I had an exciting e-mail from Olympus yesterday letting me know that the Olympus Proteges final shortlist has now been announced and the public vote is now live. The competition covers four genres: Landscape (for which the mentor is Mark Cargill), Music photography (led by rock photographer Mick Hutson), Fashion portraiture (with Damian McGillicuddy) and Animal portraiture with myself.
There were hundreds of entries in this competition as you can imagine – unsurprisingly, given the prize. This includes a fabulous Olympus OMD EM10 camera with lenses and dedicated tuition with one of the mentors, all-expenses-paid of course. This prize will really give a boost to someone wanting to improve and fast-track their photography, perhaps with a view to progressing into fully fledged commercial work. The process of whittling down the entrants into a manageable first shortlist was tough. After all, given the size of the prize, we need to get this right. I’m looking for someone who is going to really appreciate the opportunity and genuinely benefit from it. It’s fair to say that in competitions like this there will be a great many applicants who are simply looking to get their hands on some free camera kit (which may well end up on eBay the following week). There will be further applicants who are already established within their field and who are already working professionally on a regular basis. It was decided that most of these applicants fell outside of what we were looking for – particularly if they already have a strong skill set and personal style – they are unlikely to benefit as much as a newer or emerging talent.
Because I will be working closely with the winner in my category the person behind the lens becomes important as well. I need to be able to engage with my protege and feel that I can help them to learn, to give them confidence, or at the very least think differently or more creatively. This is where the personal statement which accompanied their submission photograph becomes important. I want to see enthusiasm shining through. There were some great photos submitted to the competition, with very weak biographies. There were also some fantastic biographies, with insufficient supporting evidence. I need to feel that the winner will set aside the time necessary to take part in the tasks which will be set over the coming weeks – this may not work for someone who prefers to spend every weekend at the country club with their family, or who is away on business much of the time. Due to all of this, my final shortlist involved quite a lot of detective work. I’m looking for evidence that the entrant has a genuine love for animals and nature photography and can exhibit a strong leaning towards this field, but also a genuine willingness to learn and move forward. Interestingly, despite a good submission photograph some of the candidates I thought about shortlisting appeared not to have photographed any animals at all, aside from the family pet or a random bird whilst on holiday. Facebook and Google play a part in this kind of research, and this gave me an insight into the personalities involved, and how big a part photography really plays in their lives. It was an enlightening process to say the least.
And here we are – I’m delighted to present my three very special finalists. Warmest congratulations to Karl, Mike, and Chris (in case anyone is wondering, there is a deer in the photograph behind Chris’s head!).
If you’d like to vote for one of my candidates then please follow this link: Olympus Proteges Competition Animals Category Clicking the ‘vote button’ will create a specific Twitter vote for that individual, appended with a #TeamCANDIDATENAME etc. Voting will run until Sunday 21st of September.