I made a post a little over a month ago proclaiming that one of my photos had just been published in the annual Concours Amateurs contest issue of the French magazine PHOTO. In the old days, copies of this January/February issue of the magazine would become available for purchase at American newsstands around the second week of February. For some reason, distribution seems to have slowed down quite a bit, as it doesn’t usually reach our American shores until the middle of March.
However, one of my Facebook friends in France, Raphael, was kind enough to send me a copy of the magazine, which I received last week. If you read the post last month, you may remember my writing that this is the sixth time that one of my photos has been published in the contest issue since 1999, but the first time since 2007.
Therefore, to celebrate my being back in print again, I’ve decided to make a post about all of these successes.
The 2014 issue
While my first time in the magazine was in 1999, that was not the first time that I made a submission for the contest. That was two years earlier, I remember, when I sent in some photos in late 1996 for the 1997 contest issue. When I say “sent in,” I really mean ‘sent.’ Today, submissions for the contest can be done online, but back in 1996, one had to physically send a bunch of prints in the mail off to France.
Then as now, the magazine allows twelve photos to be submitted by each photographer, so for several years, I packed a dozen 8 x 10 inch RC prints into a large envelope and mailed it to the magazine’s office just outside Paris. Of course, I knew that I would never see those prints again, and with several tens of thousands of photos submitted, I don’t blame the magazine for not even trying to send them back. (They were supposedly destroyed afterwards.)
None of my photos were printed in the 1997 issue, but I did get in another way: in each issue, spread across two large pages in teeny tiny type are the names of the many many people whose photos survived the first cut in the selection process – and there I was! So, at least that was a little encouraging. I began photographing nudes in 1995, and after seeing this issue of the contest issue of the magazine for the first time, with a section devoted to nudes (can you imagine an American magazine having such a thing?), one of my goals was to get published in it.
As I recall, I waited an extra year before submitting again to make sure that I had some really good work to put forward, and made a submission for the January/February 1999 issue. Then as now, if your photo is included in the magazine, you are not notified about it. You have to wait until you see an actual copy of the magazine to see if one is there or not.
So, one day in February 1999, I took a lunchtime walk from my office in lower Manhattan over to the World Trade Center, where I went down to a large newsstand on the concourse level. I walked in, and there it was in front of me: a stack of the new PHOTO contest issue. That’s when I began to get really nervous. I can still remember how my heart was pounding like a jackhammer as I picked up a copy and began looking through it. I found the section of nudes, Charme, on page 28. It was all text, with a full page photo opposite it on page 29. Then I slowly began to turn….
After that, most pages had eight or nine roughly baseball card sized photos each. Page 30. Nothing. Ditto for page 31. I turned again…. Page 32 had a single photo, not mine. Then page 33….
And there it was! One of my photos, smack dab in the middle of the page!!! It was a photo that I had made in New Mexico near Santa Fe in 1997, and one of my best. So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to see it. This may be difficult to explain, but greater still than the joy of seeing the photo on the page was the sense of relief that it had not been ‘not published.’ That’s because I had sent in good work and would have been really really disappointed if nothing had been selected.
Ironically, the photo to the immediate left of mine was by a Canadian photographer named Dan Cardish, who I would become friends with several years later. It wasn’t until after I had known him for some time that I looked at the magazine again and realized that his photo was next to mine.
Now that it’s gone in the wake of 9/11, the event that I just described is perhaps my most vivid memory of the World Trade Center.
Of course, I continued to submit after that, and another photo was chosen the very next year for the 2000 issue. With over 40,000 or 50,000 photos submitted every year and only about 500 published in the magazine, it is very much a numbers game, so I was disappointed but not surprised when nothing of mine was chosen for each of the next two years.
Then, in 2003, one of my photos was again selected, and then again in 2004. It looked like a pattern was developing: two years in, followed by two years not. The pattern continued when nothing was printed in 2005 or 2006, but something was in 2007. Unfortunately, it stopped there. Nothing was chosen in 2008 – or 2009, or 2010….
It was getting very frustrating. I knew I was submitting good work, but that didn’t seem to be good enough. Eventually, submissions went from sending prints to sending in a CD (I think) to now doing it online. A few years ago, the magazine’s website showed that ten of the twelve photos that I had submitted were finalists, so surely one of them would make into print, right? Well, wrong!
I was even thinking of throwing in the towel and not even trying anymore, but as submitting doesn’t cost anything, I figured that I had nothing to lose by trying. In 2012, I actually didn’t submit anything, as the deadline for doing so was shortly after I had regained power following the twelve day blackout here at home caused by Superstorm Sandy. (I had, as you might understand, other things to take care of first.)
Now we’ve reached the present issue, for which I submitted photographs from my 2012 Maine /Canada trip and last year’s trip to Iceland. The one selected was made in Maine. Are these photos any better than the ones that I had submitted during the previous six years? I guess that’s up to other people to decide.
So, I’ll have to see what happens next year. Perhaps I can start a (good) pattern again.
About Dave Rudin
Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.