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Rejection of photographs by 1x curation: Reasons and Consequences

by Head Curator Peter Svoboda 

Almost each artist during his carrier has faced some form of rejection. Doesn’t matter in what art genre it was, from painter to actor, almost everyone.

For us photographers, it can mean as for everyone else an unpleasant experience we have to deal with. It almost doesn’t matter at what  occasion we have dealt with rejection, whether in a photography competition, exhibition, curated internet site or just when presenting our work to a viewer.

Here on we are facing rejection on the internet site when presenting our work online, to the largest curated and one of the most reputable global art photography internet sites.


“Curators” by Gloria Salgado Gispert

Gloria quotes:  I will never forget the day I got my first image published and I would like to take advantage of this article to sincerely thank the curators for being there and for being tough, because this is the only way to progress.

What does “curated site” mean?
It means that there will be only those pictures published on the 1x Front page and 1x Photo galleries which went successfully through the screening process . Our work is evaluated and judged by a professional team of curators who do have only two options – Publish or Reject.

A curator's task is to find pictures which fit on the 1x Front page. Unfortunately we curators, have to reject those pictures which did not comply with the attributes for being published or we have already published a similar image by another author. As we have pointed out many times, rejection by 1x doesn‘t really mean that the picture is bad, it just doesn’t fit on the 1x Front page.

All of us curators are also facing rejection just as other photographers when submitting our images. So we know this feeling very well too.
I would compare 1x publishing to any competition where only the best submission will be chosen and we should be prepared that we can be rejected unless we are absolutely sure about the top quality of our work.

It’s normal that artists facing rejection as well as 1x members would not be happy and will not jump 10 feet high after their work did not make 1x Front page and will feel some negative emotions.  Perception of rejection in photography differs from person to person depending on character, temperament, mood and especially depends on how serious we are doing the art.

The more serious we are about artistic standards in photography,  the harder it may be for the photographer to accept rejection of his or her work. The more we believe in our skills the more unpleasant the rejection can be perceived by us.

With consistently applied and transparent curation criteria this can however be more readily accepted as a learning opportunity, particularly given the option to receive specific feedback from other photographers on 1x, which then can improve acceptance of photographs with subsequent submissions, instead of leading to loss of trust in personal skills or exit from 1x towards other respected curated websites.

Same was with me. I wish rejection on 1x would never evoke unpleasant and negative emotions, like sadness, getting upset, discouragement, lost of motivation.
When I was thinking back through the years of my photography career, I realized that I should be even grateful for some of the rejections I have experienced in my life. They meant for me more than being accepted at first sight. I have learned a lot from these experiences.

In the following I would like to emphasize some of the positive aspects of rejection:

For many photographers this may lead to a thought process about the possible reasons for rejection and a  deeper analysis of submissions which were not accepted. Deeper self-directed analysis  or assisted by other 1x photographer critical feedback can help photographers to find aspects of their work that had previously attracted less attention but have the potential to lead to improvement.

The other consequence of being rejected is often greater selectivity and care when submitting ones work to competition or curators, by choosing our better pictures for submission and improving chances for success.

Rejection can be also encouragement to work harder and work more. This is how it worked out in my own career.  I have often been asked by 1x members how to improve their photographs in order to get published. Not an easy answer and not one that should be given at all
in my opinion.

I don’t think it would be good to change the way of creating art just because of the intention to make our work more likeable for judges. In my opinion the original way of thinking should prevail over the taste of judges. The most important is to follow one’s own ideas and not to change the way we are creating art just because it has been rejected. In the past many artist were rejected during their lifetime despite believing in what they were doing. However their work often has become appreciated just after they passed away. The question is who was wrong and why.

I personally used to analyze rejection just to improve and find out the reasons for each time it happened. I think that there are a few important things when dealing with rejection.

- Was the rejected work really worth appreciation and success?
- Does it show for me personally important attributes?
- Am I considering the image worth facing possible rejection?
- Could rejection uncover weaknesses in my work?
- Will I present such work in the future to different judges or do I need to improve it first?
- Was the rejected work a single image or a body of work?
- Is it worth consideration to know the artistic or business background of the person rejecting my work?

