Where rejection is growth

So let’s cut to the chase.  Rip the bandage off and hope that I don’t scream too loudly.

None of my three submitted artworks made the cut for the Wild Center’s “The Forest and the Tree” exhibit at their Tupper Lake museum.

I’m okay with that.  Surprisingly okay.

Now for those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you’re probably wondering if, based on the comment above, someone has hacked my TU blog account and is posting on my behalf.

Well, here’s the thing.

And this took a lot of learning and self-determination on my part.

I can’t get upset when my photos and artworks don’t make the cut.

Oh don’t get me wrong – I can stomp my feet and gnash my teeth for all of a short period of time.  But after that short period of time…

I have to think to myself… “What are my options?”

Two of the artworks have already been re-designated – re-framed, as my blog buddy Roger Green would say – to other competitions.  The third piece will be part of my next donation to Habitat for Humanity’s Sheridan Hollow home art project.

And herein lies a tale.  In the past, I know I’ve bantered around the idea that missing out on competitions is a personal attack, equivalent to someone suggesting that I’m not worthy to enter such competitions or shows.  I mean, where else did the words “Altamont Curse” come from?

But I look back at my photos in 2009 – the first year I entered my works for show – and I realize that, in all honesty, the pieces I submitted to Altamont that first year just weren’t as good as they could have been.

In other words … I settled for “just good enough.”

Yeah.  There’s those words again.  “Just good enough.”

But here’s something else to consider.  For every photo that didn’t make the cut, another one did.  For every experiment that fell flat, another photo stood tall.  And the ones that still stood tall – they kept on resonating.

St Patrick's Bell Tower polarizer 2 yellow filter
The Final Sermon. Nikon F100 camera, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens, efke 25 film, yellow filter with polarizer. Photo by Chuck Miller.

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsCase in point – yesterday I spoke with one of my Facebook friends, who was currently going through some rough times.  The family house was on the real estate market, and all the family’s pictures were taken down (apparently this is common practice, you don’t want family photos viewable during a house showing).  That FB friend told me that one of the pictures that family chose to keep on the walls was The Final Sermon, one of the shots I took of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Watervliet.

I was told that the family kept the picture on the wall of their home, even while the house was being shown to potential buyers, “reminds me that no matter what I’m up against to stand tall and firmly rooted.

That caught me.  Right in the feels.

I know people who have acquired my photos and Dream Windows and other crafted projects over the years.  Photos like The Railsplitter, my shot of the primrose weed busting through an old train track tie.  Photos like Jesus Saves, a mixture of neon and lightning and mercy.

Not every photo has to win a ribbon.  But not every ribbon is earned in competition.

That doesn’t mean that I’m walking away from competitions.  Hell, every time I take my cameras out for a walk, I know that I’m one shutter press away from a photo that has the potential to win.  To achieve.  To inspire.  To glow.

And there’s so many upcoming events, so many opportunities to bring my imagination into reality.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s tough to handle rejection.

But I think I’m getting better at it.  It’s not “We think your stuff is terrible, go sell your cameras and put the money in candy bars.”

No.  Now it’s more of “We think your stuff is great, and even though we didn’t have room for it this year, we want to see what you can achieve next time.”

And trust me, if there’s a next time … I will be there.

Count on it like you count on the sun rising in the East.

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2 thoughts on “Where rejection is growth”

  1. Chuck, don’t confuse the lay people chosen to judge such competitions with those who actually know something about art. Your work is world class. Period.

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  2. Art as competition has always been fraught with uncertainty. What IS the BEST PICTURE, whether it be photography, painting or the Oscars. There are standards, I suppose, but they get terribly subjective, tied to life experiences, et al.

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