How To Become The Winner Of “The Most Beautiful Country” Photo Competition

Константин Лейфер. Фото: Алексей Михайлов
Константин Лейфер. Фото: Алексей Михайлов

The work application for the VI photo contest of the Russian Geographical Society "The Most Beautiful Country" will continue for two more months - until February 16th, 2020 - on the website photo.rgo.ru. We talked about the innovations in the competition, the preferences of the jury members, the admissibility of staged shots, and other questions often asked by the project participants with the chairman of the jury, Konstantin Leifer.

- Please tell us about the innovations in the photo contest "The Most Beautiful Country" in 2019.

- There are a lot of innovations. Let's start with the nominations. This year the categories "Wild animals" and "Birds" are combined into one - "Wild animals". A new nomination, "Photo project", was added, where a series of pictures are admitted: from 4 to 10 works, united by a common theme or a visual solution. Another new category is “Live Archive”. Modern photocompositions repeating archival photographs are accepted in the nomination. The Audience Choice Award is established. Its owner will be determined from among the finalists in all nominations by open voting on the website of the photo contest.

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"Овцебыки". Фото: Константин Шатенев, финалист V фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна" в номинации "Дикие животные"
"Овцебыки". Фото: Константин Шатенев, финалист V фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна" в номинации "Дикие животные"

Previously, no more than five works could be submitted to one photo contest nomination, now there is no limit. But in total, no more than 25 pictures can still be uploaded to the contest.

This year, photographers, whose work will be voted in person by an expert commission, will receive semi-finalist diplomas in electronic form.

- Why are people not related to photography included in the jury of the photo contest?

- The jury includes and should include people related to culture and art in the broadest sense of the word. That is why filmmakers, museum workers, musicians, non-animalist photographers are invited to the jury. After all, photography is an emotion. Professional experts do a great job, selecting the best images from the point of view of photography, and, after that, the jury selects from these best the very best - those that bring the viewer the most powerful emotion.

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Фото: Алексей Михайлов
Фото: Алексей Михайлов

- What do you advise to the participants who upload photos to the contest, what should they pay special attention to?

- I advise to send those photos, which the contestants feel the most confident about; do not try to enter your works into all the nominations, hoping “what if”. Quality over quantity!

- Is it true that the same photographers win from year to year?

- Not true, just look at the lists of winners.

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"Вдохновение". Фото: Сергей Давыдов, финалист V фотоконкурса "Самая красивая страна" в номинации "Снято на смартфон"
"Вдохновение". Фото: Сергей Давыдов, финалист V фотоконкурса "Самая красивая страна" в номинации "Снято на смартфон"

- Which shot will the jury most likely favor: with an original subject or good quality, but standard? Assuming both are impossible.

- Of course, with an original subject. Provided that the quality of the image meets the requirements of the competition.

- Is it true that today the jury of photo contests prefer pictures processed in photo editors?

- Not really. The fact is that it is impossible not to process a picture in a graphical editor. This has to be done. The next question is the degree of interference with the processing tools in the image. For this, the competition needs sharp-eyed experts.

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Фото: Алексей Михайлов
Фото: Алексей Михайлов

- Is it possible to influence nature during shooting? If, for example, one was to lure birds with food and take a picture of them - is this considered a violation of the rules of the competition? Where is the line when intervention becomes ethically unacceptable?

- You can’t influence nature. Just watch and shoot. Imagine that a photographer cuts down a tree to see the chicks in the nest. This is impossible, right?

- Is it possible to send staged photos in the nomination "Many Faces of Russia"? Or should the pictures be taken by the method of reportage photography, without looking at the camera and posing?

- Balance is important everywhere. We had occasions when a photographer dressed characters in costumes from the Museum of Ethnography and they staged a show, and the same people were photographed in different costumes. It is unacceptable. If the photographer sends a staged portrait, and the portraits in most cases are staged, this is the genre after all, then of course we will consider it.

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"Рыбак". Фото: Владимир Севриновский, финалист V фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна" в номинации "Многоликая Россия"
"Рыбак". Фото: Владимир Севриновский, финалист V фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна" в номинации "Многоликая Россия"

- Tell us, please, about the new nomination "Live Archive". Why did you decide to introduce it? What are its features? How will the participants of this nomination be evaluated?

- "Live Archive" is a new and difficult nomination for us. It was introduced in an effort to turn to the roots. Its peculiarity is that you need to find the same place and the same angle, as it was, say, in a photo a century ago, but at the same time the viewer should understand that the "replica" is modern, made now. For example, in the frame, someone can ride a scooter and wear headphones.

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Кавказ, река Черюкол, 1899 год. Фото из Научного архива РГО
Кавказ, река Черюкол, 1899 год. Фото из Научного архива РГО

- How do you determine that the photos were taken specifically in Russia? What if the author is cheating?

- I hope that the experts will not be mistaken in determining Russia. We had cases of deceit on the part of photographers when photos of animals that do not live in Russia were sent, but wildlife photographers working in the expert group did not miss this. There were 100 out of 100 detected!

The photo contest "The Most Beautiful Country" is a large-scale media project dedicated to the preservation of wildlife of Russia and the promotion of careful attitude to the environment. It was held for the first time in 2015. About 440 thousand pictures were uploaded to the site of the project: photo.rgo.ru during four years of existence of the contest. The main condition is that the photo should be taken in Russia. Exhibitions of works by participants in the photo contest are regularly held in Russia and abroad.

Acceptance of work for the VI photo contest "The Most Beautiful Country" began on October 14. Acceptance of works will last until February 16, 2020.