A brief walk through my journey to gaining a C-PAGB
I've been a member of Preston Photographic Society for a few years now and part of being a member, along with a majority of photography clubs and societies, is the regular competitions. These competitions are there to help members get a feel for how their photography is improving in relation to the wider membership of that club and to gain feedback from an impartial voice.
Over the years, I've entered these competitions, winning rounds here and there, not to mention winning 'Print of the Year' for my image, "Skipping Tea" in 2015, selected by the amazing Terry Donnelly no less. That, I have to say, was a very pleasant shock to the system.
All of this is good, but as I mentioned above, you're testing your work against your peers in your club or society. There comes a time when you may want to push the boundaries a little. One way is to enter competitions as part of a wider group of clubs. For me, this initially happened by my images being selected for inter-club competitions and then also by personally submitting images into the Lancashire and Cheshire Photographic Union (L&CPU) individual competition. All of which lets you get a feel for how your photography skills compare in the wider club context.
Another route to gain wider assessment, and potentially recognition, is that of certification by bodies such as the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) and their Distinctions or the British Photographic Exhibitions (BPE) and their Crown Awards. A further route is the Award for Photographic Merit run by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB).
I've had a few attempts at the BPE process but found I was stabbing in the dark. However, I learnt that the Lancashire and Cheshire Photographic Union (L&CPU) provides a mentoring system for members who are going for one of the awards run by the PAGB. So this, along with a little encouragement from Terry, helped me make a decision to give it a try.
The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain Awards
Before we go into how the L&CPU can help, we need to understand a little about what the Awards for Photographic Merit are all about.
Essentially they are there to assess images produced by a photographer against a set standard and, if they are deemed to have met that standard, provide certification of the award. The assessment is made by six approved adjudicators who will view each image and assign a mark. 2 points if the image is below the standard being assessed, 3 points if they're not 100% sure which way it falls and are on the fence, 4 points if it meets the standard and 5 points if the adjudicator assesses the images as being suitable to be of a higher award category.
The award categories are:
- Credit. The standard achieved from that of a good club photographer. 10 Images with an overall 200 points required to pass. In other words, if you're achieving regular success in your club's competitions then this is the standard you're looking to achieve across all 10 images and your club needs to be seen as a good club too.
- Distinction. The Open Exhibition Standard, or images that are seen as being suitable for acceptance by an open exhibition. 15 Images with an overall 300 points required to pass. One way of testing this is by submitting to the BPE's Salons and if your images are consistently being selected, then they probably stand a chance of meeting this standard.
- Master. This standard is seen as that achieved by the highest of UK amateur photographers. 20 Images with an overall 450 points required to pass.
I opted to attempt the Credit Award for Photographic Merit.
With decision made, I contacted the L&CPU and before long had been assigned a Mentor in Jane Lines. After a little communication with Jane via the medium of messenger I was on my way. Initially I shared a range of images to get a feel for where I stood. A few were suggested as possibles; a lot were rejected, and lots of guidance was given. One thing that came out of this was that my favourite images weren't up to the standard required - emotional content and connection makes one blind! Be prepared for this should you decide to attempt accreditation yourself.
Other images that were deselected were seen as good but not suitable for the audience. I maybe took a hard route and made it my own personal challenge in attempting to achieve the award with my street photography and, for any of you out there that have tried submitting 'street' into the general club competition, it tends to be an uphill struggle. So we plugged on, probably taking a little longer than Jane was used to but her guidance helped me to look at images with a different eye and approach to processing.
One example of this was in Ready to Be Judged, which had already done well in local club competitions and even gained acceptance in a few BPE salons. However, with Jane's input, a few tweaks made a difference. This is the only image that wasn't 'street' but I did like what I achieved!
All images are by Alf Myers