I knew they were coming. And they’re in my mailbox right now. Six little white postcards from Syracuse.
I went through this dance last year. Each one of those postcards has a single checkmark in one of two boxes. If the checkmark is on the box marked “NOT ACCEPTED,” then my foam-boarded artwork associated with that postcard will not hang on the walls of the Harriet May Mills Art Center in Syracuse, and I must hang my head in shame, drive to Central New York on Monday, and retrieve the offending artworks from the facility.
This drive of shame is inevitable – just like death and taxes. To my knowledge, no one has ever had all six submissions accepted. The most successful acceptance rate I’ve ever known is that someone had four of their pieces get the green light. My best success? Two pieces.
The competition’s 2014 rule change, requiring all entries to be foam-boarded and delivered for physical viewing by the judges, changed the way I planned my photo entries for the New York State Fair. In previous years, I would submit a compact disc with digital images, and the Fair organizers would send me an e-mail, alerting me that of the six that I sent, they wanted photos A and B. Then I could print and foam-board them and ship them to Syracuse on Acceptance Day.
At that point, I knew that at the very least, my artwork would hang on the walls of the Art Center, ribbon or not. And if any of them picked up a ribbon of excellence… well that’s perfect as well.
In the past, I’ve snagged one blue for a first-place achievement from Syracuse (Lodge’s in Polaroid PolaBlue), two reds for second-place awards (The AGFA Bridge over Ansco Lake, Nipper’s Polar Panorama), and four Honorable Mention fabrics (Action Under the Basket, Coca-Cola Relieves Fatigue, Low Tide at Sunrise, Pies on the Windowsill). That’s an amazing run. It really is.
Then came last year. I went zero-for-six in my State Fair entries for 2014. That hurt like non-anesthetic dentistry. Even though some of the images earned ribbons in other competitions last year – there was some solace in that Jesus Saves, for instance, claimed first-place blue silks at Vermont and at the Big E – still, that Monday morning drive of shame last year really tore at my emotions. I felt like I failed.
Yeah, you know what I’m thinking. Worst possible scenario. Which could mean that I might be the 29th kid, while 28 kids get birthday invitations. Argh.
And now I have six little white postcards in my mailbox. Cards representing the fate of a high-definition bowling alley photo. Cards representing the destiny of a wooden bridge. Cards representing the future of a parabolic bridge in the Adirondacks. Cards defining the decision to enter a splitfilm Instamatic mixture. Cards representing my use of color infrared film. And a card representing my choice to enter a lenticular four-seasons artpiece.
All six cards are in the mailbox. They all arrived at once. And I’m afraid to reach inside; it’s almost like I’ve been mailed six live mousetraps.
Maybe I should just drive to Syracuse on Monday and claim that I didn’t receive the cards, and let them tell me which ones made it through. Nah. Can’t do that.
I feel inside the mailbox. My fingers reach across the postcards, feeling for the sides with the postage stamps. The information of acceptance or rejection is on the reverse of each card. The only identifying information on the front of each card is a single alphanumeric character in the lower right corner. “J”, “V”, “A”, “W”, “P” and “2” – like six randomly-pressed typewriter keys. This way, I know which postcard represents which artwork.
Okay. Stop griping, Miller. Get the postcards out of the mailbox and be done with it. Treat those cards like you’re Breaker Morant. Shoot straight, and don’t make a mess of it.
First card up – LANE 2.
Urgh. Not the best way to start this.
Okay, let’s hope that PARABOLA: FROM HADLEY TO CORINTH got some love.
Oh come on. You know how many times I tried photographing that bridge?
Oh for two. My heart is pounding faster than a Skrillex track.
Maybe I can get some love for AEROCHROME FALLS… I mean, it did take silk at Altamont…
Aw, nertz. Just plain and simple nertz.
Okay, maybe my splitfilm of JESSICA: INSTAMATIC DICHOTOMY will pick up some love.
Grumbles. Snarls. Gnashing of teeth. That drive of shame on Monday is going to suck eggs.
Oh well… I still have two entries left. My super-wild concept of Vivaldi’s Pond and my simple, serene The Walkway.
Deep breath. Flip the card over. I feel like Richard Dawson on Family Feud. Hoping I don’t see another big red superimposed [X] on my screen. Point at the board … show me … THE WALKWAY.
Damn it, zero for five – wait, did that just say accepted?
Another glance. IT DID SAY ACCEPTED!!! Sweet jumping Emerson Literary Society, the photo got in!!!
My first ever Hamilton College-centric photo, and it’s going to hang on the walls of the Harriet May Mills Art Center!!!!
I want to dance right now! Hit it, Roger Wilco and the Radio Waves!
Okay… one for five… any chance we can make this two for six? Come on, can we get VIVALDI’S POND into the show? Please? Pretty please with color-changing Adirondack foliage leaves on top?
Yes!! Fist pump fist pump dance like nobody’s looking!! One year of experimentation and trial and error and my lenticular timelapse IS GOING ON THE WALLS AT THE HARRIET MAY MILLS ART CENTER!!!!
Oh sweet Lord in Heaven…
I need to dance some more. Scuse me. And the best song to dance to right now is a little high school jam from Fat Larry’s Band! Amirite? Yesimrite!
Okay, Miller… time for dancing is over. I still have to pick up my four entries that didn’t make the cut. That’ll be on Monday. But it won’t be six pictures. Because two will stay behind … for a two-week stay at the New York State Fair.
And after missing out last year, I can add some new stat-metrics to the totals!
- The Walkway becomes my second-ever NYS Fair picture with efke film; it’s also my first pic shot with the Rolleiflex to make it to the State Fair gallery. It’s also my first-ever pic of anything involving Hamilton College to get to the gallery stage. Not the Chapel. Not the statue of Alexander Hamilton. Not the rotting corpse of Dunham Dormitory. I got a shot of the Root Glen and it’s been accepted!!
- Vivaldi’s Pond becomes my first successful State Fair lenticular print, my first photo comprised with Kodak Ektar film, and my first-ever successful State Fair pic with my Kodak Medalist, a/k/a “Kodak Red.” All the time I’ve tried to create something with a lenticular image, whether it’s been the L-Ken’s sign, or a shot of a rainbow-colored Volkswagen… FINALLY one of my lenticular prints has been accepted!!!
But honestly, as for my other four pictures, the trip up and back may not be a complete “drive of shame.” Because, to be honest, some of those pictures are going to another competition; they’ll just be arriving earlier than expected.
And some of the other pictures will be submitted for the Troy Photo Center Member’s Show. So this is good.
Plus… it’s time to get back to the State Fair. And that five-ton weight on the back of my shoulders, the weight that’s been there since last year…
It just flew away like a feather.