I Just Can’t Compete with the Wealthy

This week the “World Nature Big Photograph Exhibition” opens in Ikebukuro. There will be 290 photographs made by 78 people. The other day I received the list of titles and makers. My name is on there with my one photograph. As I wrote previously, some people have more than a few photos at this exhibition. When I looked at the list I saw that:

One person has 27 photos

One person has 26 photos

One person has 22 photos

One person has 20 photos

One person has 15 photos

One person has 12 photos

Three people have 10 photos

The rest have 1 to 5 photos

I have to say that I find this a little unfair. There was no limit to the number of photos that could be submitted for the exhibition, however, there was a cost of 20,000 yen for each photo to be printed and framed. Looking at the above figures, clearly some people have a lot of money. Well, that can’t be helped. I am a struggling father supporting a wife and child, paying a mortgage and so on. I just don’t have 500,000 yen to blow on joining a photo exhibition. But why I find this unfair is because I decided to participate in this exhibition as a means of self-promotion. It’s why I join any exhibition. If one of my photos is part of the show and some people see my work and notice my name that’s great.

Until now, all exhibitions that I have participated in have had a fair representation of the contributors. Usually everyone gets one photograph exhibited or in the case of a pair of images or a series of images one person may have all the images exhibited. I understand that this exhibition is different but it seems to me that this exhibition is for four people who have a lot of money, with five people for back up support. The rest of us are just filling in the cracks. We weren’t really needed so badly. It’s just that the gallery could hold so many images and the first 9 people couldn’t or didn’t fill it.

The way I see it is like this. Let’s say you go to the exhibition and see a photograph you like. You check the title and see photographer A made the image. Later you check another good image and see photographer D made it. The next photo you like was also made by D. As you go down looking at the titles and artists of the photos you like you see that you liked one image by A, three by D, one by H, six by J, two by K, eight by M, one by P, twelve by Q and so on. After viewing all the images you’ll note that particularly J, M, and Q photographers stood out because you saw their names several times. You check the list and see that they all had 15 or more images exhibited. They must be great photographers then to have had so many photographs accepted for this great exhibition. You go back and specifically check their works again. Perhaps some of them are present and you can talk to them. Maybe they have a Web site or a book. As for A, D, H, K, P photographers whose images you also liked, they don’t stand out in your memory because you didn’t see their names as often. You forget them though if their photographs really impressed you might still remember them for a while.

That’s how I look at it. The rich get more attention even though each of us has contributed from our best photographs. Each of us is likely a very talented photographer but simply didn’t have the money or didn’t choose to spend the money for this exhibition. And so it becomes an exhibition of four photographers, a few back ups, and a bunch of no-names to fill up the rest of the space.

Well, I submitted four photographs and two were selected but I had only money enough for one. So I suppose I could have submitted more and paid for more but the money just wasn’t there. At least I am still a part of the show and my name does stand out as it is the only name in Katakana.

The show runs from the 27th to February 1st at the Tokyo Gijutsu Gekijo near Ikebukuro Station. It’s open from 9 to 7 regularly, 2 to 7 on the opening day and 9 to 5 on the closing day.


4 responses to “I Just Can’t Compete with the Wealthy

  1. I’m not so sure. It’s rare for a photographer to take 20 absolutely unique photos – we all have a style, and a tendency to become a bit generic after a while. Personally I’d rather see 1-3 great photos by each person than 10-20 which are (probably) very same-y.

    Mind you, I’m also thinking that $65k for hiring a room for 3.5 days and framing some pictures is not a bad business!!

  2. Well, that’s kind of what I was thinking this exhibition was going to be about – a few photographs from each photographer. I feel like I am just an extra in a movie with four lead roles, five supporting roles and a bunch of bit part actors. I am sure that those with 20 images and over have some excellent work and I recognized one of the names since I saw her work recently in a magazine. But shouldn’t those people just hold their own exhibition? Or should this exhibition be “(Four people’s names) and Friends”?

    It might not be a bad business but it’s out of my capacity to compute. These days I have to balk at lunches that cost over 600 yen!
    Thanks for reading, Chris!

  3. I know what you mean, it does seem a bit unjust. But bit-part actors can go on to mighty things – look at what happened to Brad Pitt after Thelma & Louise! Ganbare!

    • Brad Pitt was in Thelma and Louise? I never watched that movie. But I hear you are the one who looks like Brad around here. Maybe you’d have the better chance, eh?

      Well, thanks for the encouragement. If nothing else I can add to my resume that I had a photo included in an exhibition with the Group of Four and their acolytes.

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