Critical Mass

Critical Mass 2012 images

From Critical Mass 2012: Lauren Semivan, Rachel Papo, Aaron Vincent Elkaim, Ilona Szwarc, Sarah Cusimano Miles

Registration for Critical Mass 2014 will open on June 1.

Click here for Critical Mass 2013 TOP 50!

Check our blog for updates on Critical Mass awards and exhibitions.

Click here for Critical Mass Success Stories.

What Is Critical Mass?

The aim of Critical Mass, and all Photolucida programming, is to provide participants with career-building opportunities and to promote the best emerging and mid-career artists working today.

Critical Mass is a program about exposure and community. The idea is simple—photographers (from anywhere) submit a 10 image portfolio for $75 ($90 for international submissions). This work is then pre-screened by a committee of approximately 25 jurors. From those votes, the 200 top Finalists are determined. These 200 Finalists then pay an additional submission fee ($175) and their work goes on to a jury of over 200 of the world’s best photography professionals who have agreed to view and vote on the Finalists’ work.


Although the primary intent of Critcal Mass is exposure (which is a benefit to all who enter), we are pleased to also offer these awards this year:

THREE SOLO EXHIBITIONS: Photolucida is pleased to partner with Blue Sky, the The Center for Fine Art Photography, and The Griffin Museum of Photography this year. Each of these acclaimed galleries will award solo exhibitions to Critical Mass Finalists. Photolucida will contribute funding to support exhibition and/or shipping expenses for selected solo show artists.

Founded in 1975 as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts, Blue Sky is one of the leading venues exhibiting contemporary photography in the United States. The Center for Fine Art Photography was founded in 2004 in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and it provides educational programming, exhibition space, and support services to the photographic community. Opened in 1992, the Griffin Museum is the embodiment of founder Arthur Griffin’s passion—to promote an appreciation of photographic art and a broader understanding of its visual, emotional, and social impact.

TOP 50 EXHIBITION: Jessica Johnston, Assistant Curator at the George Eastman House, will curate an exhibition from the Critical Mass Top 50.

ART PHOTO INDEX LISTING: All photographers selected for Critical Mass’ TOP 50 will receive inclusion in Photo-Eye’s invitation-only Art Photo Index, a global, searchable database of vetted art and documentary photographers and their work.

What to expect?

As an entrant to Critical Mass, you shouldn’t necessarily expect feedback from the jurors unless they want to contact you about your work. Jurors are given the opportunity and encouraged to provide written feedback, though, and many do. All Critical Mass 2013 entrants will receive:

  • A monograph of their choice from Photolucida’s Critical Mass publications library.
  • A DVD containing all of the submitted work.
  • Everyone who enters will have their work seen, and voted on, by the Pre-Screening committee.
  • Those who continue on in the top 200 Finalists will have their work seen, and voted on, by over 200 esteemed photography jurors.

International Scholarships

Each year, Photolucida awards five scholarships to photographers who live and work outside the US. In previous years, scholarships have been given to photographers from Poland, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, and Georgia, and Guatemala. This year, we are pleased to offer this opportunity to six select photographers from Japan.


Critical Mass has a two-part submission process.

  1. First, you pay a $75 registration fee to upload your images and text. ($90 for international entrants due to higher shipping rates). All entries are then formatted into our online voting template and sent to the Pre-Screeners committee for voting.

    The 2013 Pre-Screening committee:
    • Lisa Berry, Curator, Pictura Gallery
    • Leslie K. Brown, Independent Curator
    • Susan Burnstine, Columnist, Black and White Photography Magazine
    • Darren Ching, Co-owner/Creative Director, Klompching Gallery/Photo District News
    • Alyssa Coppelman, Independent Photo Editor
    • Christophe Dillinger, Editor, Square Magazine
    • Crista Dix, Founding Director, wall space Gallery
    • Ellen Fleurov, President, Ellen Fleurov & Associates
    • Roy Flukinger, Research Curator of Photography, Harry Ransom Center
    • Eugenie Frerichs, Art Buyer, Wieden + Kennedy
    • Tricia Hoffman, Executive Director, Newpace Center for Photography
    • Laura Valenti Jelen, Outreach Director, Photolucida
    • Gregory Eddi Jones, Founding Editor, In the In-Between
    • Joni Kabana, Joni Kabana Photography / Photolucida Board
    • Dennis Kiel, Chief Curator & Interim Executive Director, The Light Factory
    • Stu Levy, Portland Art Museum Photography Council/Photolucida Board
    • Michael Mazzeo, Director, Mazzeo Projects
    • Blue Mitchell, Founding Editor, Diffusion Magazine
    • Laura Moya, Director, Photolucida
    • Claire Annette Mussard, Curator/Consultant
    • Shawn Records, Photolucida Board
    • Mary Anne Redding, Photography Department Chair, Santa Fe University of Art & Design
    • Tina Schelhorn, Director, Galerie Lichtblick
    • Christina Spielvogel, Blue Sky Gallery Exhibition Committee
    • Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director/Curator, Griffin Museum for Photography

  2. If you are one of the top 200 photographers chosen by the pre-screeners, then you will pay an additional $175 fee and your work will be sent out to the full panel of over 200 jurors.

200 Jurors!

Our Critical Mass jurors are truly an international group of industry professionals representing a wide variety of photographic interests. We have made a great effort to invite a wide range of professionals in the field (gallery owners, curators, publishers, editors, etc.). The quality of our juror list is a testament to the excellence of Critical Mass programming, now in it’s tenth year. In addition to seeing the work during the online process, jurors will also be sent a DVD of the Finalists’ work, which serves as a good reference tool in a multitude of ways.

Note: Critical Mass jurors are not allowed to submit their own work to Critical Mass.

Online Submissions

Enter Critical Mass via our registration page.

Click here to read detailed instructions on how to enter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please check our answers to the most frequently asked questions. If you still don’t find an answer to your questions, please email us at

Fine Print

Photolucida reserves the right to reproduce all work submitted for Critical Mass in the materials distributed to Critical Mass jurors and participating photographers. Photographers may not pull work from Critical Mass once it has been submitted. We are unable to offer refunds. Photolucida reserves the right to reproduce submitted work in announcements, catalogs, web sites and publications that report on or promote our programming. Any necessary permissions required to use images of people and/or property are the responsibility of the photographer. Photographers retain the copyright to their images. Submission of an entry to this program signifies acceptance of all conditions stated.

Partner Acknowledgements

Photolucida is also pleased to be able to partner with Blue Sky Gallery, The Center for Fine Art Photography, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and Photo-Eye on our Critical Mass 2012 Awards.

Blue Sky Gallery
The Center for Fine Art Photography
Griffin Museum of Photography