New Zealand D-Photo


Richard Wood, one of Aotearoa’s most awarded profession­al photograph­ers, shares his advice on the gruelling but ultimately valuable and rewarding process of entering photograph­y awards


’Tis the month before awards and all through the house not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. This is because it’s ******* midnight and everyone else is asleep. And that mouse has actually been awake in my head for hours, riding on the back of a cat, until it disembarke­d at the docks and boarded a big ship via the ropes. Damn thing found a clock and now I have that nursery rhyme ringing in my brain over and over.

Once I’ve finished this draft I’m writing right now, I’ll pop my headphones on and walk the street where it’s dark and just me. It becomes my own world then. My music will encourage me to think; it’s just what it does. Who knows, this year you may just see this mouse looking back at us after the panel chair announces, “Next print, please”. That’s if it hasn’t gone on to become a rat, a cat, a cow, or a rhinoceros.

I’ve been entering the New Zealand Institute of Profession­al Photograph­y’s (NZIPP) Iris Awards since 2009, and we have a love-hate relationsh­ip. I’m often overwhelme­d with work already at this time of year, yet I feel the desire, the need, to create a set of ‘my best work’ to impress the judges. My stress levels are at their highest. My nights are at their latest. My lawns are at their longest. I hear, “You’ve done pretty well, Richard; why don’t you give it a break?” I hear, “Is it worth it in the end?” God, I go mad — every year; crazy. I hate these damn awards! The ‘little me’ sitting on my left shoulder yells things like: It’s too hard. What’s the point? You’ve got enough. You don’t need any awards. Judges aren’t clients. Then the other ‘little me’ on my other shoulder blatantly points out the facts. As creatives we can fall short through emotions and we lay down for our feelings. It’s what we do. This is a time that I turn to what is fact.

These are my facts, but I’m sure many of us share them.

Improved thinking: The Iris Awards let your mind/brain step outside of the everyday. The awards encourage you to be innovative and original in your work. This is called thinking outside of the box — whether it be a piece of work that we’ve created for the awards, or a piece of work that we’ve created and are looking back on and thinking it should be an entry. We’ve appreciate­d the difference and magic of that one photograph. Doing this installs the reward for innovation in ourselves. Why is this a great thing? First, because when we are innovating, we are growing. A species that never innovates cannot go through evolution. Secondly, while innovation is often immediatel­y translated as insanity, it’s actually ‘bringing’ sanity to our day-today work, which at times I feel is what actually creates the insanity.

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