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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Fiction in Creative Nonfiction Clothing

December 15th, 2009


Sometimes we find our art in faces, distorted in pain or joy, other times in the geometry of a rugged landscape or even in the contours of what we have chosen to discard, its worth hidden from view until it is revealed by the artist. And sometimes this art is only called such because of whose hand has produced it. We will, of course, know this art when we see it, won’t we?

Robert McGowan, a skillful writer, who is as well, an accomplished artist, joins a growing list of writers included in the first issue of the Camera Obscura Journal. “The McCaig Photographs,” excerpted below, is part of a recently completed story collection called Happy Again at Last: Stories from the Art World.

“Surely no class of object more mundane could be brought to the attention, there being, one might suggest, no good reason to think of them at all. Horizontal slots set in the curbs of city streets for the purpose of relieving the streets of rainwater. Everyone has seen these things, but almost no one notices them. They’re in fact so unnoticed that it would be difficult for many people even to call to mind’s eye an image of one, or for that matter to know for sure what a storm drain is, unless one be pointed out to them.”

“It seemed however that Andrew McCaig had known storm drains uncommonly well. It would be no exaggeration to assert he knew storm drains intimately,  having been very cozy with them for some time, precisely when or for exactly how long no one knew.”

Robert McGowan’s fiction and essays are published in, among many others, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Connecticut Review, Crucible, The Dos Passos Review, Etchings (Australia), The Savage Kick (UK), South Dakota Review, and have been anthologized. His work as an artist is in numerous collections internationally, including Bank of America, Bank of Korea, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Smithsonian Institution. He lives in Memphis.

More updates as they become available.
Happy Holidays,
M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

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A visit to Otherwhere

December 4th, 2009


The most recent addition to the inaugural lineup of the Camera Obscura Journal is the latest unpublished selections from Otherwhere by Claire Bateman. Previous selections have appeared in Harper’s, Mississippi Review, and Blackbird. Her vivid prose and magical descriptions of a place that exists, perhaps, in the aether of a fractal dimension, or somewhere near Sonoma, make me wish I could traverse the byways of Otherwhere as a tourist with a camera, freezing snippets in time and tucking those moments away until their secrets are exposed, only later, in the faces of the inhabitants of this amazing place. Here is an excerpt:

“In this realm, all the people walk around in flowing reflective garb, beholding along the contours of each others’ bodies every change of their own expressions, as if all the tailors had one day decided to eschew textiles in order to work instead with liquid glass.”

Claire Bateman’s books are:
*The Bicycle Slow Race *(Wesleyan, 1991);
*Friction* (Eighth Mountain, 1998);
*At the Funeral of the Ether * (Ninety-SixPress, 1998); 
*Clumsy* (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2003); *Leap*   (New Issues, 2005);
*Coronology and Other Poems* (Etruscan Press, forthcoming). The title poem from Coronology is also an e-chapbook of the same name  produced by World Voices at:


and is forthcoming as a print chapbook from Serving House Press.  She has received grants and fellowships from the NEA, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Surdna Foundation.  She lives in Greenville, S.C.

More journal updates soon…

M.E. Parker, Editor
Camera Obscura Journal

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One Woman’s Journey

October 28th, 2009

When I started this journal, the first thing I did was round up as many talented, reliable people as I thought I might need to do the job right. Their bios can be found in the darkroom, and they will be blogging here as often as I can get them to. Add all the great work that’s already coming in and Camera Obscura, only in its infancy, is already taking shape.

Before we even got started, with the help of our talented photography editor Kate, we had already lined up a great collection of judges for the photography competition, all of whom I will probably pay tribute to as well at some point in the near future. And a week ago, when Jacklyn Patterson joined the judging panel, Camera Obscura added decades of experience in judging print competitions, an impeccable eye, and an intangible prestige to the competition that might not otherwise be afforded an unproven venue.

Since we are a Literary and Photography Journal, story is our mission, and Jacklyn Patterson’s story begins in Oklahoma during a time when the roles of women were still being defined by men instead of women themselves. Growing up bound by the expectation that she had no need for a “profession” in the place of a husband to provide for her, she did not own a camera until much later in life than would normally be the case for a photographer of her standing.

The journey from her first camera through her acclaimed career, including her account of the photograph not taken, is documented in her thesis “One Woman’s Journey,” written for her fellowship to the highly regarded American Society of Photographers, one of the most prestigious honors in photography.

Here is a link to One Woman’s Journey by Jacklyn Patterson, currently available on the ASP website.

“…a photograph is not complete until someone else looks at
it.” – Jacklyn Patterson

Jacklyn also holds the designations of Master Photographer, Master Artist and Photographic Craftsman from the Professional Photographers of America. She is a truly gifted photographer and a remarkable person.

-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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