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An Award for Photographic Merit

A brief walk through my journey to gaining a C-PAGB

Background

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.

"Skipping Tea", London

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Mentorship

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!

Before and after as suggested by Jane. A simple change but very effective.

Eventually I had ten images and I was ready to enter.

L&CPU Advisory Days

The L&CPU run another great scheme beyond that of the mentorship programme, that being their advisory day and mock adjudications. Essentially, it is a chance to run through the process that will be gone through on the day of the official PAGB Adjudication but in a safe environment and with feedback. Thus it made sense to me to take full advantage and I dutifully signed up with the selected images.

Images entered, the adjudicators assembled and the marking commenced. The result: a 'pass' and a warm feeling. On that day I completed the paper work and had it submitted to run the real PAGB gauntlet. I was committed to having an entry in the November Adjudication Day.

Although I had passed the mock, there were three images that were below par. A few readjustments were required and by switching out the weakest. The final panel of images was finally produced and submitted.

PAGB Adjudication Day

Forms filled in. Images submitted. All that was needed was to turn up on the day and hope. Destination Pontefract!

I arrive with Lorna, giving me much needed moral support. There were lots of people, a lot more than I thought there would be, all waiting to be let into the main hall after signing in. The sense of anticipation was obvious. Everyone was offering their words of encouragement and support as we all took our seats.

The officials entered to start of the proceedings. First, a welcome and introduction to the day with an overview of how the adjudication would be done. The adjudicators were introduced. It wasn't long before the action began. First the prints and then the projected digital images (PDIs). There were over 300 prints on the day and a 150 projected images to be assessed.

As each image was shown, the title was read aloud and within seconds, the score. Individuals were writing down their marks to keep track of their cummulative score as they awaited the appearance of their next image. Meanwhile, the rest of the audience admired each image, whispering comments to each other and clapping or gasping at the resulting scores.

It made for a tense day. as you are hoping for no less than 20 points per image. I waited and mine slowly came out in the mix of images. Here are the images in their order of appearance and the score that was called out:

"Dog Tired" scored 22 Points. Total 22, or wiggle room +2
"Evolution Of Man" scored 23 Points. Total 45, or wiggle room +5
"In Need of Redemption" scored 22 Points. Total 67, or wiggle room +7
"Ready To be Judged" scored 24 Points. Total 91, or wiggle room +11
"She Spies The Bride" scored 20 Points. Total 111, or wiggle room +11
"Sign Of The Times" scored 22 Points. Total 133, or wiggle room +13
"Skipping Tea" scored 22 Points. Total 155, or wiggle room +15
"Station Light" scored 21 Points. Total 176, or wiggle room +16
"Taking a Sip" scored 23 Points. Total 199, or wiggle room +19
"The Magic Number" scored 21 Points. Total 220, or wiggle room +20

Total - 220, with 20 points as wiggle room and the standard achieved!

There was a break after all the images were assessed, and for some with a 'near miss', there is the opportunity for a brief reassessment. So there may still be a chance.

Once this is all completed the awards begin. Each person who achieved the required standard was called up to be presented their CPAGB Pin and a handshake from Gordon Jenkins. And, as with all events like this, the inevitable group shot.

The Blue Pin

As mentioned, it is a journey of faith in your own photography and to pitch it against a given standard. With help and support from a mentor it is definitley achievable but it's a lot of hard work

Why not give it a go? See for yourself!

Have you attempted an Award for Merit? Tell us your experience by sending your comments below.

Nancy Lisa Phillips - "Superb write up about your journey to the award. To me, you are understatedly brilliant but humble with it. You will last the course whilst many will drop by the wayside. Evolution of man was sublime and the tea shop was a punchy, leafy delight. A fantastic award going to a tip top tastic photographer!!! Nance x"
Victoria Hotson - "That is such a wonderful & interesting blog Alf Myers & so delighted for you in reaching a fantastic achievement x" via Facebook
Terry Donnelly - "Well done mate, thanks for the mention. You thoroughly deserve this!" via Facebook
Vaishakhi Chhotai Doshi - "Congratulation Alf. Brilliant work. I really enjoyed reading your blog too. It’s quite inspiring." via Facebook
Phil Barber - "Enjoyed reading the blog mate, well done on your distinction super work" via Facebook
Andy Phillips - "Just read all the blog. Brilliantly and honestly written. If your objective was to educate the likes of me who honestly didn't know all of that then it succeeded. It's not a journey for me but that is just my opinion. You have put yourself under a lot of pressure and come thru with an achievement. That's a win-win to me. You are right about emotional content interfering with the image... I look at some images I have taken and remember what it actually took to get them onto paper!! But that journey doesn't show up on a final print, does it? I agree that street has lost its way in club competitions and is not as popular. But the same can be said for landscape work. All goes round in the big machine and will reappear again one day. New people at our club can be a little confused about the subjects you covered and it should be clear now." via Facebook
Rachel Wilson - "Informal information, easy to understand. Great photos." Via website comment.
Created By
Alf Myers
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Credits:

All images are by Alf Myers

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