“Thank you for your submission to the “x” exhibition. Making selections was extremely challenging for our juror, due to the amount of excellent work submitted. So many great images did not make the final selection.”
The world of photography, and art in general, is full of contests and competitions. Close to a hundred of them hit my inbox every week. They promise pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and all I have to do is submit my work. It almost sounds like it’s easy to become famous and rich as an artist. What most of them don’t tell you in the invitation email is that there’s a registration fee for most contests that pops up once you try to go ahead and register. Once you pay the fee, ranging from a typical $35-$45 up to sometimes $95, you’re officially in the run to win the contest. Along with (tens of) thousands of other talented individuals. If you win, you might win a cash prize, exhibition contract, book participation, or any combination of the above. Or, in some cases you’re awarded to pay an additional $950 in fees to participate in the final rounds. Such an honour.
Winning a prestigious contest definitely will help kick start and improve an artistic career. Then again, signing up for each and every contest out on the world wide internet will probably drain your bank account and fill your inbox with “PFO” emails like the above before your career got going. Truth be told a lot of these contests receive far too many submissions in order for your very best work to even stand a chance to be seriously looked at by the jury. You’re competing with sometimes thousands of other artists, if not more. And the only career it really enhances is for whoever is on the receiving end of the registration fees. I’m not good at math but thousand times a 45 dollar registration fees adds up to enough cash to give out a prize or two.
There’s a lot of fees we pay every day without thinking much about it. My bank charges me a monthly fee for the privilege of me giving them all my money and them getting to play with it. In exchange I get to earn interest on my savings. A closer look learned me that interest rate is pretty marginal at times, for one of my accounts well below half a percent. Earning interest this way feels a bit like playing a slot machine in Las Vegas: after a five dollar spin on the reels the machine tells me I “win” 25 cents. That’s a pretty nice way of telling me I just lost 95% of my money. So I’m confident and spin the reels again. Again, I’m no math expert.
The last one I’ll rant about today are airline fees. The amount of stuff you pay for on a ticket is overwhelming – it varies from “fuel surcharges” to “noise cancellation fees” because some smart city planner decided to build an airport right next to a densely populated area, or vice versa. After a while we forgot whether the chicken was first, or the egg. That’s your tax dollars at work, and this way you get to pay for their poor planning at least twice. I now even see courier services starting to charge a fuel surcharge for their delivery services.
I figured since I can’t beat them I might as well join them and thought about charging my clients a “fuel surcharge”. I got laughed at. I really must be no math expert, after all.