How Juried exhibitions get a bad name

by Troy Colby

Over the years I have heard both positives and negatives about juried exhibitions.  I will be the first to say that I have participated in many of them.  Overall I have had good experiences with the majority of galleries that offer juried exhibitions. 

I wish I could say that I haven’t had any bad experiences but this wouldn’t t be true.  I have had two bad experiences from two different places.  Both of my bad experiences were from a lack of communication.  They wouldn’t follow up with questions being asked or would change the guidelines after the fact. This was my experience and it might be different for others. 

I think sometimes experiences like this tend to lead to the idea that juried exhibitions are a bad thing.  I bring this up because recently Shutterfest held a juried exhibition and the winners were recently were announced.  Which wouldn’t be a big deal but the owner (Sal Cincotta) of the Shutterfest had won one first place in five categories, second and third in many, even the Grand Prize!  In the end he pretty much won his own competition. 

An owner, juror, intern or employee you should not be allowed to enter his or her own competition. This just seems like common sense to me.  Looking at the website it looks professional and had a list of jurors to look review. I took some time and looked up some of the jurors.  The bulk of them were all family portrait studio/lifestyle photographers.  Just based on this list alone I would have not taken the time to enter.   For this is probably not the right venue for my work or other fine art photographers.

I am curious to see how this plays out.  The community that follows this has already caught on.  I am sure there will be some repercussions to come.  Sal has taken to Facebook to “defend” his win by stating, “judging was conducted blindly and in a public room with dozens upon dozens of attendees watching and listening to the scores and critiques.” He also stated, “the judges and chairs are encouraged to enter the competition.” I have never heard a judge or curator be allowed to enter the competition they are a part of.  What a crazy notion! 

This might be the last time you see a Shutterfest. I really feel bad for those who entered this completion.  Getting rejected is one thing but to feel like the whole competition was rigged is another feeling. Rejection always stings a bit.  I have learned that it is a part of the process and I should learn something from each rejection. I am sure this really stings to those who did enter. I can imagine they will be very skeptical before entering anything in the future.

There are many resources available to us to review before we enter a juried exhibition.  Lensculture, Lenscratch, F-Stop Magazine, Aint-Bad are just to name a few to get started with.  Research the venue, juror and past winners. If you are still in doubt, reach out to some of the previous winners or send the venue a message.  Most legit places will gladly answer any questions you may have.  It never hurts to take the time out before you go and drop your hard earned cash.  All of this will help you find the right competition to enter and hopefully avoid situations like this.

All images by: Sal Cincotta