PPA Print Competition Results are in!

June 28th, 2010


Every art form has, and — if we are lucky — will continue to have, an ongoing discussion about what differentiates artistry from craftsmanship, about what works characterize the current movement and what emulations are merely defined by it. At the center of this debate, the green behemoth lounging between the two camps, is the notion that artistic values somehow logarithmically decline with an equivalent increase in commercial success, leaving a grumbling bevy of frustrated artists wishing they had enough money to pay bills and create art flanked by a legion assiduous professionals dreaming that someone would appreciate their contribution to the arts.

The Professional Photographers of America, the world’s largest nonprofit association for professional photographers, every year offers its 20,000 members in over 54 countries an opportunity to compete for such recognition in a print competition that is widely considered the gold standard for international judging of photographic images.

According to the PPA guidelines, photographs are judged against the following twelve elements (all of which must be addressed for an image to merit): impact, creativity, technical excellence, composition, lighting, style, print presentation, center of interest, subject matter, color balance, technique, and story telling. The specific criteria for each may be found here. PPA describes the use of these 12 elements as a way to connect “the modern practice of photography and its photographers to the historical practice of photography begun nearly two centuries ago.”

Camera Obscura Journal would like to offer a huge congratulation our photography editor Kate Parker who has been awarded 2010 Silver Photographer of the Year by Professional Photographers of America for demonstrating “excellence in her craft and earning tremendous achievements in PPA’s 2010 International Photographic Competition.”

The silver award is achieved by having three merit prints accepted into the PPA General Collection and one print selected for inclusion in the prestigious International Loan Collection, which is a traveling exhibition that exemplifies the finest work in the current world of professional photography.


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Tim Horvath, meet Nani Power

January 25th, 2010


You know that Padgett Powell book that’s nothing but questions? That’s what I was hunting for in the Portsmouth Library when I stumbled onto Nani Power’s Crawling at Night. I’m not sure what exactly caught my attention about it—a cover design that looked like some lost Smashing Pumpkins album, accolades from some Names, the Atlantic Monthly Press (didn’t know they had one)—but I lingered on it. She also had several other novels. Now, by no means am I so well-read that I don’t find new authors all the time, but taking up such shelf space at the local library, she somehow seemed like someone I should know. In her jacket photo she resembled Charlotte Bacon, a former mentor of mine, but I was pretty certain it wasn’t Charlotte in disguise. The book, I could see, was about sushi, and Nani Power had worked in a sushi kitchen for a while, and that drew me in a little further. Are motives always so noble and intellectual? I was hungry, and here was some kind of sustenance.

Still, it was by no means a sure thing that I would continue to read—every second a trial. One page explained that the phrase “crawling at night” came from the Japanese “yobai,” which stems from a tradition of hosting travelling guests on futons, whereby a male guest could anonymously slip into a female’s futon and stay if accepted, slip away discretely if rejected. I kept going. By no means was the book the radical stylistic plunge that I’d been hoping for in Powell’s Interrogative Mood, but it had menus for chapter headings and lists and the opening sentence was “Lists are life.” Hey, yeah. No but yes. Lists of “dead things wrenched from the ocean floor, arriving daily in their iced beds. His needs.” All at once, the orderliness of lists, the squishy glisten of sushi, the discipline of making, the violence in it, the need. Hunger.

And language, sentences. In the end, it came down to the sentences.

“How he judges tuna for its fat content with a flashlight in the dawn fish   market alongside the haiku image on a barren branch. All thoughts whirling like flimsy scales flashing in a sink’s wetness, yet they get sieved along the way.”

Need I tell you that I checked it out?

Fast forward a couple of weeks. By some inexplicable collision of the universe’s pulp, Camera Obscura receives a story from none other than Nani Power. At first I can’t believe it; it seems too serendipitous. But the sentences in her “214″ make it unmistakable that it’s one and the same author:

“She made his stomach turn like frogs, in her new clothes, smelling like stores.”
“Her name was a bag of broken sounds.”
“You see a cat ass tear through some place; he’s like this one.”

