Daniel Berman is the man behind the Mobile Photo Awards, one of the most talked about events in the mobile photography calendar. As this year’s awards approaches I caught up with Daniel to find out more about the MPA’s.

He lives in Toronto, Canada and has been running his own company as a director and producer of television documentaries, music specials and nature programming. “I love working with images because at heart I’m a storyteller – whether that involves public speaking, making documentaries or taking photos my goal is always to try and convey some fundamental kernel of a story.

I’ve been taking photographs ever since I made a pinhole camera from a cardboard cut-out when I was six years old. I had a Kodak 110 for a while and then I bought a Pentak K1000, a fully manual SLR, sometime in the late 1980’s.  Music and images are my great artistic loves, along with fiction I suppose.  But yes, I’ve always loved taking pictures!”

Tell us a bit about the mobile photo awards and how it began?

Well, the mobile photography space is a still a little like the Wild West and there is room to establish new versions of traditional “art world” events. I realize for an exhibition to be taken seriously in the fine-art space, to be invited to art fairs and established galleries with a well-heeled clientele of collectors, the images need to be part of something larger.

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I’ve been involved in the mobile photography community pretty much since its infancy. The community initially began to form in Flickr groups and quickly coalesced on Twitter sometime in 2008-09. I watched and participated as it grew from a few hundred obsessed folks like myself to the global movement of millions we see today. Along the way I’ve met and interacted with many photographers, the bloggers, artists, the app developers, etc…a few years ago I recognized a need to promote the very best artists working in the genre. A competition coupled with international fine art exhibits seemed a logical way to break into the fine art world. Part of our core mission is to host gallery shows and facilitate sales of limited edition prints for our winning artists.

Really, the Mobile Photography Awards is a way to once a year bring the community of artists and developers together, exhibit their work in galleries, bring the best images into the realm of fine art and create a legitimate way to focus real world attention to mobile artists. The MPA is an opportunity for people to bring attention to their own work at the same time as we bring attention to the work of the community as a whole.  We are a combination of an open gallery call and a competition. The amount of press and interest we generate outside of the mobile world is a result of presenting a coherent set of fine art exhibits that go beyond one person’s taste.

Who are this year’s judges and what are they looking for in a winning photo? With so many talented photographers entering judging must be a difficult task.

We have had the good fortune to have always had a remarkable group of jury members, leaders and influencers in their respective fields, with integrity and with the best interests of the entrants and the images at heart.  This year we have internationally renowned photo journalist and Nat Geo photographer Ed Kashi for our Photo Journalism category.  We have Christopher Wahl, a portrait photographer who has done sit-down portraits with everyone from Keith Richards, Tiger Woods to the Queen of England – he’s been called one of the master portrait photographers of our time.

We have well-known bloggers like Marty Yawnick the publisher of LifeinLofi and Joanne Carter publisher of the App Whisperer, fine-artists like Sarah Jarrett and Melissa Vincent, mobile photographers, former winners, etc…so we are all in the best of hands.

The category judging works like this: each category has a lead judge.  That judge selects a top 25-30 images. We then assign all the jury members to join 2 or 3 categories.  The lead judge facilitates a group discussion and a consensus for a winner is reached. The process takes time, focus, a willingness to back up one’s decisions, to compromise sometimes and really get in deep discussing imagery with people who may see things differently.  I encourage people to check out the complete list jury right here

What happens if you are fortunate enough to be chosen as a winner?

The winners and runners-up for each category join the MPA exhibit tour each year.  This year we had exhibits in San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Collingwood and Melbourne.

Part of our core mission is to play our role in the larger effort to professionalize certain aspects of mobile photography, fine art exhibits in established galleries being just an example. We have produced ten exhibits in three countries in the last 18 months.  In that time the Mobile Photography Awards has become the world’s largest annual event & competition of its kind. As an organization, we have distributed more than $25,000 directly to artists and photographers through competition cash prizes and fine-art sales from our exhibits.

There are category prizes, of course. In addition to the gallery shows and exhibits winners also receive prizes like cool accessories, free prints, lens attachments, apps, editing software, Gorillapods…some have special prizes, like our Travel by Trover category has a $500 photo travel package as an additional prize and the top 5 images in our Still Life category will all receive the new 2X Telephoto Olloclip.

Our grand prize is $3000 for the MPA Mobile Photographer of the Year.  This prize is based on a body of work submitted.  We convene a smaller grand prize jury of 6-8 people who discuss a shortlist of between 50-75 possible winners.  This is actually an extremely difficult process – and so worth the effort.

We also award $500 to 2nd Place and $500 for the winner of the Photo Essay category – this year our Photo Essay is sponsored by Diptic and again the top three essays will be part of our gallery shows.

We believe it’s important to play our role in the larger community effort to professionalize certain aspects of mobile photography. Fine art exhibits in established galleries and art fairs being just an example.

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How can people enter the mobile photo awards, what are the competition categories and are there any rules entrants must adhere to?

Visit www.mobilephotoawards.com – register an account with your name and email, sign-in, purchase the number of entries you would like to submit and upload. It can be done directly from any phone, tablet or desktop.

The rules are there to support the spirit of the competition.   All images entered must be shot and processed on mobile devices (phones and tablets.) No computer manipulation beyond re-titling or re-sizing for upload, no non-mobile cameras allowed. The rest of the rules are pretty much in line with every other competition and open gallery call for art exhibits i.e. there is an entry fee, you must enter your own images, enter before the deadline, etc…you can visit our FAQ for all of that kind of information at www.mobilephotoawards.com/faq/

We have twenty categories and they range from Black & White, Still Life, Street Photography all the way to Visual FX, Digital Fine Art, and a cool new category called The Darkness for shadowy, noir inspired images. A complete list is found here: www.mobilephotoawards.com/the-categories/

THE DEADLINE ENTRIES IS DECEMBER 3RD, 2013

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