It is always paramount to me to make sure I go through the fine prints of a photo competition I am entering into. Not solely to keep me from breaking any rule, but poring over them is where the fun begins.

When the PNVSCA unfurled its Volunteerism Photo Contest, I buried myself in its guidelines. Word for word. Like dipping into a classic cliff-hanger. The challenge is to capture relentless volunteers in action. Nothing complicated, and with a very attractive prize catch. No problemo. (I have Teacher Fe and her volunteers under La Huerta bridge, and the Kilos Bayanihan street teachers in Malate perfect as subjects. )

The bad news came in cute little details.

Weeks after sending my entries, the organizers sent me an emailed statement — they are scrapping all my photos.

It states “As per contest guidelines, photographs must not include the participant or any organization’s name, material or content.”

Name. Material. Content. O the little things in life.

“Hence, we cannot consider your entries for the following reasons..”

The letter enumerated a blow-by-blow account of the findings. Beginning with each individual photo entry titles, predicated by their corresponding “reasons.”

So. Considering I am no longer bound by contest rules and — in the spirit of the mind-boggling ghost month — I am exorcising out here the images from a wasted time, money, and effort, together with the organizers very own disqualifying lines:

“’Working for a Cause, Not for Applause’ (above) and (below)’The Heart of a Volunteer’ since both have banners of a government organization;”

“‘Rise by Lifting Others’ since it has the name of an organization printed at the back of the volunteer’s shirt.”

“‘Teacher Under the Bridge’” since it has the name/content of a basketball organization printed in the shirt of a child;”

“’Educational Rockstar’ since it has the name of a publisher in the book included in the photograph.”

“’Classroom Without Borders’ since it included a brand of coloring materials;”

“’Doing Small Things with Great Love’ since it included a biscuit brand;”

“‘Learning. Teaching. Giving’ since it has a snack brand included;”

“‘Education Under the Bridge’ since it has the pictures of two notable personalities printed in the name tags of the children;”

I am a street photography devotee. My subjects are ethereal to me. To touch one tiny bit in them is to transform its entirety. A mockery.

In closing the letter, they advised me to consider sending another entry.

I don’t think so. My other photos have candy wrappers in the background.


  1. Elmer, I am disgusted to hear and see such fine details disqualifying your entries.

    You’re a very talented street photographer and in this day and age, it’s extremely difficult not to have some name, even partial, or billboard in the background in village or modern city.

    Surely it’s the main subject and composition that counts, not some minuscule detail that I barely saw until you pointed it out. If the whole billboard or T-shirt name had prime position in the composition, that might be a different matter. But partially and in the background.

    I wouldn’t be sending another entry either 🙂

  2. Hi Sir, I’m also into photography and joining a contest is a way of learning the craft. With this, I would just like to know if you know any website or any means where contests are being announced? Thank you very much 🙂

  3. Such bullshit…the only way a photo could possibly comply is to STAGE the damn thing…hire actors, castingand stylists…and therefore produce a completely meaningless farce of an image, insulting to the real people who give of their time & energy to volunteer. That totally faked “perfect Instagram world” that nobody’s life is actually like. Nakaka bad trip.

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