As strange as it was lining-up to enter the Taylor Wessing prize (see "Showering in public") it pales in comparison with the experience of collecting work that didn't get selected.
What a difference in atmosphere! Gone was the swagger, the passive aggressiveness the "not daring to hope" crackle of expectation and in its place the dole-queue drudgery of those whose dreams have been stamped like kittens.
Personally I took the approach that, as with all photography competitions, lots of great photographers submit work, a few get chosen but it doesn't mean that those who did not make the edit are collectively a dreadful, talentless, waste of blood and organs. Indeed many of those collecting prints at the same time seemed to be rolling up very nice work indeed so plenty of wonderful pictures were undoubtedly passed-over.
However there was, amongst my fellow also-rans, a certain tension. One girl tore the plastic sleeves off her prints and stuffed them into her backpack with the kind of simmering, clenched-jawed resentment usually reserved for naughty children whose angry parent's don't like to "make a spectacle" in public.
Another folded her prints aggressively as I, overcome by curiosity, took a quick glance. Which seemed particularly bizarre on three counts.
Firstly I always imagined that Photography was about communication so why would you try to stop someone seeing your pictures. Secondly, why fold prints that you've taken the time to collect? Why not just let the committee dispose of them. Finally, what possible harm could come of me seeing the picture? Given that neither of us had won anything, plagiarism seemed an unlikely outcome!
I collected my three prints along with four of Abbie's and five of Sarah's, put them in a cheap but sturdy clear plastic portfolio to prevent them from being damaged and walked out with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
Only one of my pictures (and not the one above) will be chained to the radiator in the attic and fed gruel, the other two make me as proud now as they did the day they were born!