When I launched this Competition in 2014, I did so with the best of intentions to showcase Scotland’s amazing scenery and promote talent. Long before this however, I was an active member of the landscape photography community. I was a teacher, I ran my own groups, I had a social life, I was invited to meet-ups, asked to give talks, published in magazines and generally very happy and loving my photography.
I loved this social aspect and through teaching and running meetup groups I met many talented photographers who were struggling to get recognised. I wanted therefore to do something more for photographers and this gave me the idea for starting a photography Competition.
Running a competition however needs money and I certainly didn’t have a lot, so I went knocking on doors and making calls. After 2 years, I had no success and decided the only way was to use what little money I had. I sold a few cameras, dipped into my savings and bit the bullet. I launched the website and when word got round, Formatt Hitech & Academy Class donated prizes.
The first year was genuinely humbling and a huge success, but it was quickly soured when people took to social media, claiming the Competition was using it to generate funds for the independence movement. This was absolute nonsense, but it set the tone for haters and I was subjected to much personal abuse, being called things like a “sweaty jock”, lining my pockets with entry fees, ripping of photographers etc. This was a complete shock, because having enjoyed being a member of the photography community for many years, I never dreamed of the levels of personal abuse that were to come my way over the next 7 years.
Throughout the years, I have never promoted myself in this Competition or taken a single penny from it. On the contrary, I have went to extreme lengths to keep myself out of the limelight to keep the focus firmly on the winners, but despite my efforts, the abuse has continued unabated. People who have never met me have spread malicious lies and false rumours about me throughout the entire community. Threats followed and I spent a year of my life saying nothing, whilst I pursued a defamation action through the courts. The truth is, I have subsidised this Competition with thousands of pounds of my own money, but still, people accuse me of “lining my pockets”.
Seven years down the line and people now judge me without ever knowing me. Indeed, one photography group who I had never known, OR been a member of, went to the length of banning me from ever joining. Why? Because “if I ever were a member, it would raise suspicions that I was awarding prizes to members of their group”. However, at the same time this group banned me, 5 of its members were judges in the Competition, but they weren’t banned for the same reasons? To this day, rumours are allowed to spread that I am banned from this group and this not only damages my reputation, it affects my health.
All I ever wanted for this Competition was to promote our country and the talented photographers, and I don’t think anyone can say I haven’t achieved this. I look back at the opportunities I achieved for photographers – like the Dock Street Studio talks for example, and how they earned recognition and sales of their work. I look back at the huge publicity Dylan Nardini achieved this year and it gives me a boost when I consider all the hard work I put into this has paid off.
But the abuse on social media and things like the “ban” have distracted matters and impacted my health to the extent that I was forced to stay away from this year’s opening night. I then took down the Competition’s Facebook page and my own personal page because I felt bullied and afraid. It has also affected my own work because I have not taken a single photo for 3 years and my camera literally sits covered in dust.
It is now approaching the eighth year of the Competition and whilst the success of the Competition continues to increase, I am completely on my own in running it, and only three people have ever been a friend to me or offered help and they know who they are. It has brought home to me that I used to have dozens, if not hundreds of friends. It upsets me that I am never invited to speak any more, never invited to go out for a day, never to donate a print for charity or even have a photo shared.
It’s also brought home that I’ve given seven years of my life to promoting others with nothing but the best of intentions. But for every mention of thanks, I get 10 times that in abuse. This comes totally from a very small number of disagreements, bumps and grudges that occurred along the way, but have been turned into malicious lies, smears, being isolated and ostracised by a Facebook photography group. I don’t deserve this. I am still the same person, who was once a member of the community. I am however, always open to discussion and resolving any matter, and if you are one of those photographers, then come speak to me and lets get it fixed so we can exist in the community without the division and finger pointing. My door is always open and always will be, and anyone contacting me will be assured of absolute discretion..
All of this said, I literally can’t cope with the abuse, the lies and the effect it is having on my health. The very fact that I felt too scared to attend the Competition’s opening night upsets me beyond belief and I can’t ever let that happen again. Therefore, in an effort to give myself a break, I won’t be opening the Competition this year but will instead reopen in December 2022.
If during this time, the community comes together and shows support rather than abuse, then I will implement more ideas and programs like the Dock Street Studios talks. It’s ideas like these, the reputation of and the huge publicity achieved by the Competition that will see a lot more photographers gaining recognition for, and promotion of their work – and that’s a win-win.. This Competition is about promoting you after all – it’s never about money or politics.