As humans, most of us strive for adulation and adoration. Even if we don’t openly admit it. Some of us crave it. Others appreciate it when they’re lauded for their achievements. Anyone who tells you that photography awards don’t matter to them is either insincere to you or is just concerned about the quality of the awards being handed out these days. And the latter is something I wanted to touch upon after receiving an email last week.
It’s Not An Award If It’s A Disguised PR Stunt
I’ve seen many of these “you’ve been selected as one of our top 100 persons of the year” or “we’ve nominated you as our business person of the year” emails. It all starts with a congratulatory message commending you on having won something in your field of expertise. Many of them appear to be from reputed publishing and business houses. But a closer look at the fine print will make you realize you need to shell out significant bucks to be awarded this privilege. Yeah, it’s not about your skills or expertise; it’s about which of you will be suckered into wanting to buy an “award” that you can show off. And you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize this isn’t the legit way of receiving an award.
In Photography Too? Yes, For Real
“Award-Winning Dubai Celebrity Photographer <name redacted> Set For Induction Into the Photographers Hall of Fame.” read the title of the email that made its way into my inbox last week. As pleased as I initially was that a resident of my hometown was winning an award, something didn’t quite sit right with me. The first was the fact that I hadn’t ever heard of this photographer.
I’ve lived in Dubai for close to 40 years now. Even well before I began my professional career in photography about 15 years ago, I was well-versed with the who’s who in the photography circles of this city. This was because I was a practicing amateur since my pre-teens who had met many local professionals that were well known for their skills behind a camera in Dubai. And not long after I’d turned professional, my network of local photographers and photojournalists grew swiftly. If I hadn’t personally met someone in the field, the chances were that I was aware of their reputation. Or that we were connected online, at least.
Dubai is booming, but it’s still a relatively small city compared to some of the metropolises of the world. This city runs off networking. The seasoned pro photographers here often bump into one another at events. And I’m fairly confident of saying that I know most of them. But this name, I had never heard of.
Too Many Red Flags
That’s not to say that I know everyone here, of course, which is when I decided to run a search online with their name. The first page of the results only had 5 exact matches with their full name. Two of those were to their Youtube page, which were empty. If he was “award winning,” as the PR release claimed, why weren’t there more search results? Red flag number 1.
The PR release also graciously added their Instagram profile in there which I looked up. They had a little over 2000 followers in there and a fairly decent body of work, most of which were portraits of celebrities and residents of Dubai. But there was no mention of any photography awards they’ve won. Red flag number 2.
I’m Not Bashing The Photographer
By no means is this a character assassination of the photographer in question here. For this very reason I’m not linking to any of their social media pages. Honestly, he looks fairly young and can’t have more than a handful of years of experience in the field. Which is still a decent amount of time to win some reputed photography awards if you’re an outstanding photographer. But, with all respect due to this man’s reputation, the images there weren’t what I’d call oustanding. At least not enough to have won multiple reputed awards. Since I’m not sure if he’s directly responsible for this PR release and so called hall of fame induction, I’m not pointing fingers at them.
The Biggest Red Flag
So if they weren’t all that famous and didn’t seem like they didn’t win any photography awards, why is he being inducted into the photographers hall of fame? That must be a pretty reputed list to be on. Who is this chap, and how did he make it to the list I thought as I clicked on the awarding organization’s website link mentioned in the PR release. That brought up a blank page. Aha, it’s http instead of https in the URL; that’s probably why. I then tried going to the secure version of the site I thought existed. Another blank page. Oh, look, a phone number. I dialed the number mentioned in there, feeling like an investigative journalist of sorts. “The number you have dialled is not in service,” said the cheerful voice recording at the other end.
A few seconds later, a “This domain is available for sale” message showed up. No website. No phone line. And in all likelihood, no actual organization itself. This appeared to be no more authentic than the Mercedes logos I used to see slapped on the back of what were obviously Toyota cars in the early 90s here.
It Takes A Lot To Get Into A Real Hall Of Fame
The email had a story of how this photographer moved here to avoid unfavorable circumstances in his country. While that’s possibly the truth, this award seems far from it. It makes you wonder how many more such awards and commemorations in our industry are legit. It’s great to win an award when it’s genuine and backed by industry peers and brands. As I’ve often questioned if you’ve got “award-winning photographer” in your bio but no mention of the name of the award, was it really a reputed one?
The lead image in this article was an image from Flickr taken by Mike Cohen and used under Creative Commons 2.0 license. The author is a 3 time winner of the”Best Professional Photographer in the Khan household” award.