At the end, I would like to encourage all 1x members to use  all the advantages of the current 1x curation system and use it for their self improvement. Whiles rejection can be an unpleasant experience there is always something positive in it too.

I hope all 1x members will learn from a fair and artistic curation system.
Be selective in your choice and submit the very best of your work.

I wish you all the best!  

Peter Svoboda

Thanks to our proofreader Hans ML Spiegel

I feel that asking for a paid membership to upload photos only to get them rejected is too much. The curation process should encourage, not discourage. Curators must provide a general reason for rejection. They need to find time to explain and write a line about what's wrong with the photo and how they would have clicked it; otherwise, what's the purpose of asking for a paid subscription?
thanks Peter ... thanks Yvette
I am lucky enough to have some pictures published so far. I still haven't figured out how your system works or whether it's right or wrong. My question has to do with the popularity of an image. How come pictures that are reaching 70% popularity and are picked as favourites by senior critics being rejected? This, I don't get it and it happened 4-5 times so far. Can we just receive a small response on the image on why it's rejected? Thank you.
Peter, I only today (2.11.2018) read your article. May be too late. Until now I was wondering how you curators are working. I do not understand how you manage to view this great daily number of photographs. From the beginning I was surpriced that 1x members are part of curation. Do the curators view only photos which have been recommended by 1x members? Until now I was not very lucky to get my photo published. I tried to poste many different photos, but no proper response. I have also submitted (as trial) photo which was published in National Geographic Magazine, but also this photo did not successd in 1x. I do not know why.... In the past I have published many photos from International Golf Competitions (European PGA) in some Swiss and German Golf Magazines. Should you have some spare time please see my gallery and let me know what is generally wrong with my photos. I'd appreciate it very much. Thank you.
I'm new to 1x and have question. Do the members get feedback on why the image was rejected? or why it was published? so who are these curators?
"Almost each artist during his career has faced some form of rejection. Doesn’t matter in what art genre it was, from painter to actor, almost everyone." True. Every curator is subjective no matter how hard he or she tries to be objective. We are humans and we differ in our opinions. The above article also proves this fact. Period. So you may wonder what a "rejected" or "not published" photograph means to you?
I agree with Jovelino and wholeheartedly. And I support the notion of some feedback that is suggested. I looked at the following quote from Peter's well written article: "With consistently applied and transparent curation criteria this can however be more readily accepted as a learning opportunity, particularly given the option to receive specific feedback from other photographers on 1x, which then can improve acceptance of photographs with subsequent submissions, instead of leading to loss of trust in personal skills or exit from 1x towards other respected curated websites" My question is: where can I read or find the curation criteria that are consistently and transparently applied to my submitted work. How can I assess if it was consistently and transparently applied if I do not receive one sentence of feedback as to the main reason for the "rejection"? It is very informative to submit the rejected image to the critics and they write sterling and wonderfully helpful feedback - but they do not know if their explanation is what the curators thought about the picture because there is no communication from the curators to nobody in the 1x system. How then do we assure that the curators are taking 1x or keeping 1x at the forefront of photography if they are not obliged to disclose why certain works are preferred above others? I am all for learning and growing and I judge at club competitions and at national salon level - so I perhaps know a little bit about the subject we are talking about and I say: feedback is a sine qua non - both for transparency and consistency! My two cents - and in my humble opinion. Thank you for the opportunity!
i do agree with curation / i do not agree the way you do it in 1x : without a single word why / more: the author pays to submit his/her work thus he/she should deserve more and better attention / you wouldn't need to write much : you could at least have a list of reasons and pick the ones like "bad composition / too much colour / good but the same than previously published / and so on // thanks for listening
Nice article and agree with these things: -rejection makes you become better -don't change your own style just to get published.
Agree ✔