To top it off, her story is about elements in collision; it is made out of the cloth of disparity, held together by its propulsive voices and energy, violence and need and something soft lurking beneath. I think it a very fine story in its own right, the coincidence hovering around it for me serving merely as an added pleasure, an unexpected spatter of roe in the midst of apiece of sushi that you’d assumed was solid through and through. I’m grateful to have made the acquaintance of Nani Power for the second time in a few weeks, and to acquaint—or reacquaint—you with her.

Nani Power is the author of Crawling at Night (Grove/Atlantic Monthly, 2001),a New York Times Notable Book of The Year and a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Award as well as the British Orange Award. It has been translated into seven languages. Her second novel, The Good Remains (Grove/Atlantic Monthly, 2002), was also a New York Times Notable Book of The Year, and a finalist for The Virginia Library Award. The Sea of Tears, her third novel, was  published in January 2005 by Counterpoint Press. Her newest book, a food memoir, Feed The Hungry, was published by Simon and Schuster in April 2008.

Her stories have been published in numerous literary magazines including The Paris Review, Salon, Gargoyle and Nerve.com.

Tim Horvath is a prose editor for the Camera Obscura. More about Tim at The Darkroom

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Table of Contents Grows

November 7th, 2009

As is the case with any burgeoning literary journal, before the first issue is presented to the world, it is almost impossible to divine what aesthetic shape it will take. For that reason, I will occasionally post the progress as the inaugural issue of the Camera Obscura Journal builds. Recently Camera Obscura accepted a short story by René Georg Vasicek, the beautifully rendered “Borsig’s Machine Factory,” which begins:

“Like the drunkard I am stumbling towards the null and void. And I really am drunk…the drunken ecstasy of having failed at life so miserably. It is only when a man approaches absolute zero that life begins to make sense.

I recently turned forty. There is no turning back: the death march to nowhere a certainty. Years spent watching a city destroyed by sameness…the rise of concrete block towers, the demolition of history, the erasure of the human face.

My name is unimportant. It’s enough to know that I am not you. . .”

René Georg Vasicek is a 2009 fellow in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The Delinquent (UK), Divide, High Times, Minnetonka Review, Post Road, The Prague Revue, Sunday Salon, and elsewhere. He teaches at Hofstra University and Lehman College of the City University of New York. René lives in Astoria, Queens with his wife and son.

Many more updates to come.
M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

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Camera Obscura Journal – Open for Submissions

October 19th, 2009

typewriterWords and images often serve the same master – the story. They reveal something about the world, not only about what it means to be human, what it means to exist. The inaugural print issue of Camera Obscura is slated for Spring 2010, anchored by equal measures of the best literature and photography we can obtain. Though the photographs will not necessarily relate to the stories specifically, their presence in the journal will not be incidental to the stories but inseparable from them.

 Along the way to the first issue, we will post some work, select writing and photography that will also appear in the print issue, on the website, and this blog will serve as an outlet for the editors, photography judges and contributors to the Camera Obscura. The $1000 writer honorarium will be selected from those stories we have chosen from publication and announced just prior to the release of the first issue.

camera 1890The photography competition officially opens November 1, 2009 with $1500 in prizes at stake. The theme: “bond.” Bonds exist in countless forms. There are bonds between people, animals, atoms, plants, mountains. There is even the monetary variety. All forms and interpretations both creative and literal are welcome with the following caveat: any interpretations of the theme that relate in any way to a British secret service agent with an assistant named Moneypenny will receive additional, and quite possibly harsh, scrutiny. The professional category is open to everyone. The non-professional category is reserved for those who earn no more than 25% of their income from photography.  We have lined up a highly decorated board of photography judges for this competition.

 Thanks for your interest. More updates coming soon.

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