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Jorgenson the Best of Show

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For the first time in the history of the event, the wildcard contestant captured The Best of Show at the April 19 Pro Photographer Showdown.

Whistler’s Blake Jorgenson was judged to have the best overall slide presentation – no easy feat considering the competition. Jorgenson first had to beat out hundreds of entrants just for the opportunity to compete against the pros. The 25-year-old Jorgenson has only been photographing for about six years but his work has been published internationally. His fellow Showdown photographers, however, each have 10, 20 or 30 years of experience in the industry.

Jorgenson says he was curious to see how his presentation would stand up and seemed a little surprised at the outcome. However, he admits to feeling very prepared going into the contest. In fact, he may have had an advantage over the more experienced competitors – Jeff Divine, Joe McBride and Mark Gallop – as Jorgenson has done previous work in preparing slide shows. He was also a finalist in last year’s Pro Photographer Search and had a better sense of the overall experience judges would be looking for.

"I think that’s the key. It is a ‘slide show’ contest. I mean, those guys are worlds beyond me. But I’ve been doing slides for the World Ski and Snow Board Festival and other businesses around town and just for myself, I guess those paid off," says Jorgenson. "When I talked to some of the other guys, they said they had never done (this type of show) before. I guess it made a difference in the end."

Most in the audience would also agree that while many of the competitors presented technically correct and sometimes flashy photos, Jorgenson’s more subtle approach with keen use of texture left a lasting impression.

"That’s something that also comes with the experience of putting together shows," says Jorgenson. "The slides look different on the screen than they do at home on your light board. It can be kind of a stressful ordeal if you don’t know what your focus is or how to tie the shots together."

Whistlerite Eric Berger won the 1998 competition and sat on the panel of judges this year. Berger says he’s been watching Jorgenson’s work progress over the years and wasn’t terribly surprised that he nabbed the top honour.

"Blake just finally figured out how to tie all his work together and he really put an effort into the extras like the music," says Berger. "The bottom line is all the photographers here, whether they win their way in or are invited, all have amazing images. But in order to win the show you have to have the full package. And the ones that figure that out have shows that carry a lot more emotion… I think the reason in the past that some of the bigger names haven’t won is because their shows were just a little too commercial, or perhaps highlights of all publishable shots. But in a slide show, if you’re just seeing a series of those shots you can get pretty darn bored. A slide show needs to be dreamy. It needs to take you somewhere. And I think Blake had a lot of shots that allowed you to go to where he was – like his night camping shots. You’re in the middle of nowhere on a ridge with a full moon and a couple of buddies and there’s no one around for hundreds of miles. Those are feelings that only the photographer and the crew get to experience, but he had shots that allowed the rest of us to get a little taste."

Organizers of the Pro Photographer Search are also counting Jorgenson’s victory as a boost for the competition. Showing that the underdog can measure up and even win against the pros should encourage more up and comers to participate.

"I’m really excited for next year’s search and being able to explain to potential entrants what has gone on this year. It should really open the field to a lot of people," says Producer Catherine Yates. Already the competition is drawing talent from as far away as Japan and is being touted as the Sundance Film Festival of still photos. Berger says there could definitely be credibility to that claim in coming years.

"Right now, some participants come here not quite understanding everything they can do. But that’s going to progress as this competition gains momentum," says Berger. "I think this competition is what photography is all about. Whether you’re doing it for yourself or doing it for a living, it’s a very personal thing. You’re capturing the world the way you see it. And when you just show a few photos in a magazine you’re just seeing a highlight. But when you get to see a whole series of photos and when a photographer gets to show his or her work the way they like to show it, it’s definitely a very soulful experience."

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