It's true. I won a travel-photo contest, and I'm going to Mumbai in early 2015.
But real people don't ACTUALLY win these things, right? Winners of sweepstakes, lotteries, and international contests live on page 6 of the newspaper, in blurbs in your sidebar, and as yokels with stupid faces in your newsfeed. No one REALLY knows these surely fictitious winners...
Well, I guess I'm the yokel with the stupid face this time.
First, let me make one thing clear: I'm not a professional photographer. I don't even consider myself a particularly good taker-of-pictures. I have far too many friends who do that professionally, and I wouldn't want to sully the reputation of their craft by tossing my name alongside theirs.
Still, a couple of months ago - back in October, I think - I was editing some photos and cruising the internet for inspiration, and I happened across this Lufthansa #NetworkingTheWorld contest. I gave it a quick once-over and learned all I had to do was hashtag an Instagram photo of a "world destination" along with some words for context.
Easy! I had hundreds of photos from my recently completed bike trip already published to Instagram, so all I had to do was hashtag those pics and make sure they each had an adequate caption. I did it, and then, I forgot all about it.
About a month later, I opened an email from Lufthansa telling me I was one of 50 finalists from a field of more than 5500. The email itself made me laugh:
I laughed, because apparently this was the "serious journalistic talent" that catapulted me to the final round:
I am self-deprecating by nature, but I certainly didn't expect this photo - which actually isn't a photo at all, but rather an overexposed video still that I pulled when putting together a short movie - to garner any sort of acclaim. But I wasn't complaining.
I still had no silly hope that I'd win the contest. There was no way I was going to beat out all (well, technically 45) of the other contestants, some of whom appeared to be seriously talented photographers and journalists (although, to be fair, at least a handful seemed to be run-of-the-mill photographers with limited aesthetic sensibility. I'd at least place ahead of them, I thought).
The Lufthansa email went on to state that I'd need to submit 5 more photos OR one 50-second video that "captures the vastness of the world, the uniqueness of the people there, and the spirit of Lufthansa Cargo, a company which brings it all together, connecting the peoples and places," in addition to 500 words of text explaining my entry. Oh. Ok. Sure.
I immediately made the decision to create a video instead of submitting 5 more photos, even if 50 seconds was pretty limiting. It's way easier to cram more visual appeal and a more, um, pandering concept into a 50 second video than it is in 5 photos, and I knew I needed to make my entry memorable after only one viewing. Dress to impress, or whatever.
So, even though I had never used iMovie before (I have a pretty rudimentary PC laptop - shit's expensive, man), my friend Echo let me spend a night with her MacBook to edit this together:
It's a pretty cheesy video, most certainly. But I knew I wasn't entering a contest with a seriously discerning set of artistic criteria (it was through an airline, after all). I was betting that the sentimental storyline in a genuine context would make more of a difference than an objectively beautiful set of photos or video clips with limited relative context.
Turns out, I was right:
So, I'm going to India in January. Lufthansa is paying for my flight and accomodations (with a likely overnight and ensuing brunch in Frankfurt on the way), and I'll spend several days in Mumbai as the guest of the local Lufthansa station. I'll likely take a few more days to explore while I'm there - I'd love to take a long train ride to another Indian city - and then fly home for free as part of the prize package.
I'll keep you posted.