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Why enter awards?  You might actually win! - The Open College of the Arts
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Why enter awards?  You might actually win!

A couple of months ago I won gold in the places category of the AOP Student Awards.  My journey towards this prize was not an easy one but it was a journey well worth making.

When the global Covid-19 pandemic threw us all into a national lockdown, I – like many other OCA students – watched my university studies grind to a shuddering halt.  My otherwise reasonable progress through Body of Work and Contextual Studies was suddenly stymied by uncertainty, chaos and adventures in homeschooling!  Then I read a #WeAreOCA article about why photography students should enter awards.   

This reminded me that even though I wasn’t able to press on with my degree there might be other things that I could still do.  Entering the AOP Student Awards felt like something small and manageable that I could accomplish in the little time I had available.  I therefore edited a film that I’d made for a pre-lockdown assignment, wrote a brief statement about it and pressed submit.  

Untitled image from the series Diagenesis © Elizabeth Woodger

The funny thing is that if I’d had more time to think about it, then I might never have entered the competition at all; the film was my first ever foray into moving image, I knew there were elements that I could improve on and the project was (and still is) unfinished.  But simply by submitting my work I felt like I’d achieved something worthwhile at a time when my artistic practice was languishing.  Of course I never thought that I would actually win so being shortlisted, and then awarded a gold prize, has been rather a surreal experience.           

When my work was put on the shortlist, I was excited to realise that I was in good company; three other OCA students – Anna Goodchild, Kinga Owczennikow and Stefanie Gadow – had their work selected, which I think speaks volumes for the quality of the OCA photography teaching and the dedication of distance learners.  

Winning the award has presented me with a wonderful opportunity to get my work seen.  My film has already been exhibited on the AOP website and publicised on their Instagram feed.  Plus, in the not too distant future, it will appear in their nine week public exhibition at Canary Wharf and in an upcoming AOP Awards book.  The most beneficial part of the prize though has to have been the portfolio review with the category judge Laura Noble, which has inspired me to continue developing my project and to sign up for my next course, Sustaining your Practice.      

Untitled image from the series Diagenesis © Elizabeth Woodger

Looking back over the last couple of months, it occurs to me that one of the nicest things about winning the award has been the response from the OCA.  Before the online presentation ceremony had even finished I started receiving congratulatory messages via email, social media and my blog, which made me realise just how lucky I am to be part of such an encouraging and supportive community.

So in turn, I would like to say to all OCA students reading this that if you’re considering entering a competition, go for it even if you don’t think you’ll win.  Show your work to other people, even if it’s not finished yet.  Take a risk and get your work out there because you never know where it might lead.    

Untitled image from the series Diagenesis © Elizabeth Woodger

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Posted by author: Elizabeth Woodger

13 thoughts on “Why enter awards?  You might actually win!

  • You’ve provided real inspiration and encouragement here Liz, plus you and the two others who made the short list have been trailblazers. I’m almost on Level 3 now and certainly have it firmly in mind now that it’s well worthwhile to submit for such awards – experience is all!

    • That’s great Catherine – I really do hope that you give it a go. It took me a long time (and a fair bit of persuasion) to build up the courage to enter anything . So if I can nudge someone else in that direction, then it feels like I’m passing on the encouragement that I received.

    • Congratulations! I have been following you on Instagram and think your work is so creative and site sensitive…a great experience on what we actually see when looking. I have similar experience of entering a competition…I won and never expected it, missed the opening night and award ceremony…was away on n short trip..completely forgot about the event! I have now taken a step to have a website…and all from that first steps out into the art world.

  • A well deserved award Elizabeth. Great to see peer support helping and sustaining your progress, as well as your progress inspiring others. 🙂

  • It was great news to learn of your success.
    May you have many more as your progress through SYP.
    If you don’t try you never know if you will be successful.

  • Fantastic & it’s really good to read about your well deserved award Liz. Well done, I’m certain it will encourage more of us students to enter competitions in the future too.

  • Congratulations on your well-deserved win, Elizabeth — it’s a beautiful piece of work. And thanks, too, for taking the time to encourage the rest of us with your story.

  • Wow, so many comments. I love how you’ve all just illustrated exactly what I was saying about how amazingly encouraging and supportive the OCA community is! Thanks.

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