Why Do We Compete?


The image below has nothing to do with this post except that it was my other entry in the competition mentioned previously. I was sure it was going to win something from the judge who’s own photographic subjects are always shore themes. The image made it into the semi-final round but it didn’t score any points. I started thinking about why I compete in the first place. There is no denying that I am and always have been a competitive person by nature — not only with others but with myself too. I do think that any success I have had in life (at least in part) can be attributed to my competitive spirit. Is it validation, a feeling of self-worth, or a feeling of superiority that we are after when we compete? Whatever it is, I believe our quest for wins gives us a goal to strive for and helps us to become better photographers. It’s also nice to be able to share your work and get feedback from like-minded friends.

Here are some thoughts from others I found on the web regarding why we compete. Post a comment (by clicking on ‘comments’ below the photo) and let me know your thoughts on this subject.

“Our whole lives are motivated by an internal sense of worth, measured by “rewards” — both internal and external. We’re each addicted to our own reward system. It stains every action we take.”

“During our evolution and survival, we have had to compete and ‘survival of the fittest’ became the norm. It still continues though the parameters/areas have changed but the trait is still very strong in us. Nobody thinks that death is Ultimate and even if it is, life has still to be lived and lived with superiority and power (domination).”

“The reason life exists on this planet, and was able to evolve is because of competition. If we compete, we continue to evolve, get better and ultimately survive. It’s simply part of our nature.”

'Old Broken Pier' © Denise Bush

'Old Broken Pier' © Denise Bush

9 Responses to “Why Do We Compete?”

  1. My 2 cents: Very interesting subject, I was going to write some long winded rant, but thought it best to keep it simple. Basically, I don’t compete, I don’t play the lottery, I do buy a 50/50 ticket to help the club. I found it for me of little value. Photography is subjective just like art and every picture has a value for someone more or less.

  2. 2 denisebushphoto

    But isn’t it a form of competition to enter a photo in a juried show? Aren’t you competing with others to get in? — D

  3. 3 George LoPresti

    I compete to get feedback on my work. I have never won a first place but several 2nd places. I am often bewildered at the final choices our judges make. Sometimes I believe my images were better, other times the images of competitors I believe were the best of the entries and are not in the final running. I guess “in the eye of the beholder (judge)” is something we all have to deal with and hopefully gain some insight into the reasons why one entry is better than another. In many ways I agree with Lou Dallara. I hope we don’t lose sight of learning from each other and enjoying each others work while being competitive. I am a member of a club in South Carolina during the winter. The focus there is for now learning from each other and enjoying each others work.

  4. 4 Ralph Berglund

    There are certainly deep-rooted, sub-conscious reasons for competing, evolving from the drive to survive and to procreate, hard-wired in our DNA which somehow crosses the membranes into our collective unconscious. But, I’m not sure that photo competitions are part of survival or procreation. On a more practical, “get real” level I compete to see how I’m developing in my art/craft. We all read the photographic magazines; we all attend workshops; we all pay close attention to our program speakers and judges; and many of us attend mentored field photographic trips. I do these things because they’re interesting and fun but I’m also constantly trying to learn how to improve my work and to capture the elusive image that one likes to see again and again. Am I learning something about composition, about selective focus, about exposure, about cropping, about shutter speed, about reflections, about subject matter, about …? I look to competitions and judges to find out if I am improving. I think I produce some great, beautiful, thoughtful images but … .what do the judges think? (But, by-the-way, I think there’s still some quiet, secret mental club-swinging going on when I win one and can say, “Yaaaaay!”)

  5. Great image! I really love it from a clarity, color palette and composition standpoint.

    I think it is natural to want to compare yourself with others and to validate your talents through the feedback you get from other people. For myself, I purposely DON’T compete and unknown to most people (until now!) it is not because of any fear of failure or lack of self-worth on my part in terms of my work. I guess I compete with myself first. If I can increase my knowledge and change my work methods to achieve different results than I feel I am winning. When I was in a corporate job, I always tried to stay focused on what my goals were and not to focus on the goals of others too. And I always got great results and kept my eye on the right things. I know this all might sound a little weird to some but after running an art gallery for almost 6 years, it really solidifies that all forms of art are TOTALLY subjective. So really, is anyone “qualified” to judge someone else? I think the experience of art for me has become more about my own creative journey than validation of my creative journey from other people. Because to me, the ultimate judge of my journey (and probably the hardest judge I am ever going to find) is myself.

    There’s my 2 cents…sorry for all the words!

    • Julie, Thank you for sharing your feelings. It helps to put our conversations on competition in perspective. It will be interesting to watch you judge the competition at the SJCC in May.


  6. Beautifully spoken, Julie. Love your shot, D!

  7. 8 denisebushphoto

    Great comments everyone! If you are new to this post — keep them coming! Thanks — Denise

  8. Great blog here! Also your website loads up fast!
    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

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