In Praise of the Progress

By Joe Grabham

Progress Competitions have been running in our club, in one form or another, for 65 years. They weren’t always known as Progress Competitions and haven’t always had the same number of rounds, but they have always kept the same basic format – a series of competitions throughout the year where photographers pick up points for highly-placed images and where the winner is the person who amasses most points.

It was a simple enough idea, but it turned out to be one which has remained popular over the years. One only has to look at the attendance in the hall on any of our competition nights to see how much of a crowd-puller they are and how much entertainment they provide, but for me there has always been something special about the Progress. Part of the appeal, I’m sure, lies in its particular challenge – not only to produce successful images, but also to maintain that high standard over several competitions. Then there is the fact that the Progress Competitions are Open competitions, where we have the chance to go our own way with our photographic interests and to be as experimental or traditional as we like. They are the ‘competitions of opportunity’ in as much as they are our chance to put in an entry of whatever we choose; getting our images ‘out there’ for viewing by an audience; and having some feedback from the judge and (hopefully) from other members of the club afterwards. Getting some points is always a bonus, but we also learn a little from each competition, even if we miss out on the awards.  Billie Jean King once said “For me, losing a tennis match isn’t failure, it’s research.”

Finally, a plea for commitment! Back in the 1950s these contests ran over five rounds, with little more than a month between them. This is all a far cry from today, when we only have three competitions with a good interval of several months – so in order to compete, a member only needs six pictures! Yet we often see a significant fall in the entry numbers by the time the final Progress of the year comes around. This is nothing new and it may be because some of the competitors have realised that winning the trophy is not a possibility for them, so they drop out of the final round. All I would say would be to consider, by analogy, the situation where a football club, late in the season, decided not to play its final few fixtures because it had no chance of winning the league. Aside from the likely consequences from the football authorities, what would we think of the club’s motives?

So, for all those thinking of entering this year’s Progress Competitions – great if you do… but please see it through!

Joe Grabham EFIAP/Silver


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