Like the previous one, this blog post is aimed at people looking at going for distinctions, and as a reminder for me in the future of my journey. Normal service with lots of images will be resumed in the next post :)
ADVICE FROM THE IPF
As well as showing my panel to UK photographers I know and whose opinion I respect, I also asked the Irish Photographic Federation to put me in touch with people who could give me advice, as I thought they more than anybody would know what is needed for a successful panel. Fortunately there were a couple of people who normally sit on the adjudication panel who would not be adjudicating in September. If somebody who is adjudicating gives advice on the panel they have to declare an interest and are not allowed to vote, so it’s best to avoid this, if possible. Des Clinton, the chairman of the adjudication panel gave some great advice, both on image selection and also very importantly the ‘Statement of Intent’, which can make or break panel. I also later found that Ross Mckelvey, an adjudicator I know very well, was not sitting in September. He suggested that in images 14 and 16 the images were more about the model as the background is quite dark, whereas all of the other images were about the model and the environment she is in. I had quite a few spare images, so it was relatively easy to find two replacements that I felt fitted in.
These were the images, which although good images, are not as much about the the model in the environment as the other images in the panel.
These were the replacements. They had to balance each other, as well as have locations and poses that were different from the other 18 images. I thought the cracks in the concrete in the first image matched the brickwork in the other image.
HELP – MY PRINTER HAS STOPPED WORKING!
In early August, just as I was about to start making the final prints, my printer stopped working. I have an Epson 3880 printer, which has a photo black/matte black changeover valve, even if you don’t use matte black ink the valve can fail dumping the contents of the whole black cartridge, meaning I was getting no black ink coming though even through the printer shows the cartridge as half full. I still had quite a bit of editing to do, but this was obviously a problem I could have done without. I didn’t really want to buy a new printer, and have to profile it and get used to it. Fortunately this is a well known problem with this printer, and there are a number of printer repairers who will fix it. So on 12th August after work I drove to Reprorepairs in High Wycombe, who replaced the whole valve and ink delivery system at a very reasonable price, all while I waited. I don’t often recommend companies, but if you have an Epson printer with a problem I can highly recommend this company.
As I was editing and printing the final prints there were some images that just didn’t really feel right.
I like this image, but I could just not get colours that I liked and that I felt fitted in with the panel. I worked for hours, fiddling in PhotoShop and LightRoom, but eventually gave up as there was something I just didn’t like, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.
I needed one with the model a similar size in the image, and doing a pose that matched with image no 2, and I felt this one worked perfectly.
I also struggled with this image, it’s one of my favourite images, and I cloned some detail into the pure white burnt out areas to remove any technical problems, but again for some reason I wasn’t happy with it.
Fortunately I felt this was a perfect replacement, same location but different lighting, and I felt the lower contrast worked better.
So that was it, all of the final images had been selected.
PRINT SIZES AND MOUNTING
In my talks my images are A3, or A3+ for long and thin images. For my Associateship panel I chose 1/2 of A3+, and I did the same for my Fellowship panel. I think A3 are a bit too large and overpowering when there are are whole panel of 15 or 20 of them, and A4 a bit too small. Also any technical faults will be enlarged in an A3 print, so the prints will look better quality when smaller than that. It’s also economical, as you get 50 prints from a box of 25 sheets of A3+.
I also printed each image so that the area of each image was similar. I worked this out by getting the length and width of the images area from LightRoom, putting the values on a spreadsheet, and ensuring the areas were within 10% of each other. I felt that this would mean that each image had the same ‘weight’ when looking at it.
When mounting all of the bottom borders were 10cm, with the left and right borders being equal. This means that the base of all of the images line up.
Finally I cut the mount so that there was a 0.75cm border of base white paper around each image.
STATEMENT OF INTENT
The panel must be accompanied by a statement on intent, basically stating what you are trying to achieve with the panel. One of the common reasons for failure on the IPF website is “Not exploring the subject as outlined in the written statement”.
The statement should not be too long and contain statements that the panel is not about, it should focus on the images in the panel and the reason for taking them.
I’m not good with words so it took me quite a few iterations to get there. You do get too engrossed in your panel, so getting independent viewpoints helps a lot.
I came up with the first version of the statement while visiting Janet Haines and putting the very first panel together. What was the panel about – “My Muse”. It was very simple and to the point, and the judges were likely to be surprised to see a panel containing images of just one model, so the snappy statement was intended to be another surprise.
However after discussing it someone looking at my panel I decided that while some judges might get it, and think it was novel, it was just as likely that the judges would not understand it, and not realise that all the images were of the same model, so it was too much of a gamble.
I thought about the panel again, and what I was trying to convey, and came up with a much longer version:
“My Muse: When I first worked with Lulu I knew I had met a model who shared my love of making images showing the beauty of the female nude in the environment.
She inspired me to seek out even more interesting locations, and our artistic journey has taken us far and wide to man-made and natural places, searching out the best light, integrating as well as juxtaposing her with the surroundings, creating shapes showing the beauty of her body.
The female nude is one of the classic subjects of art, with many artists being inspired by a muse, this panel shows what I have achieved together with my very modern muse.”
After discussing it with Des he was felt that this statement was too much about the model, and her influences on me, rather than the reasons for producing the images.
