So, last month was our annual AIPP Qld Professional Photography Awards (QPPA). Some of you may remember that I have enjoyed having great success entering awards since I joined the AIPP back in 2011. I was so excited, and so drawn into the process when I first began the journey. It meant so much to be validated, to know that I was on the right track with my work. Having been self-taught and working autonomously through-out my entire photography career, I never really did know whether I was “up to par” with my skill set and the level of work that I was producing.
I entered QPPA for the first time in 2011, and I was instantly hooked. I entered the AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA) for the first time that year too, and was so excited by my achievements (1 x Silver Awards and 2 x Silver Awards with Distinction), I instantly decided that I wanted to keep pushing the bar higher, in pursuit of that elusive Gold award. I set myself the goal of achieving my Master of Photography status, and in winning a category title. I convinced myself that to achieve these goals would give me grand exposure, increase my income and client enquiries and give me added credibility for the loyal client base that I already had.
Fast forward 4 years, and to date, I have won the following awards for my work at both state and national level:
20 x Silver Awards
6 x Silver With Distinction Awards
2 x Gold Awards
Runner Up Qld Professional Family Photographer Of The Year 2012
Top 3 Finalist Qld Professional Family Photographer Of The Year 2013 (they no longer have a “runner up”)
4 x Silver Awards
Highest Scoring Print Family Category 2013
I have also entered a variety of other national and international awards/competitions with varied success.
So yeah, this looks like a pretty good haul for 4 years worth of award entries, I hear you say. And it is. I am proud of what I have achieved in those few years, and yet, it is bittersweet for me.
I have all of these awards and that is all well and good, but I ask myself, what has it actually done to benefit me, my business and my family? Time and energy and emotional considerations aside, I have spent literally thousands of dollars on printing, matting, entry fees and the like over the past few years, and can I sit here and say that this money has been a wise investment? Has this money translated to huge exposure, to a massive increase in enquiries and bookings and income? No. Not one bit.
In fact, over the years, I have had regular comments from clients along the lines of “Now that you are this famous photographer, I will never be able to afford you”, “I didn’t bother trying to asking you as I just knew you’d be completely booked out now that you have all of these awards”, “Now that you are at the top of your game, you don’t need us anymore”, and my personal “”favourite”, “I know you are winning all of these awards, so you wouldn’t care about little clients like us anymore”. Wrong.
What began as a quest for validation, has turned into a journey of self-absorption, ego, and obsessive comparison with other photographers who are achieving the titles that I dreamed of. I kept telling myself, over and over, that “I just want to win one title, so that I can own one trophy in my life to show my kids and make them proud”. But the truth is, in pursuit of this, I was ignoring my kids, my family responsibilities and my friends. I was constantly torturing myself and being self-loathing for not achieving the goals I had set. I was always putting myself under pressure to find that next level of creativity and feeling disappointed with myself when I felt that I couldn’t. I was constantly feeling bitter at other photographers who seemed to have the Midas touch and won every single thing that they entered, and bitter at myself for not being good enough to do the same. I was constantly blaming the flawed awards system for my own failings. “They just don’t understand my style”, “My work is too colourful and happy to win”, “That judge shouldn’t be on that panel”.
I was being completely self-indulgent and so overly critical that I was destroying my very soul.
Sure, my work was at a level that I never thought it would be, and I was kicking goals that I had only dreamed of years ago, but with each achievement came disappointment that I was still not quite “there”. I had achieved that “Gold” that I wanted very early on, and also my Master of Photography, and yet, that coveted title of winning a category continued to be out of my reach. “Why can’t I just win, just once?” “For once in my life, why can’t I just be the best at something?” “I need to prove to people that I am not just a one hit wonder” “I need the prize money” “I need the credibility for my clients/business”.
What a load of bullshit.
What I need is a business that provides my children with a secure form of income. What I need is to provide amazing images and a beautiful experience for every single one of my clients. What I need is for my kids to say “we have the best mum in the world”, not “our mum is the best photographer in the world”.
The buck stops here.
From here on in, there will be no more. No more self indulgence. No more comparison. No more obsession to win. The emotional, and financial burdens are just too much for me and my family to carry.
I am a mother of 5 beautiful, amazing, unique little individuals who are growing into wonderful people (and almost adults!). I am a lover of colour, whimsy, happiness. I am Tanya Love, photographer, whose heart bursts every single time she looks through a camera and sees a beautiful little soul staring back at her. I am a crazy, cliche “tortured artist” who is her own toughest critic and constantly second guesses her abilities in everything she does. I am Tan, the hardest working idiot I know, who is in the constant pursuit of perfection often to her own demise, but from now on, I will embrace these things, rather than chide myself because of them.
I may enter the odd awards or competition in future. But not at the level that I have done in the past. I will no longer make sacrifices to enter awards. I can’t say that I am going to go cold turkey, but I will say this; I will be putting the same amount of energy, and love, and effort that I have been putting into awards these past years, back to my family, my clients and some very special personal projects that I am planning. And for this, I will be a changed person, and I can only hope that this will be obvious in the work that I produce as a result.
Here are my award entries from last month’s QPPA, which achieved a total of 7 silver awards and 1 79 (you need at least an 80 to be awarded). I love each and every one of these images, and the beautiful people that are in them – each with their individual stories, personalities and nuances. And that is all that matters. That is worth so much more than any number on a piece of paper, or certificate can give me. I will never ever forget that again. I will never ever chastise myself because I didn’t achieve a gold award on something I put my heart and soul into, because what I get back from my clients and my family looking at these images and remembering the processes to create them, is worth so, so much more.
And for those who are looking to enter awards themselves, best of luck with it, I hope you achieve everything that you set out to do. Please know that I wish everybody well in their journey, and that just because I found myself feeling like this, doesn’t mean that it will be the same for everyone. We all have a different path to follow and goals to reach, and that is what makes us all individuals and makes our art such a subjective and personal thing. xx