Barry Underwood, Critical Mass 2019

Entry Details

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 200 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!

We are again extending merit-based scholarships to MFA program students, after receiving suggestions from Photography program faculty. The work of these students will be in the finalist category of Critical Mass.

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!

Submission Details

Last year we adapted Critical Mass programming to accommodate the new economic reality we are all facing, including a reduced registration fee, additional (cash) Michael Reichmann Project Grant Awards, and adding other awards that don’t rely on physical venues. We have decided to continue forward with those changes into 2021!

Pre-screening Round
Early Bird Submission Fee (deadline 5/28) – $50 – (ends at noon PST)
Regular Submission Fee (deadline 6/16) – $60 – (down from $75) – Critical Mass 2021 is now closed! 

Every submission is juried by our selected Pre-Screening Panel, a group of 9 key-industry professionals, as well as Photolucida’s Executive Director and Program Manager. Through this four-week process, the 200 finalists are announced and move on to the next round of jurying.

Finalists’ Round
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 2021 are:

The Michael Reichmann Project Grant Award – FIVE photographers will be selected from the Top 200 Finalists to each receive $1000 cash to go towards the development of a current project.

Blue Sky Gallery Solo Show Award – One photographer will be chosen for a solo exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery during Portland Photo Month (Date TBD), selected by Blue Sky’s Exhibition Committee.

Fraction Feature Award – Ten photographers will be selected for a dedicated Critical Mass Issue on Fraction, selected by Bree Lamb

*NEW* Humble Highlight Award – Five Finalists will receive individual deep dive interviews on Humble Arts Foundation‘s blog, selected by Humble’s Jon Feinstein and Roula Seikaly.

Group Show Award – A number of Finalists will be selected for a curated group show in the Lishui Photography Festival in China!

Print Collecting Initiative Award – Each Finalist will receive a signed limited edition fine art print by Granville Carroll, ‘Selah, 2020’ – from the series Because the Sun Hath Looked Upon Me.

Gifted Book Award – 25 Finalists will receive a copy of Mark Alice Durant’s “Running, Falling, Flying, Floating, Crawling”, published by Saint Lucy’s Books.


  • All entrants will have their work seen and voted on by the pre-screening committee, a group of 10 selected curators, publishers, and editors.
  • The top 200 finalists will have their work seen and voted on by over 200 esteemed photography jurors. Jurors have the option of leaving comments for finalists about their work.
  • All entrants will be able to view all of the submitted work (after Critical Mass closes).
  • Awardees will be announced in the Fall of 2021.

200 Jurors!

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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!

Fine Print

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.