by Troy Colby
If you are like me I get daily notifications from many galleries pitching you their latest juried exhibition. I have even had a few direct messages lately asking me if I was going to submit. All of this can be overwhelming.
Which ones do I submit too, why should I submit and does it really matter in the end, are all questions I am always asking myself. I will be the first to admit I have done my fair share of juried exhibitions. I still find myself refreshing my email many times over the course of the day that the results are suppose to come out. Waiting for those results is exciting and nerve wracking, especially if you really want to make the cut. I will never forget my first acceptance notice many years ago. Those feelings stick with you.
The obvious reason is to submit is exposure. I feel it goes beyond this though. It has put my work in front of artists I love such as Todd Hido, Robert and Shana Parkeharrison and Keith Carter are just a few. Just knowing that they have viewed my work and selected it can give you that spark to keep making work. Sometimes that spark is all we need. In submitting to these exhibitions it has also forced me out of my bubble. I am putting myself out there both mentally and physically. I have grown as an artist because of this. I am able to take those chances and roll with the “no’s” and the harsher critiques better. It also has put me in situations to where I have to talk about my work in person with new people. Now, I still struggle with eye contact, but I am able to do so thanks to my education and know that I can back my work and explain it. Plus the practice of just doing it more often is very helpful.
I can honestly say that yes it can get expensive, entry fees, print costs, framing/matting and shipping. This isn’t even mentioning your time involved. You have to do your research! Submit to like-minded themes, galleries and curators that tend to reflect your style and approach. Research the judge, see what their likes are and what other shows they have curated in the past. Being informed is one of the best approaches you can take before you submit.
Once you are submitting pay attention to every detail. It really isn’t that hard. Write it all out in front of you on a piece of paper and just double-check your work before you hit that submit button. For entry fees just be cautious. I try to not spend more than 50 or so dollars per entry. I have seen some that are 25 bucks per image, NO THANKS!!! Critical Mass is 75.00 to start and then if you make the cut it is another 200.00. This is a lot. I can say that in making the cut for the top 200, you will get critiques of your work in the end. This is very helpful. Lensculture is very good anymore at giving you critiques as well about the work. Both of these are very reliable, highly entered and respected.
Some also offer cheaper entry fees if you pay for a membership. Houston Center for Photography is one of these. Pay attention for you can get a student rate and this can save you in the end. In buying a membership you will receive their magazine called Spot as well.
So why does it even matter? Well you never know who is going to see your work both in person and online. I can honestly say that because of juried exhibitions it has lead to a solo show and just recently a selected group exhibition. I have been much more selective in the past few years. I tend to only focus on some big ones or if an artist I love is jurying anymore. Of course there are the free to submit magazines such as The Hand, Shots and even Fraction. This is just a small few of them out there. Shots and The Hand require you to buy an issue or subscribe, which is a no brainer for these are great publications. The great thing about print magazines is that you will have no other costs such as framing, shipping and printing. This is a plus! Lenscratch has good running lists of which ones that are reputable to submit to. It is always changing so just keep an eye on it.
For me in the end, it is about opportunities. You just never know, it may not lead to a thing or you might end up meeting another artist that becomes a good mentor or friend. We are all in this together and there are plenty opportunities for all of us. So if you do choose to submit just have fun in the end and do it because you feel it to be the right choice for you.