• Jason Garcia

2021 Monochrome Photography Awards - an Honorable Mention and how you can do it, too.

It doesn't take expensive cameras to get recognized. All you have to do is capture a memorable image with what you have. You can do this.

Early last year, I thought to myself, "what's the most badass black & white photography contest out there?" Well, the Monochrome Photography Awards took the cake. That's when I spent way too long thinking about what image to submit (I submitted one). I knew it wasn't going to be a digital creation, it was going to be film.

Why did film matter to me at that moment? Well, film has become my obsession over the last couple years and is part of my creative process since I've been dodging COVID-19. I've shot digital for longer than I can remember, and I'm very fond of that format, but I wanted to shoot, develop, scan, and share film work.

After using an entry-level, consumer-grade camera and film that doesn't garner much love, I received an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Monochrome Photography Awards "Street" category. What does this all mean for you? It means you don't need that $4000 rig to do something similar. All you need is a thoughtful eye, a ton of patience, and the will to not GAF what other people think.

Jason Garcia - 2021 Monochrome Photography Awards - Street - Honorable Mention

Many years ago, I submitted an image to the only other photography contest I've entered. I won a "Silver Medal" for that one. Since then, I've shot politicians on the campaign trail, products big and small, images for countless advertisements, architecture, and everything in between. The variety of cameras I've used has also been wide, but none were notable or super pricey, but all were digital.

Things were going great in NYC and then I moved to Tokyo in 2017. I was able to explore a whole new environment and develop relationships that helped me craft my new existence here in Japan.

When shooting, I'm thinking about composition the most. Shapes, contrasts, weird lighting, and textures, aren't necessarily secondary to me, it's where and how those items sit in the viewfinder come first. Also, it doesn't matter what camera and lens I use, I just make sure I can capture that image. Simple. I might be tired of carrying around heavy gear. I may want to use a rangefinder (enter Leica M6), I might want to use a wide-angle lens, something light with autofocus, or something I don't want to worry about. That's where the Canon 500n comes into play. It's not special. It's a consumer-grade rig with a plastic body and mount, and I use a cheap entry-level lens with it. But you know what? It is the vessel that I used to capture almost all the images in my 100-page book, Tokyo Grit and Grain. The images within it were exactly what I was looking for. They still are. The camera does a great job helping me shoot the streets of Tokyo.

What does this all mean? It means that you too can capture kick-ass images without breaking the bank. My advice? Get some training, learn from the best, find a mentor, and shoot a ton. You don't need to show every single image that you capture. Share the best. Even though that statement is subjective, share what YOU think is top notch, not what the 24 billion users on Instagram think. And when you're confident you've "got it", submit that image to the coolest contest you can think of. I did.