What Is Critical Mass?
Critical Mass began as a way to help photographers get their work into the conversation. In-person portfolio review events are a bigger expense and time commitment. We wanted to create an online platform that would make it easier and more efficient for photographers to promote their work to a wide selection of professionals in the field.
Critical Mass gets photographers’ work in front of top museum curators, gallerists, publishers, editors, and media producers. That’s a lot of eyes. As an individual photographer, it’s difficult to make connections with professionals at this level – much less with 200 of them. In Critical Mass, photographers (from anywhere) submit a 10-image portfolio. The 200 finalists who proceed past the first, pre-screening round then have their work reviewed and voted on by the full panel of 200 jurors. It’s an unprecedented way to get your work in front of the right people!
Critical Mass works.
The professionals chosen for the Critical Mass jury are continually looking for new work. Every year, we hear a flurry of success stories. Curators report back with lists of photographers they’ve given exhibitions to. Photographers email us about photo editors who have highlighted their work in the media. Museum professionals tell us about artists they’ve added to their collections. Career-building connections happen in Critical Mass.
Get your work on the radar!
Critical Mass Registration opens June 1 – June 30, 2023.
Early Bird Submission Fee (deadline 6/9) – $65 – (ends at noon PST)
Regular Submission Fee (deadline 6/30) – $75
Every submission is juried by our selected Pre-Screening Panel, a group of key-industry professionals, as well as Photolucida’s Executive Director and Board Members. Through this three-week process, the 200 finalists are announced and move on to the next round of jurying.
Photographers selected for the finalists round pay an additional $200. Their work is then sent on to the full panel of 200 jurors. All finalists receive a limited edition print from our Print Collecting Initiative.
Jurors have the option of leaving comments for photographers.
Before you register, please read the Entry Guidelines to learn how to prepare your submission. Then, visit the Critical Mass registration page to submit your work!
Although the primary intent of Critical Mass is exposure (which is a benefit to all who enter), we are pleased to also offer awards each year. The awards for Critical Mass 2023 are:
The Critical Mass TOP 50 Exhibition – this group exhibition will be held at The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC, in the Spring of 2023.
The SE Center for Photography Solo Show Award – a Finalist will be selected to have a solo exhibition at the SE Center for Photography in Greenville, SC.
The Blue Sky Solo Show Award – a Finalist has been selected to have a solo exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon in the Spring of 2023
Michael Reichmann Project Development Grants – three Finalists will be awarded $1000 cash to go towards the development of a current or future project.
Print Collecting Initiative Award – each of the 200 Finalists will receive a limited edition signed print. This award is generously sponsored by Pro Photo and Hahnemühle.
Maine Media Scholarship – a scholarship valued at $1,600 will be awarded towards one Maine Media workshop, either on campus or online. This award is generously sponsored by Maine Media.
Maine Media Lecture – an online artist lecture for a winner to speak about their work through Maine Media’s online channels.
Feature Articles – a winner (or winners) will be featured in Analog Forever and GUP magazines.
Projections Presentation – up to three finalists will have the opportunity to share their work and creative vision on Frank Meo’s monthly Projections webinar.
Merit-based Scholarships – selected photographers will have the entry fees to Critical Mass waived. Photolucida is pleased to offer 2023 scholarships to Ana Vallejo, German Vazquez, Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez, Roshni Khatri, Thalia Juarez, and Yekaterina Gyadu.
Our Critical Mass jurors are an international group of industry professionals representing a wide variety of photographic interests. We make a great effort to invite a wide range of professionals in the field (gallery owners, agency art buyers, curators, publishers, editors, media producers, etc.). In addition to seeing the work during the online voting process, jurors also have access to a database of the finalists’ work for future reference.
Note: Critical Mass jurors, Photolucida staff, Photolucida Board, and Photolucida Advisory Council are not allowed to submit their own work to Critical Mass.
Have questions? Please read the Entry Guidelines carefully and make sure to check the FAQs. If you still don’t find an answer to your questions, please contact us!
*CM2023 Note: Throughout its history, Photolucida has welcomed creative technologies and tools in photographic image-making. We remain committed to celebrating diverse approaches of visual storytelling. The emerging field of AI (Artificial Intelligence) – generated imagery is a new frontier for all—one that is quickly evolving in terms of authorship, intellectual property (IP), valuation issues, and more. Given that the consensus of industry-wide best practices concerning these many complex questions is still evolving, Photolucida will not accept submissions of AI-generated imagery in our 2023 open call for entry for Critical Mass. Our goal is to continue exploring issues at the intersection of AI, creativity, and photo-based work through ongoing conversation with curators, gallerists, collectors, thought leaders, and, of course, you – our community of passionate photographers.
Photolucida reserves the right to reproduce all work submitted for Critical Mass in the materials distributed to Critical Mass jurors, participating photographers, and educators. Photographers may not pull work from Critical Mass once it has been submitted. Refunds are not extended. Photolucida reserves the right to reproduce submitted work in announcements, catalogs, websites and publications that report on or promote our programming. If your portfolio falls in the TOP 50 category, participation in the TOP 50 exhibition is expected. 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.