Aside from the excitement of photographers and jurors eager to participate in Critical Mass, CM registration always brings in email from the confused, the curious, and the cynical. Let's deal with these questions together so that we can all benefit:
• Is there a time limit on work submitted? That is, does the work have to have been made within the past year or something?
- Our opinion is that good work is good work and CM is a program designed to put good work in front of good people who actually buy, publish, and exhibit, good work. If you started a project twenty years ago and just finished it up yesterday, you're welcome to submit.
• Can I enter if I'm a student?
- Yes. That good work philosophy applies here as well. In fact, I'd say that if you're a student who's making good work and looking for a way to get people outside your weekly crit to take notice, CM is definitely among the best ways to accomplish this.
• sRGB seems to work for photos with neutral colors, but there is a major shift with any color intensity. Many of the images I intend to send are color-intense. Why srgb?
- Given that our jury of 200+ photo professionals are all over the world, looking at your work on a wide variety of computers, under a wide variety of viewing conditions, the best we can do is keep the playing field consistent for all. Like it or not, sRGB is the industry standard color space for the web. UPDIG is a great resource for more info on the confusion inherent in this brave new digital world.
• Your information concerning pricing does not say whether Critical Mass/Photolucida charges a commission on sales. Do you?
- Absolutely not. Photolucida is, in a sense, a non-profit matchmaking service, not a broker. Our funding comes in from donations and grants, as well as the entry fees from our participants.
• Non-profit? Come on... emerging photographers don't have that kind of money. If you really want to help emerging artists, you should make it cheaper. Those artists have no money for games like these.
- Your cynicism is understood in this day and age, but Critical Mass is a totally unique program, unlike anything else out there. In a sense, it's more of a sourcebook or reference tool for emerging contemporary photography than a competition. Any artist serious about their work can easily recognize the value of having your work seen through CM. Just look at that list of jurors to the left and also peruse the Top 50 from past years and tell me that this program is a game.
As for the cost, yeah sure, I hear you. But in the end, we're a small non-profit and it takes money to build software, publish books and send them out to everyone who participates. We keep the costs as low as we can. As a photographer who entered CM twice before I joined the Board of Directors for photolucida, I always considered it a simple business expense. If I could enter now, I would.
Let's take a little stroll down memory lane. A little CM history from Christopher Rauschenberg, one of the founders of both photolucida and Blue Sky Gallery, and perhaps most importantly, a photographer himself:
When we were inventing Critical Mass, we started with one core principle - everyone who enters must get their money's worth - and with the concern that the total cost of going to a portfolio review was just too expensive for many photographers. We were looking for an affordable way to get the work of photographers into the eyeballs and brains of curators and publishers, and we realized that we could accomplish that by using the power of the digital revolution. Our original deal was "fifty reviewers for fifty bucks" and it was designed to provide reviewers with everything they might need to fall in love with someone's work and to start making something happen for that work. Based on our experience, we asked for ten images from each artist, plus a statement, print sizes and prices, and contact information. We gave this to the reviewers on CD but also in ink and paper, with the thumbnail pages. That first year 600 photographers entered Critical Mass and three of us built a 6600 page document in Quark Xpress, then pdf-ed it and added 24,000 navigational links. We also made a traveling show of work by ten of the highest rated photographers. Things have changed a little since then- we don't paste it up by hand anymore (having hired a web design firm to run an automated process through the website) and we've added the book program and increased the number of curators and publishers to 200, but it's still our vision to try and bring into Critical Mass every curator and publisher to whom it is worth a dollar to show your work, so that you can take care of getting your photographs into the eyeballs and brains of all those curators and publishers in one fell swoop.