I used to feel sad (and sometimes angry, I confess) after a 1x rejection but I think I've learned to deal better with it. Being published here is a dream coming true for me. The 1x curation process, even if not perfect, is unique. It has been helping me to build my portfolio with confidence. Maybe some good images (of my own hundreds submitted) could have been published here or popular anywhere but I do believe that at the end the curators had a fair reason to reject that I can't or could not see clearly yet. But if the sieve wasn't so narrow who would care about? Any unknown photographer (like me) may grab the opportunity to have work displayed side by side with masters of the contemporary photography. Of course it has to be difficult. Art is a painful path most of the time, but the chances are equal for all of us, at least here. Thank you 1x!
I have to agree with some of the comments below. Being rejected is fine its all part of the process and not every picture is a gem. But on the flip side of that I also would like some type of general reason for the rejection. At least tell me why my photo was rejected, you do not have to write a story but a line or two would be good as that would give the photographer some idea of what you are looking for and how to improve their work. On another note which is a personal observation of mine,,,there are way to many photographs that are so blatantly manipulated. Photo shopping to make some enhancements is fine and part of the process, but come on there are too many photos I see that are so manipulated they just look obscure to me and takes away from the true meaning of photography.
txules PRO
First, sorry for my basic English. I'm not sure how curation works cause it seems that popularity is the first cut and then curators start working, is that right? Anyway I' m a big fan of curation an even if most of my pictures are rejected and for sure I do not agree I feel it's the best and democratic method. My only complaint is about the selection itself (including my own work): I think is very "conservative" looking just for perfection cause doing this you have a very pleasant images on the front page, no doubt, but in some way very archetypical, in other words "soft" and I think "modern" photography ( some good examples in British journal of photography) would never passed the test, but perhaps I'm wrong. Just some thoughts, and anyway thahks Peter for your letter that shows how well this site is running
txules PRO
Perhaps I did not explain well; when I said "soft" I wanted to say that some kind of "transgression" would be very welcoming :)
I am thankful for other curators, including Peter. Not published is not all. Although I am sad. My photos are only 4%. But I like 96% rest of it very much. I think that it is important to continue making works.
I completely agree about the site being curated and the value of rejection. However unless a reason is given for the rejection (a general one not specific) then it is not helpful. I am happy with 'not enough people voted for it', but when the vote is quite high and it then gets rejected by the (faceless) moderators I don't see what is being learnt - it is simply at the whim of the moderator. I have been told that this is being worked on, but I would contend that there must be a general Reason for rejection (be it not enough votes, too similar to others ...) and the moderator should be able to give it (I am NOT suggesting a detailed reason, just a general pre-defined 'code'/category). This would make it much more transparent, and I would undoubtedly add more images if this was the cae
you are absolutely right / this type of faceless and not explained rejection is very comfortable to the curators but nothing helps the authors
Hello, Absolutely true. A `yes` or a `no` is too simple if you want to develop. It' s like job interviews. You get rejected and you don' t know the real reason. The only good section is the Critique one (that is, until two or more appear and say `i totally agree with X, but I also don' t understand why it is so dark, maybe try to light it up a bit` ) . Before any bad feelings arise, I don' t have anything published (yet) , but I do consider the voting system as not being able to help people grow. They end up striving to replicate what was already published (filters, postures, ect. ) ; which to a certain point is fine, cause Art is also about copying- but for the `teaching` part, the `Curation` is not a good learning chapter. As stated, Critique is the best hope of growing (not published; that' s no goal for any real photographer in my opinion) . All the best!
Great article. Today, I believe that the value of critique + curation on 1x is greater than many video tutorials out there and I am thankful to the consistent and serious work critique shows every day. I haven't been here too long, and it took me a while to get an understanding of the processes involved; but very soon I realized that the way critique works is almost as when a team works on a project. When I send an image to critique I feel like I have an entire team of people working TOGETHER with me on an image. I get opinions, honest feedback, advice, precise suggestions and sometimes even new conceptual ideas for future works. I think the HUMAN VALUE of this is priceless and cannot be compared to any other environment online (not any that I know). I really feel critics do care about my learning path! This is something that shows these people truly love what they do. I have been learning so much and I have made great progress since a year ago. Rejections are extremely powerful: if an image makes it to the front page you mainly learn it was good enough to make it, together with the work involved during critique (I like to upload updates and get critique on those too). If it doesn't, that fact will generate a load of questions. And questions are the first spark leading to new facts and notions, which will in turn lead to new knowledge. So THANK YOU 1x for choosing QUALITY over anything else.
