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  • Nikon Photo Contest: unlocking a panellist’s perspective with Elliot Grove

  • I crave a journey; a story that takes me to a new world I know nothing about, or shows me a detail of the world I know, but may have overlooked”. NPC panellist Elliot Grove on the works he hopes to find and those that will be catching his eye throughout this year’s judging process.

    Nikon Photo Contest (NPC) – the international imaging competition designed to nurture an aspirational community of creators - is now open for entries for 2020-2021. As professionals and amateurs across the world prepare to submit their work, we spoke to panellist Elliot Grove to find out what he’s looking for this year. The internationally acclaimed filmmaker, screenwriter and producer of over 700 short films also shares his thoughts and advice on how entrants can find creative inspiration in the midst of the current climate.

    Unearthing a judge’s mindset: what I’m looking for

    I have sat on countless juries and judging panels in my time running Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. To be frank, I dislike being a judge for the simple reason that the road from idea to finished work is a torturous one. I always find myself asking “who am I to judge?” as everyone sees, creates and experiences art differently, it’s a personal process. Nonetheless, I am a willing member of the 2021 NPC panel, and I thought I would let you into my thought process to tell you what I am looking for from new work; be it still or film.

    There are two considerations that are important to me, and they both involve that emotive word: ‘story’. Firstly, where possible, I like to gauge the story of the making process – from idea to finished artefact. Has the artist had to overcome significant challenges or barriers in making the work? These barriers can be physical, social or psychological.

    And secondly, what is the story - the narrative of the piece, be it a photograph or a film? Simply put, I crave a journey; a story that takes me to a new world I know nothing about, or shows me a detail of the world I know, but may have overlooked. In either case, I hope the story and/or piece will make me a better person.

    To summarise, the work that grabs my attention is something that is bold, fresh and innovative. Something that no one else has thought of yet, but that everyone wants to think about.

    Interpreting this year’s themes of Connect and Passion

    So, the question is, where do this year’s themes of ‘Connect’ and ‘Passion’ sit during a global pandemic? If I were creating a work myself, I would concentrate on the emotion of the image. Pictures themselves are sources of information and can be easily forgotten. But an image that conveys an emotion is memorable and has proven to stand the test of time.

    Amidst a global health crises, I would think this year’s themes of Connect and Passion will be particularly strong given that each of us needs to deal with the pandemic and each of us seek comfort, solace and advice from artists.

    Sourcing inspiration and creativity in the current climate

    Which brings me more specifically to the personal challenges of the pandemic. A question I ask filmmaker after filmmaker through my work at Raindance is: “how do you stay creative during this unprecedented crisis?” Also, how they manage to create deadlines for work to be completed when it seems like time is standing still.

    I have spoken to over 250 filmmakers in Asia, Europe, and America since March 2020 in my daily Instagram IGTV interviews. The answers come back pretty similar, regardless of the accent! Creatives succeed by being creative. And like any other business or occupation, the key to success is to create a daily schedule that includes an element of self-care, such as  meditation or Yoga.

    To some, this may be a step out of their comfort zone – but all I know is that it works. The current climate is also an excellent time to expand your collaborative circle using the power and engagement possibilities of social media, which never ceases to amaze me. Don’t be afraid to ask your community for help and utilise each point of view wherever you can.

    Each artist or creative industry professional receives inspiration in very different and unique ways. For myself, I try to write something every day. I also respond to my fellow team members and share advice and input on what they are doing. I am very lucky in that regard. My work and Raindance colleagues are very supportive and inspiring and I hope I provide this level of comfort and encouragement for them too.

    Perhaps it’s my farm-boy upbringing where my days were very routine: get up, milk the cows and so on, that allows me to be focused. To this day my daily schedule remains the same day-in and day-out. Although this works for me, it may not work for you, so feel free to experiment and try new things to evoke inspiration and discipline.

    The power of art

    We live in truly troubled times. And many of these troubles are a result of a basic misunderstanding of how people live, work and play in different nations and cultures. What better way to break down these barriers than through the arts?

    The role of creatives is more important than ever before. Through the arts we learn about each other. And photographs are a singularly simple and basic way to educate an audience of how people live and work in different cultures.

    I believe with all my heart and breath that the artists are the ones we should listen to. This is why I have agreed to be an NPC panel member. It is the same reason why I served on the European Nikon Film Festival Jury with Asia Argento and Asif Kapadia previously. It is by engaging with new work from talented emerging artists, musicians and filmmakers that I hope to find answers to the questions we are all facing. And by looking at the new work of the NPC entrants, I am hoping, as are my fellow panellists, to find the next gem, the next ray of light form this new generation of photographers. And I thank Nikon for enabling this.

    To find out more about this year’s Nikon Photo Contest and how to enter, visit the official website