Critical Mass

Critical Mass is not just for cyclists.

© 2004 Peter Marshall
Ten Years of Critical Mass – Cyclists show their strength in London. April 2004

Critical Mass is a program about exposure and community” says Photolucida, an arts non-profit based in Portland, Oregon, USA which runs this competitive programme. It’s a fairly simple and not too expensive way to try to get your work seen by a lot of people in the world of photography.

The initial stage costs $75 and gets your 10 submitted images seen by a group of around 20-25 jurors, many connected with Photolucida and Portland which makes a selection of the top 175 from each year’s crop.

These finalists then pay another $200 and their work gets sent to a fairly impressive list of 200 jurors, mainly from the USA, but with a sprinkling from around the world. These jurors get a CD-ROM containing the pictures and “a hard-copy thumbnail image index of all the artists with contact information.”

These jurors then select their top 50 photographers, who get the opportunity to have their work in a Critical Mass Top 50 show at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, USA, and Photolucida will publish monographs for 2 or more photographers from among the top-scoring finalists. Their work is also shown on the Critical Mass pages on the Photolucida web site – and you can now see the 2009 Top 50 there, as well as those from the previous five years.

All entrants get copies of that year’s monographs – though they may take a couple of years to come out – as well as a CD containing all of the submitted work.

If you are thinking of entering you have a few months to get your entry ready, as registration for Critical Mass takes place in late summer. $75 isn’t a great deal of money and you are going to get two or three decent photo books in return. The publicity for the top 50 must be worth the extra $200, and the chance of publication. So if you think the world is ready for your work it is certainly worth thinking about.

© 2006 Peter Marshall
May 2006: Brian Haw lectures Critical Mass cyclists, asking where they were on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, back in London, Critical Mass continues to happen on the last Friday evening of every month

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