This was the next attempt, it was important to emphasise that the images were all of the same model. Otherwise the judges may have felt there were repetition with many images of the same model, not realising they were all of her :
“To me the nude is the most fascinating of subjects. I love the endless shapes the body can form, which can be further enhanced by the use of lighting to outline its contours.
I seek out interesting man-made and natural environments, so that I may integrate or juxtapose my model with the surroundings to showcase her beautiful poses and the natural light falling on her body.
All of the images in this panel are of the one model, showing the great variety of images that can be achieved when a photographer and model share the same artistic vision.”
I then decided to put the statement about the single model right at the front, and with a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with a good friend who is better with words I soon honed it down into the final statement.
“This body of work is a collaboration between one model and one photographer, where we set out to integrate and juxtapose her with various man-made and natural environments, to showcase her beautiful poses and the natural light falling on her body.”
“This panel is the result of a collaboration between one model and one photographer. We set out to integrate and juxtapose her with man-made and natural environments, to portray her beautiful poses, and utilise an appropriate natural light to reveal shape and form.”
This was the final statement:
“This panel is the result of a collaboration between one model and one photographer. We set out to integrate and juxtapose her with both man-made and natural environments, to portray her versatility in posing, and to use all natural light in order to reveal her beauty, shape and form.”
PHONE A FRIEND
I think many creatives, models and photographers alike, sometimes get the wobbles and lose confidence in their work. I was happy with the prints, but I just wanted a second opinion to reassure me. Fortunately a long time friend and excellent print worker, John Hartshorne, lives nearby and he popped around a number of times to look at the prints and give me his thoughts. He found no major issues, but he suggested a few little tweaks, and more importantly made me confident that the print quality was up to scratch.
VIEWING THE PANEL
I felt it was important to view the panel as the judges would see it, and I’m fortunate that the boards at the front of the club where I am a member could display a full panel. So the Sunday before the adjudication I went along to the club room, set the panel up, made myself a cup of coffee and spent 20 minutes just looking at it.
It was a really lovely experience just sitting in silence by myself looking at the panel that had taken a significant amount of time and effort to produce. It was a great break from the modern busy World we all live in, and it’s a super way of properly appreciating your prints.
I did actually make one change because of my visit, I made the top centre image larger, as it looked too small compared to the two squarer images at each side of it.
I flew to Dublin for the adjudication in September, arranging a shoot the day before and the day after with my good friend and ace location-finder Joe Doyle, I do like to make the most of these opportunities!
Joe also kindly drove me to the adjudication location. Two of the first 3 panels came up and did not succeed, while a great panel of monochrome portraits taken on a trip to Nepal was successful.
The judges then spent an age looking at my panel, often going into little huddles and pointing to specific prints. I can honestly say that with 7 experienced judges they do not miss a thing. The chairman then asks judges if they wish to comment, 5 of the judges chose to speak. They said lovely things, they liked the lighting, the locations, the shapes and poses, but they felt that image 9 did not fit in to the panel as the model was not as integrated into the environment as she was in the other 19 images.
The panel was referred on this image, as the chairman explained it didn’t pass and it didn’t fail. I could resubmit the panel with a replacement for print 9, and this print and only this print would be considered when it was re-adjudicated. The judges has said really great things about the panel, so when the referral was announced the panel was applauded enthusiastically by the audience.
A referral on one print is a close as you can get without succeeding, and I pretty quickly came to agree with their decision. The referred image is one of my favourite images, always a warning sign, and it’s quite dynamic unlike the other images.
My disappointment was also lessened when I heard that a number of other photographers who I greatly admire either failed or had there panels referred on their first attempt at Fellowship, and in 2015 only one panel had been successful. This showed how difficult this distinction was to get, and if it wasn’t difficult then it wasn’t really worth having.
For the replacement image I wanted one that was as bulletproof as possible, at the re-adjudication the 7 judges would be poring over this single print, so it had to be as perfect as I could make it. Fortunately I had shot with Lulu a couple of weeks before the adjudication in north Wales, I’d booked her then in case I was short of an image of two for the panel, and it would have been my final opportunity to produce the required images. On that shoot we produced a great image which I felt was a perfect replacement.
Here’s the replaced and replacement image.
Sadly I could not attend the next adjudication in November, but I am very grateful to Bob Morris who let me send the prints and who submitted them for me.
The IPF are a very forward looking organisation, they make good use of social media, and they Tweet the successful results live, so I was not kept in suspense for too long.
Congratulations to Tim Pile who has just achieved Fellowship distinction of the Irish Photographic Federation
— IPF (@irish_photo) November 26, 2016
I believe that it was a unanimous decision to pass the panel this time, with many great comments from the judges, including one judge who thought the replacement image was their favourite from the panel.
Here’s the successful panel, as compared to the very first draft of the panel:
I celebrated in true Irish fashion with a black velvet – Guinness and Champagne :)
I was extremely pleased that the first viewing of the successful panel was at my talk to my own camera club, where I was able to share my images with my fellow members.
Working towards, and being successful with, a Fellowship panel has been a really satisfying and rewarding experience. Like all of the distinctions I have worked towards I felt that it improved my photography, and I would have made that improvement whether the panel had succeeded or not.
I would thoroughly recommend distinctions of a way of focussing and improving your photography, and just don’t be worried about failure.
Many thanks to all of those who assisted me in various ways on my journey, and especially to Lulu who deserves the Fellowship just as much as I do.