Conscientious Picks

The annual Conscientious Portfolio Competition is in some ways an ideal photographic competition, though I’m not generally a great fan of competitions. The annual competition is free to enter (but you will have to wait until late next year – this year’s deadline was 31 October 2016, 11:59pm ET.)

As Conscientious founder and editor Jörg M. Colberg writes:

I don’t believe in “pay to play.” Everybody needs to have the same fair chance. This is why the eventual winners are selected blindly, mimicking blind auditions: the judges get a set of photographs (and nothing else), with the names of the artists encrypted.

As well as being free, its also easy to enter. You simply start by sending an e-mail  with the address of your the web site with the project is on, and which of the projects there you are submitting.

It’s also a very personal view, with no pretention that this is some kind of industry consensus. You go through to the next round if Colberg sees yours as one of the 25 projects he finds of most interest. Then comes the final, where he and two others with experience in working with photographers – for this year Emma Bowkett and Felix Hoffmann, one a director of photography and the other a curator – each make there own personal pick of one project from the 25 in the pool.

There could be one, two or three winners, depending on whether they make the same or different choices. But the contest is run to try and create a level playing field. At this second stage each of those selected sends in 10 jpeg images at the same size which are then presented without the name or CV of the photographer:

Having a second round is based on the idea of making everything as equal as possible. With uniform file sizes, fancy websites won’t be able to beat out simple ones. With a special naming convention for the jpegs (which will hide the full names), the winner(s) will be solely chosen based on the quality of the work.

The prize is simply exposure, with the winners winners each having their work featured on Conscientious, one of the best-regarded photography websites, “in the form of an extended conversation”. This is a contest for ‘emerging photographers‘ and this will certainly be worthwhile and lead to coverage elsewhere. They might even get a mention on >Re:PHOTO :-)

The three winners this year have just been announced, in CPC 2016: The Winners, and I have to say that I find one of them rather more interesting than the other two. Readers will probably be able to guess which. There are links to their web sites on the page, and Colberg also tells us that of the 26 winners selected in 7 years, exactly 13 have been women and 13 men.

It isn’t an ideal competition, but for me beats most others in the way that it is organised. The one big change I’d like would be to have all the selectors being photographers rather than curators or employers of photography or critics. But that’s a view that reflects my strongly held belief that it is our medium and not theirs.


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