towards submission. The entry date arrived for the 2014 competition and I selected my images for entry. My goal was to win a category. I didn’t. I managed to get 6 honourable mentions across 4 categories, but no hiding it, I was disappointed. At the same time, I was very pleased for the overall winner, Sheldon Serkin. That is one thing about competitions – if you don’t win, but someone whose work you admire a lot does, it eases the disappointment. Read my blog about the 2014 MPAs.
Little did I know that a few short weeks later I would become part of something enormous on a global scale in the Apple Shot on iPhone 6 campaign. Definitely, it made up for missing out on winning a category, but you know, there is something about the acknowledgement of your peers, those who inspire you on a daily basis, that we need. 2015 would go to be magical for me. I won my first competition – the Mira Mobile Prize – and when I learnt of this, I cried tears of joy. It is true what they say about firsts. This was my first ever competition win and I have been fortunate to win a few more since, but none will ever compare to that feeling.
The year rolled on and the closing date for entries for the MPAs arrived. Selecting my images for entry was hard. I find the most difficult part of photography is not getting the shot, or editing. No, it is curation of images; trying to put together a series of images that allow for your vision, your interpretation, your style to strongly emerge is a challenge. In many ways, my wife is my best judge. Well, that is what she tells me. Leaning on her for advice, I finalised my selection and entered. The deliberation was over. Time to forget about it for a while.
I love and hate the way Dan Berman announces the results. He sure knows how to build excitement and tension. The first five categories were revealed. And I had won one! My Shibuya Night photograph won first place in the Street Photography category. I was thrilled. Street photography is my thing and to win in a category with so many other photographers whose work pushes me on was a real honour.
I saw in the first five categories to be revealed that I had got three other honourable mentions. I saw the winners of the other categories and said: “That’s it, David Ingraham will win this.” I am a huge fan of David’s work. He has his own unique signature. You see an image of his and you know instantly it is a David Ingraham. I saw Coco Liu win in the Water/Ice category and I felt the same thing. Here were two photographers whose work I adore. To win this outright, I felt, would be difficult.
Dan dragged things on. We had to wait another two days to get the results of all the other categories. While I went on to get another two honourable mentions in the People category (giving me a total of five honourable mentions), it was the images that did not make it that I focussed on. Funny, isn’t it how we seem to be drawn to dwell on the negatives. I began to believe this would not be my year after all. I began to hope it would be David Ingraham.
Finally, late evening yesterday the overall winner was revealed. Got to be honest here, Jian’s name was new to me, but his image of the black and white umbrellas which got an honourable mention in the Street Photography category had stopped me in my tracks a few days back. What an image that is. I began to do ctrl+f on the category awards pages and search for Jian Wang. His images began to appear. Each one after another seemed to build on the previous one; connected in style and vision. Ya, I said, I can see why. This guy’s work is good. The more I looked at it, good jumped to great, and I began to feel less disappointed for David Ingraham and Coco Liu and feel that this is justified. Jian Wang is a great winner for the MPAs for 2015.
So, it is February 2016. The year stretches out in front of me. It will be a year of travel – a year filled with photographic opportunities. It excites me to think what images I might make between now and December when I come to enter the MPAs again.
A final shout out to Dan Berman for founding and growing the MPAs to what they are today – the best mobile photography competition on the planet. Also, a big congratulations to all those who won categories, honourable mentions and to those who didn’t or didn’t enter. So many people to mention, but this community we share is what pushes me to create and become a better photographer.
Kiss the future!