Faith and cliche in an online contest

The grand prize winner in the  Facebook group Monochrome Magick’s “Piety” online photo contest shows a devotee raising a lighted candle with the dripping hot wax on his hand.

One of the judges said she picked this entry because it was one of the few that didn’t show an icon.

Subliminally, many of those who voted might have shared a so-called “icon fatigue”— which is probably why this night shot gathered the most number of points.

Both in verbal and visual expression, imagery and symbols joust each other in articulating an idea or emotion. Imagery is more personal and experiential while symbols are more cultural and collective. Though images are also cliché prone—a child’s head popping out in a line of militia pants, silhouettes in front of sunsets, symbols can be deadening in visual language as one can only count so many crosses and grottos before the mind is numbed at their number.

Icons are symbols and as thus leave the viewers, knowingly or unknowingly, emotionally exhausted. But just as in verbal transactions, clichés can be quite apt and even snug in visual
excursions, too. This can be seen in the runner-up photo showing a devotee carrying a bag with defaced icons, her nose pressed on the head of the Blessed Virgin’s nose-less statuette and her eyes tightly closed behind her clear glasses. Being a close-up shot, the viewer can’t escape the intensity of her thought.

But when things gell, they really do, and thus the rosary and the dextrose hose converging into a pair of very sickly looking hands in the third place- photo make for a very powerful image.

The rosary becomes a very integral part of the composition. The fourth place-photo though becomes its antithesis as it shows a couple praying in front of burning candles with nary an icon in sight. The picture is just as powerful, in fact, only a point separates them in the contest.

Many of the shots are related to the Sinulog event. And since the Sinulog has been around for decades now, many visual clichés have sprung from the event.

A crowd waving hands and a child sitting on a parent’s shoulder raising the icon of the Holy Child are but a few.

But one of the reasons why we love even corrupt politicians is because they can still make us smile with their trite phrases and clichés. It takes alchemical talent to make what’s ordinary and pedestrian shine like gold. This can be said of the fifth place-photo. It shows this girl on a parent’s shoulder, in a crowd, raising the Sto. Niño icon to the heavens. The child is so charmingly dead-center that the whole image makes the rule of thirds a cliché. Talk about positive energy!

When members of this Facebook group started complaining about registration fees of photo contests, the moderator suggested an online photo contest with no registration fee. The “likes” started to come. When he asked for sponsors, some volunteered. The prizes are still small and entries few but many of the entries are worthy to be in a coffee table book. If this contest will continue for a couple of years, maybe it could catch the eye of some publisher.

For now Monochrome Magick thanks the sponsors that made this contest possible: Total, BigSeed, NNK, EaS Architects, Macy’s Camera Shop, Expose Hairstyling, Classical Geometry, Qube Gallery, Josie Pereyra, MMA Autoworks, Handuraw Pizza, Tabor Hill College-OAD, Arlene Solis Chua, Louie Nacorda, Bernardo Flores, Eileen Mangubat and Ed Vergara.

TAGS: devotee, faith, photo contest
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