Double Gold

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Mostly healed up this morning, so I agreed to go to a photo contest with Nose-san, Satake-san, our chapter head, and our chapter teacher. Often when I am invited by people to go do ‘X’, I find that really means ‘go do X, Y, and Z’ and, of course, that naturally includes any meals or tea times that would occur in between. It is very easy to be kidnapped for an entire day, but usually everything is covered by the captors… er, hosts. Many Americans get really torqued up by this practice because we like to have what we call ‘freedom’, but what is actually ‘control’.

A lot of fun adventures can come from this practice. When I need control I have learned to let people know in advance that I must, unfortunately, be at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time. Inevitably, every minute up to that time vanishes, but they would never make someone break an appointment.

So, I grabbed some breakfast, took my meds, showered up, and headed out in the morning for ‘a photo contest’. We stopped at the culture center in Tsu to pick up some photos that had been in an exhibit which just ended. After leaving the warehouse we headed back into a gallery in the culture center to view the Prefectural Art Exhibit. We only walked through the photo section, but I stole a few glances at other sections. On the way out the door I spent a minute or so studying the winning shuji entry: big and beautiful. I must find a chance to go back alone, so I can stare at the shuji works without constraint.

By this point I realized there was much more to come. Clues were popping up everywhere. I was sure our event was somewhere near the Daimon (大門) area on the other side of town. There was mention made of UST, another conference and exhibition area. We popped into another exhibit which turned out to be the Tsu Chapter of our photographic society. This seemed like an obligatory visit because we didn’t spend much time studying their photos and as much time was spent on thanking us for coming to see their show. I think each chapter is expected to visit the other chapters’ shows and to enter their open contests.

We ate at a very old restaurant which I have seen many times but never stopped in. Everyone raved about it. I thought the food was good, but not that spectacular. Nostalgia seemed to be driving the impression because sixty years ago it was one of the few good restaurants in this ‘countryside’ area. I certainly liked how they maintained a lot of the traditional architectural feeling even though the place has been modernized a bit.

We headed to a third photo contest, which had ended, to look at the winning works. This also turned out to be the location of ‘X’ – today’s actual objective. The completed contest was hosted by Menard. I think they are a cosmetics company. They own some kind of fancy country club in the area and host several photo shoots with models. I think this promotes their club and their products because photos from these shoots pop up in contests all over the region. This contest was an annual event only for works from Menard’s photo shoots. One of our chapter members, Murata Hajime (村田 元), won gold for a shot that didn’t include any of the models. Shiny gold patio furniture was in the foreground of his shot and trees illuminated with white lights were in the background. Deep blue lighting blanketed the hillside under the trees and it was all reflected in the glass of the patio table. I was not very interested in the subject matter, but the sharp focus, rich colors, composition, and balance were captivating. It really was hard to take one’s eyes off of it to look at the shots of models frolicking in woods and fields.

The big event was our annual regional contest for the All-Japan Photographic Federation. Next year I better make a point to read my bulletins better; I think many people were disappointed that I didn’t submit anything, but I really wasn’t aware what was up. Twenty chapters submitted works for the contest: almost 700 photos in all. The selection process took about six hours. The first step involved six judges quickly looking at every photo. Step two was similar, but as the photos passed the judges they would push them up if they thought they should be considered further, or passed them to the next judge if not. Photos not selected by any judge dropped out of consideration. This screening process was repeated two or three times. After a break, each judge was handed a switch connected to a box with six lights. Our chapter teacher: held up each work; read the title; paused; and then requested a vote. Judges would press their switches if they thought something was great. Other assistants were accumulating the photos in piles for zero through six points received.

Photos in the zero, one, and two point piles dropped from consideration and the process was repeated several times with slight variations to the rules. We had a few hitches along the way because too many photos were dropping into the three point pile. I thought they could have sped the whole thing up by making the first cut above the three point pile, but I think this would mess with their criteria (which changed a little each round) and I think the winning photo got three points in the first round. In the second round it was the first photo to grab six points. Multiple entries by the same artist were eventually dropped from consideration as well. Final selection came down to Gold – kin (金), Silver – gin (銀), Copper – dou (銅), five Excellent Works – shuusaku (秀作), and thirty Winning Works – nyuusen (入選).

Usually in contests the word for copper is used for third place even though there is also a word for bronze, seidou (青銅). Shuusaku and Nyuusen are generally like honorable mention categories, but the dictionary gave them the grand names I mentioned above.

Two photos by Murata-san were grabbing five and six points repeatedly. Ultimately his photo of a young Bangladeshi (or Burmese, I forgot which) boy washing his face got the gold. The boy is hunkered down by a drain in a clay-bricked hall with a clay jar of water. He had poured a bit of water on his hand sparingly and is rubbing it on his face. His slightly contorted expression is priceless. The brick pattern and the narrow depth of field really make this a touching piece.

Needless to say, we were all pretty excited to pull off gold medals in both contests. Nose-san also got a nyuusen prize. We went to Tin Pan Alley, a southeast Asian fusion restaurant, to celebrate. We also stopped at a snack pub to sing some karaoke. Everyone was scoring around 70 to 85 points. I sang Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and got 14 points. We decided if I used Japanese pronunciation I would have scored 70 or better… aimu dorimingu abu a howaito kurisumasu… I’ll try that next time, even though many people in America would consider it not PC. One of the bartenders kept commenting on how cool my goatee looked and I think he asked me to take him home… mental note: time to shave.

Pretty long day, but got home by 10pm. Good thing I just went out to do ‘X’, who knows how much time it would have taken with a longer agenda.

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One Response to “Double Gold”

  1. The Wolves Den « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] Wolves Den” were trying to settle an argument about the meaning of nyuusen and used one of my posts to figure it out. Another user looked at Free Dict, an online dictionary, and turned up multiple […]

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