The Bad News and the Good News

Within a seven-day span last week I received two emails, one from each of the twin impostors of the photographic Art World.

First up was Failure: my entry to the Taylor Wessing Portrait Competition (which I had written about here) was declined. That was a lump of coal in the stocking to be sure. My heart had nudged my hopes without consulting my head for the odds—long, at a hundred to one. I felt good about the work I submitted—too good?—but it didn’t go my way.

A week later, however, Success stopped by with a Thin Mint for my pillow. I’m a Critical Mass Finalist for 2010. I’m humbled, and honored, to have made this list of 175 people—winnowed from several hundred applicants—who will be further culled to a Top 50 by sometime in November. Though the odds are shorter than they were in London, I really hate to get my hopes up; disappointment has a sour, funky reek, like wet dog hair and a hangover. But I probably will nonetheless, since optimism’s more like good bourbon or chocolate chip cookies. Either way, it’s out of my hands.

There are familiar names among the Finalists. Some I know only by their work I’ve seen online; with others, I’ve struck up Facebook or email relationships. And a few I’ve even met in person, obsolete-20th-century style, as we’ve all gathered at various portfolio review events. (Making such acquaintances has been far and away the best thing about attending those events.)

So let me offer best final-round wishes to Elizabeth Fleming, Tom Johnson, Isa Leshko, Nancy Newberry, Ann Pallesen, Manjari Sharma, Emily Shur, and Jamey Stillings. And a general high-five to the rest of the 175.

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