From March 2020 until the early autumn of the year, the toolbox looked mostly like freshly laundered laundry. It was pure white.
The kick in the kneecap was harsh, because at the beginning of the year -20 still looked good, if not stunning. The calendar was full of gigs here and there. I chattered to myself that this is the best turnover ever. It was not.
I had never received unemployment benefits before, even though my early career was hit by the worst recession of the century in the summer of 1993. Now, on July -20, I finally had to humble myself and put in an application. Of course, I’m not blaming the people living on benefit money, but I was a bit upset with myself because even from the recession of the 1990s, I’ve been able to get my nose out of the water just by working. Now my repository of ideas was empty and I was running out of energy as well as money.
You don’t bulge with daily allowances. A year of living in austerity ate up what little savings I had managed to save after investing three years earlier. At one point, I wondered if my company would go bankrupt just before its’ 30th anniversary in September this year.
With nothing but time on my hands, I idly entered a few photos into two photo competitions. I didn’t have the courage to put much in, because the participation fee was quite high in both cases, considering the unemployment allowance budget.
Luckily, I chose the right pictures. At the end of July, I was first informed that one of the photos I had submitted to the Finnish Photo Awards had been selected as a finalist. In September, I was informed that my photo had won the silver medal in its category.
A few weeks after that, I accidentally (!) discovered that two of the four photos I submitted to the big international black and white photo competition organized by OneEyeland had made it to the final One of these was awarded a silver medal. The congratulatory message had been lost among the “million” promotional emails, so the information had slipped through the cracks.
What was special about this competition was that I was the only Finn among the almost 100 photographers accepted to the finals. In other words, along with the silver medal in the series, I was rewarded as the best Finn in the whole competition. A whopping 43 photographers of different nationalities received medals and decorations. I was the only one waving the blue and white flag in this company.
After the sometimes miserable and sometimes tragic pandemic, there was, and still is, a sense of unreality. First I won silver in the “Finnish championship” for professional photographers and immediately afterwards silver in the global competition.
While neither competitive success has brought direct economic benefits, the indirect benefits are undeniable. Suddenly the calendar starts to fill up and requests for shoots start coming in from quite unexpected quarters.
So it seems that even the darkest thundercloud can have a silver lining. In this case, quite literally.
Of course, even though silver is a lost medal, I have to take a little credit for myself. I was up against the elite of Finland in one competition and the elite of the planet in the other, as far as photography is concerned. Making it to the podium out of hundreds of photos and photographers is pretty cool. Or leave out the “pretty”. It’s actually a hell of a thing!
Now I roll up my sleeves and start fighting to get my economy back on a sustainable footing. Again I have the strength to go on. If only this would start to get lightened…