Sault Ste. Marie’s Downtown Association hosted it’s first “Capture Your Downtown” photography contest in partnership with Camera Craft this fall. Digital submissions were being accepted between August 5th and September 30, 2021.
Capture Your Downtown was open to all photographers regardless of ability. The theme for the contest was “Capture Your Downtown” and entrants were free to demonstrate any photographic technique depicting Sault Ste. Marie’s downtown core. Once the files were collected and the closing date passed they were directed to a small group of qualified and accredited judges.
The successful photographer would receive a framed 11 x 14 print of their own and an identical one would hang in the offices of the Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Association.
For myself I have a long standing hesitancy to not enter these kinds of contests. Far too many are held and based on popular vote and not on ability. However in this particular instance when I was approached for permission to post details of the contest to a local moderated internet group for photographers in which I started, I asked many questions prior so as to make sure all the correct information was passed on to those interested in entering.
Capturing a compelling image is based on two factors – it’s emotional attachment of the subject matter to the viewer and technical execution by the image maker. Each of those can be further broken down; what story has the image to tell, it’s visual impact, is the image sharp or is it exposed correctly and so many other aspects. Rarely are these contests judged for both.
This leads me to my second barrier – the safety factor of being alone shooting in the downtown core while carrying a multitude of photographic equipment. For me safety is the utmost top priority. Rarely if ever will I find myself alone shooting any subject of interest in that area. The current drug/addictions situation and homelessness status have driven crime rates very high throughout the city but the downtown core seems to be hit extremely hard since the breakup of many squatter sites, and a very well known lack of resources for these individuals among other things.
It does not mean that I want to sweep the current situation under a rug nor does it mean that I favor the situation. As a photojournalist I have all the tools I need to bring the subject to the forefront but again I face the barrier of safety. For me this meant either I rely on older materials from where times were better or the need to find a partner/s to be out shooting with in order to make a submission.
I say this respectfully and because the last time I chose to photograph in the downtown core alone in the spring of 2021 was for a very specific reason. I had a plan and vision but lacked the shooting partner. I chose to go ahead anyways thinking I was doing things safely by having my vehicle in sight, being prepared for my photograph in advance and only spending just the time needed to accomplish that shot. As it turns out that was just enough time to separate me from my vehicle and witness a crime. So I won’t take you any further down that rabbit hole.
My choice of submissions for this 2021 photography contest were two. Both images were made during photo walks with large groups of people present.
The first submission was “Muios” which was a very snowy night scene and depicted Muio’s Restaurant in the forefront at the corner of East and Queen Streets and Mrs. B’s Pizzeria in the background on East Street itself. It was made on December 14, 2017 on an evening photo walk with a small group of local photographers during what was likely the last Moonlight Madness shopping event of the season for the city that year.
A simple enough image that took a lot of stamina during driving snow and blustery wind conditions that highlights two business that were cornerstones to our community. They represent multi- generations, great cultural food, longevity, dedication, landmarks and pillars of the community, an example of the dying downtown core and the need to keep it going. These are things – businesses that my generation have grown up knowing, recognizing and experiencing.
Mrs. B’s shut it’s doors a short time after this image was made making way for East Street Pizza, and sadly Muio’s followed suite after multiple shut downs and closures at the hands of Covid-19 protocols. At this point the historic building remains empty and looking for buyer.
My second image submission was that of the Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Associations Classic Car Show 2019 taken from the rear of a Ford Galaxie 500 and looking out over the heritage block with a view of Camera Craft and the historic clock tower. Two more pillars of our community which are thankfully still in existence and continue to be well supported today.
On October 27, 2021 I was notified by email that my photo “Muios” was selected as this years winner.
In addition to paying homage to those resources available to me it’s time for me to start celebrating my photographic successes – something I have refrained from in the past. There have been other successes especially over the last few months, but for now I will concentrate on this opportunity. The others I will discuss in future.
I’m sending out my gratitude to The Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Association for taking on this monumentous task and especially to Nicholas Luck for all his leg work in coordinating everything that needed to happen for this competition and for reaching out for submissions. It’s my understanding that this photography contest will be considered for an annual event. This is a real positive for the downtown core.
As always I am eternally grateful to James Wishon of Camera Craft and all his staff who go out of their way daily to provide top notch service to anyone coming through their doors but more importantly for their partnership in this photography contest. To Dodds for his prompt and skilled printing and to both Dodds and Margot for obliging my request to take photos with my phone for this post. It’s those little things that make the biggest difference. For instance when I custom frame my own prints or sell them for that matter they are always signed. Once my image prints were completed by Camera Craft’s staff I received a phone call from James himself asking me to come in and sign them before they were sent out to the framer. This was something I hadn’t even thought about and I am really glad he did.
Many thanks to those who volunteered their time and knowledge to judge this contest. Anna Doble, Candice Day, Darren Taylor, Brian Kelly, and Peter Smith – your efforts are what keep the art evolving to higher standards. They do not go unnoticed. Too often we fail to acknowledge the benefits of volunteerism and what you give up to make it happen.
A wonderful custom framing job was done by Brian Fulin of Fulin’s Photo & Printing, Framing & Matting. Situated locally Brian recently expanded his business to include the custom framing aspect and always does a stellar job. From print to custom framed art only spanned a matter of 4 days so the process was extremely quick and the finished product flawless.
And lastly all of the participants who took the leap to have their work out there and analyzed. Sometimes it’s not easy to have others critique your work. It’s often difficult to hear the comments or take the rejection. In this case the photos were not made public nor were the comments so just be proud of yourself for the steps you took and keep trying. Use any comments or critique to your advantage and use them to grow your skills. It’s never personal.
Most of all when available always support local. This is where you will gain the most benefit. The large and online shopping stores are not going to provide you with the personal service and support you need when it comes to your questions or concerns, warrantees and the like. Cheaper price sometimes isn’t everything. Look for the value in your purchase.
So this is the short of my excitement for this week. I’m really happy that I made the decision to enter this photography contest. There is so much to be thankful for and to look forward to. It’s time to remember that part of each journey is taking the time to enjoy the moment. That is what makes things special and sometimes we tend to forget that.