Photographers! Use your multi-media skills. Win a prize. Save democracy.

Faux “photo contests” pitched to aspirational photographers abound. There seems to be a new one every month. Winning one of “those” contest rarely, if ever gets you hired. They serve primarily to stroke your ego and make money for the contest sponsor.

However, here’s one contest you should consider entering– as a photographer and as a citizen.

A few weeks ago I received a call-for-entries email from a friend who works at The McArthur Foundation (they’re the ones who give out the Genius grants). They, along with the Illinois Humanities Council and 36 other organizations, have created a contest called Looking@Democracy which is inviting creatives –working in any digital media– to compete for $100,000 in prize money.

They’re seeking creative media pieces (3 min. or less) about strengthening American democracy. They want to “bring attention to ideas, perspectives and stories that are not currently featured in our mainstream political conversation.”

The want people who are skilled in media (that’s you!) to

Create and send us short digital media content that either:

(a) Tells a story about why government is important to our lives, or
(b) Tells how we might together strengthen American democracy.

They even have a list of example ideas to start you thinking.

Both Democrats and Republicans support the idea of offering prizes for innovation and are increasing funding for contests as major cool things often come from it. E.g.,  The 2004 X Prize launched commercial space travel.

As photographers we often think that cultural change are most often influenced by Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalists or incisive documentaries. But recall how fast and how far Psy and his Sexy Ladies went to make people aware of Korean pop music.  (today’s YouTube view count is 1.4 BILLION)

There is a path between serious and silly that can be embraced by someone with professional media skills, a good idea, and passion enough to get off the couch of discouragement. Is it you?

[Caveat there are two clauses that may give ASMP members pause that govern submissions:

Intellectual Property Rights: All files and applications submitted to the competition remain the intellectual property of the individuals or organizations that developed them, though the IHC will retain the right, through an appropriate license agreement, to use and distribute all submissions to the public free of charge for one year after the announcement of the winners.
 Liability: The contestant shall be liable for, and shall indemnify and hold harmless IHC and MacArthur Foundation against all actions or claims for loss of or damage for intellectual property infringement, any type of defamation, right of privacy, or personal injury claim, or to property of IHC and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation computer systems or to those of the users of the applications resulting from the fault, negligence, or wrongful act or omission of the contestant.

Thanks to ASMP’s Judy Hermann and Victor Perlman for giving me the heads up about those clauses.]

Deadline is April 30th, 2013