Lately, I've been feeling slightly overwhelmed by the abundance of competitions, calls for entry, and grant applications out there. I have a stack that seems knee-deep and have been trying to decide, on a case by case basis, which ones are worth the time, money, and energy to apply to.
I try to be discriminating in regard to which shows or contests I apply to. I pay close attention to the juror, the venue, and any potential prizes involved, especially if those prizes include publication. I look at what artists have entered in previous years and what they are doing now. If I recognize a slew of artists who I respect, I take that as a sign that it's worthwhile. I know on some level that all exposure is good exposure, but sometimes it's not worth all of the cost to have your photo hang on the wall of some anonymous gallery where it won't be seen by many people. Simply the reward of getting into an exhibition isn't always enough of a draw. After paying an entry fee ranging from $30 to $80, or sometimes more, getting accepted into a show is exciting but often brings with it a price tag of several hundred dollars once you account for printing, framing, and shipping costs.
That being said, my stack of pre-screened calls for entry is STILL quite high, and I am faced with the decision of which ones are worth the fee and the energy. I tend to feel like I might be missing a potential opportunity if I don't apply for everything that seems relevant, but I also think that I (and presumably other artists trying to make a name for themselves) can get caught up in all of the exhibiting and promoting. In all of this hustle and bustle, it is not often stated that sometimes it is best to hang low and focus on making your work. Artists can't be focused only on the exhibiting side of things (I sure can't, anyway), and it is nice to be reminded that at the essence of it all, it is about making pictures that are meaningful, which isn't always easy and often requires a great deal of thought, energy, and time.
Don't get me wrong- I have several contests, grants, exhibitions, and residencies on my list of "to apply for"- each one dutifully written on a sticky note and placed on the wall above my desk. But I am also learning to strike a balance between the excitement of promoting my work with the quieter, more internal (though equally exciting) process of making images that I am passionate about.
I'm looking forward to a day in the darkroom today to print some new work.