I was recently preparing my submission for the Aperture Portfolio Prize competition. I had a bit of a pleasant surprise when I submitted work from my project: Foreclosed Dreams. Though I have mixed feelings about competitions that require you to buy something, in this case, the subscription to Aperture that I had to buy in order to enter seemed to be a good investment. I entered because I am at the point in the project where I have done some work, but before I decide to invest lots of time (and money,) I want some outside feedback on that work.
You can see that competition at: http://www.aperture.org/exposures/?tag=aperture-prize I certainly can get feedback from friends and family, but nothing teaches me more than showing the work to complete strangers, to see if it sparks a reaction in them. Even if I do not “win,” but if I am only a runner-up (or even if I just get a personal note from the judges,) I will know that my work is succeeding on some level. You can see the work at: http://www.davidhwells.com/docuForeclosedDreams/index.html
If I get no reaction from Aperture, I will continue sending the work around for a few more competitions, seeking some kind of positive reaction. If at the end of a year or so I have had “external endorsement” of the work, I will give up on the project. Though that sounds harsh, the idea of using outsiders to determine if a given project lives or dies is something I have always done. Digital technology and the Internet have changed my process a bit but not the end results.
The pleasant surprise that I had while I was submitting my work was in learning how they take in applications. They utilize CaFE, which comes from Call For Entries. It is an on-line submission system, which can be found at: https://www.callforentry.org/
According to the site:
CaFÉ is a Web-based service that allows organizations and administrators to easily and cost-effectively manage artist-application and jury processes related to calls for entry. The service is especially designed for use with public art projects, artist fellowships, and juried visual-arts competitions.
I have utilized the CaFÉ system once before and I thought it was a great idea back then. (It has been improved considerably in the last year.) Now that I was submitting for a different competition, some of the imagery and text I had already uploaded was available to me to use again. It costs nothing to set up an account. Once you have an account you can also scan the ever-growing list of competitions that you can apply for, on-line, through the CaFE system.
They even have a very nice calendar system that gives you an overview of upcoming application deadlines, etc. That can be found at: https://www.callforentry.org/calendar.phtml
The newest thing the just started for subscribers with accounts (like me) is a:
Weekly CaFÉ™ e-mail that includes a list of new calls for entry and those with upcoming deadlines. You will receive the first weekly e-mail of listings shortly. Also, for applications that you have started but not yet submitted, you will receive an automated reminder two days before the deadline for that call–no more missed deadlines! You can also opt-in to receive postcard announcement mailings from some agencies that administer calls for entry through CaFÉ™.
They are also about to, as they say in their mailings, unveil:
A new and improved CaFÉ™ Help section that will broaden the scope of assistance that is currently available on the site. Because artists and administrators have asked, the new help section will include video tutorials on image formatting and other functions related to working in CaFÉ™, in addition to greatly expanded informational and FAQ sections.
So, to make sure you see how useful and important this is, let me reiterate:
They have an on-line submission system that saves you time doing multiple submissions to different competitions because you only upload images and information once.
They will start sending you a weekly mailing about upcoming competitions you may want submit to. And they will remind you if your application is not yet complete.
They have video-tutorials, FAQs and lots of other useful information.
And the service is free (excluding the actual competition entry fees.)
That is about as good as it gets so get over to https://www.callforentry.org/ and sign up.