The Final Question
Competition insight through the winner of Still Life
Photography by Simon Schollum
Near the end of a competition year, you may be wondering what to enter, how to shoot your subject and in what style, but ultimately the final question you will ask of your image is, is it good enough to win?
To gain some insight into answering this we caught up with the winner of the Still Life Photo Project, Simon Schollum. The story starts in his local bookshop.
“At my favourite bookshop in Christchurch I discovered and bought the 2012 hard copy edition of International Garden Photographer of the Year. Within its pages I found inspiration and instruction among the rich and exuberant images.
IGPOTY is what led me to photograph flowers.
Inspired to try my hand, subsequently my submission ‘Home Sweet Home’ received the award of ‘commended’ and was subsequently published in IGPOTY Collection 8. This was followed by a dried flower arrangement which was selected for publication in the IGPOTY Ten Year Anniversary book earlier this year."
The importance of inspiration can never be understated, and this constitutes the first part of the answer to our question. Ask yourself does it further inspire me and can it inspire others?
No matter who you are, what skill level, background, or what you're seeking to undertake, everyone at some point needs that vital spark, a breath of fresh air (inspire from Latin inspirare - breathe or blow into) – sometimes we don’t even know we’re looking for it.
This moment that we call inspiration leads to a process of comparison, and finally self-belief. If others can create images like this, in this way, why can’t I? The IGPOTY books are essential springboards for connecting people, with their potential.
Simon continues: “Artists such as Magdalena Wasiczek and Mandy Disher, together with the work of so many others continue to make the IGPOTY experience one to savour and return to over and over again. The well-designed IGPOTY website is responsive and full of relevant information and inspiration making it an essential source both for active gardeners and photographic artists of the genre.
The image, ‘Pomegranate’, is a direct descendant of the passion for still-life photography ignited by the images I found in that first IGPOTY book. I retired as a Police Forensic Photographer last year and happily spend many hours between the garden and my residential photographic studio.
As a genre I believe Still Life offers the contradiction of appearing to be supremely simple to achieve but is one of the most difficult subject matters to master. Fortunately artists throughout time have been drawn to its form which makes available to the contemporary photographic artist a rich trove of interpretations to draw on. The subject motivates me to develop further abilities with lighting and composition and see where this can lead.
Advice to other photographers would be to take time closely studying the work already promulgated by the many contributors to IGPOTY. If a particular subject or theme excites you, photograph, photograph, photograph and when you have done that photograph some more.”
This then, is the second part of the answer to our question. Ask yourself have I studied the work of others? Not merely to copy but to advance, build upon, and progress the genre and your own interpretations into new places that are guaranteed to move judges.
This is where a feel for originality is developed as well as most importantly, self-belief in both style and artistic approach. When we combine inspiration with knowledge, the stage is set.
Both answers have led to self-belief as being a driving force behind the competition process. And when you find this, you may just discover, that final question has entirely disappeared.