Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The on-going marketing program for my studio has me researching venues, galleries, publishers, etc. on the internet and making appropriate submissions.  97 percent of the time my efforts come to nothing.  Submissions and proposals are made, all in accordance with deadlines and guidelines, and usually nothing happens.  Nothing.  No acceptance, no rejection, no acknowledgement of receipt, no returns, no response, nothing happens at all.  This is normal.  It pisses me off and bugs the shit outta me, but it’s absolutely the industry-standard and I’m used to it.  I’m hoping for that magic 3% direct-mail response rate, at best.

During my most recent ‘marketing research day’ I rediscovered the Biennial FotoFest of Photography in Houston, Texas.

FotoFest is a Big Deal (if you’re included) it’s well attended by those influential people in the art-photography world and it gets a lot of attention.  Generally speaking, if your work is exhibited in the context of FotoFest, the very people you want to see your work probably will.

I am not unfamiliar with FotoFest as I was a resident of Houston from 1982-1994.  Although each and every submission I made to FotoFest was rejected, I attended, and I always hoped that one day my photography would be exhibited in the FotoFest Biennial.  So when I came upon the FotoFest 2012 website I was heartened to read the theme of the 2012 Biennial would be how artists are conceiving and depicting the future of life and human existence on the earth.

Finally!  A theme that fit my work!

I spent the better part of a day preparing my submission to the FotoFest submission guidelines, I sized all my digital files properly, updated my resume and artist statement, burned a CD, packaged the stuff and went to the post office and sent my submission early.  Maybe this time I might have the good fortune of having my photography included in one of the biggest photography festivals in America?

No!  Shut-out in Houston, again!

I figured I’d wait for months and either get the rejection, or hopefully acceptance.  Instead, just a few days after mailing my submission I got an email.  When I saw the FotoFest email in my inbox I thought to myself, I hope this is an acknowledgement of receipt and an ultra-fast rejection.  I was quite surprised when I opened the email and read this:

As you know the FotoFest 2012 theme would focus on how artists are conceiving and depicting the future of life and human existence on the earth. Given the scale of this particular project we have found it is necessary to have more time to plan this concept and we have to move it to 2014.  We want to let you to be one of the first to know.

We would like to hold your submission for consideration for 2014 Biennial. We hope the change of focus will not cause you any difficulties or inconvenience. 

For the 2012 Biennial, FotoFest’s focus will be Russia and FotoFest’s own exhibitions will focus on Contemporary Russian Photography - Post-war Avant-garde to the Present.  This will be work by Russian photographers working in Russia.

Let me know if you would like to have your submission considered under the new focus or if you would like us to hold it for the 2014 focus.

Wow!  That’s amazing.  While my submission was in-transit, the whole darn theme was changed to Russian Photography, something my work has no relation to whatsoever.

So, I replied to their email and told them it would be silly to review my landscape photography in the context of Russian photography.  (That’s just goofy!  I'm not Russian, and won't be in 2014 either.)  And I also mentioned that if my submission was held for four years for the 2014 Biennial, it would probably be lost.  Honestly, I don’t know of any organization that can not lose something in four years time.  I really don’t need to wait four years to hear nothing back because my submission was lost long-ago.  And I really, really, don’t need to wait four years for a rejection.

I told them, in this instance, they ought to just return my submission to me.  No reply has been received.  All is normal!

I think The Universe is telling me, stop fucking around with Houston, you’re NEVER going to exhibit there!  It seems I’ve been receiving this message for decades now.  Okay, okay, I get it!  Houston didn’t like my pictures when I lived there and ‘they’ still don’t.  Okay!

This reminds me of The Houston Center for Photography.  HCP, like FotoFest, had its beginnings in the 1980s.  It was recognized as the ‘premier’ venue for photography in Houston, and I submitted works to them as well.  HCP rejected me in the 1980s, and in the 1990s.  Stupidly I made another proposal to HCP in the 00s and for that proposal I received three rejection letters!  Okay, okay, three ass-kickings and I’ll stay down!  I give up.

Shortly after my triple-rejection from HCP, I found myself in Houston for a brief business trip, so I visited the HCP gallery to see just what kind of photography was so much better than mine.  I found an exhibition of large-scale, out-of-focus pictures.  WTF?  Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I can’t possibly compete with that. 

So, it’s a foregone conclusion that Dale O’Dell will never, ever exhibit at The Houston Center for Photography.  It’s also a safe bet I won’t exhibit in the FotoFest Biennial, in 2012, 2014 or ever.  I’m not going to re-submit.  (And I doubt they’ll return my submission either.)

To The Universe I say, Message Received!!!  I get it.  Fuck Houston, I’ll never exhibit there.  And really, I should have gotten this message a long time ago.  I mean the reason I left the place is because I never liked it or (most of) the people there, it’s only my Ego that wants to return to Houston and exhibit.  But now, after multiple rejection-ass-kickings, I get the message and my Ego is fully contained, controlled and suppressed.

And getting back to FotoFest; that’s one heckuva ‘theme change,’ from human existence on Earth to Russian Photography.  With my luck, if I’d allowed them to keep my submission for review in 2014 (assuming they did not lose it) by the time the review for 2014 came around they’d probably change the theme to something like:

Sub-Saharan underwater landscape photography done by Gnomes with cel-phone cameras.

And finally, aside from Russians, who gives a shit about Russian Photography?  Russia can’t even build a camera that’s not a back-engineered rip-off of a Leica (check eBay to see what I mean).  And wouldn’t the proper venue for Russian Photography be someplace like, well, Russia?

Don’t look for my photography at the Houston FotoFest, Comrade!

Dale O’Dell
January 18, 2011

Does anybody read this stuff?