Thank you for praising "Critique" that much, Fabio. I love sharing my thoughts on your (and others) work, and the way we have been interacting, I mean the critics team, other members and you. If there would not be a "Critique" section on 1x, I would have left the party for long already.
All others:
Critique is open for everyboday, to post, discuss, exchange. Please don't ask us why your work was not published, critics don't know either - and unfortunately, this article does not help understanding the process and preferences. But it's a great experience to spend thoughts and work on a picture together to make it stronger. I learned much more there in one year than I would have learned in many years on my own. For me it's an endless soure of inspiration.
Thank you for this Peter. I must admit that I have learned from each rejection I have gotten. It has taught me the importance of right, left brain integration or to “learn the rules like a pro so you can break them as an artist” as Picasso urged. Curation at 1x continues to be important to me.
1x to most of us is not just photography site to post images, the idea of 1x has been developed to be a test for every photo we are capturing, for me for example I used to consider every photo didn’t pass 1x test is failure, honestly the idea has been changed to consider the failure is successful failure, I mean I usually do repeat the whole editing process or may be recapture the photo itself again if it possible and re-upload it, or I consider it as 1x variant and it may suit other vision, but 1x became a cornerstone in the whole process.
An important topic. Thank you. I want to add that each site has its own value system. Maybe it turns out that in one photo the picture deserved a lot of attention and on the other even it was published. This is the system and the perception of people. It's not even important to the curator or not. It's just that it's a living person. Every person changes their mood and perception of what is happening. He's not a robot!) Once I exhibited rejected work after 6 months. This work deserved a lot of attention afterwards. The important thing is that every photo taken and taken is a wonderful experience. We start thinking, searching and listening to ourselves. The answer is always within us. This is a good moment of knowing yourself. Thank you!
Hello Peter Svoboda: The reflection you make about rejection is interesting; I myself felt rejected, especially at the beginning. Fortunately, I have the ability to analyze things and I understood very early on that here perfection was sought and my photos were far from perfect. Also over time I have noticed that the curators are not perfect, as there are photos on the front page that are far from the high criteria to which I stuck when rating my own photos. But the page has helped me to be demanding with myself and also to be more humble; Maybe this last one has been what more has contributed me to be here. I wish to encourage all photographers who love their Work, even if they are not valued. Warm greetings to all.
I am an amateur who did not know anything about photography when I started on 1X I threw myself a challenge by telling me that if I managed to have a picture 1X it would be a miracle :) All my photos that have been rejected sometimes discouraged me but the selection is still great because it encouraged me to improve. Now I'm really happy to see that I'm no more ridiculous than others and all thanks to you. Thank you and congratulations 1X !!!
Great words dear Thierry! )
Thank you Peter for taking the time to write down your thoughts about this subject and share them with us. Your insights demonstrate that you are someone who has actually followed the process you are suggesting others try out for themselves. I suppose it requires finding a balance and being able to decide what one may be open to changing to improve something, while at the same time knowing that there will be other times when you have reached the goal you wanted and wish to stop at that point. When you do not feel any changes are needed then it is also equally important to understand that this is a decision you have made and take responsibility for that. One example.My husband (now almost 70) has been a poet since he was a young teenager. He spent years receiving rejection letters month after month. He never lost faith in himself. He loved writing poetry so much that he simply had to continue - no matter what the results of publications. And so he did! Now many years later he has about 150 published works in print in both magazines, and anthologies,here in the US and Europe. BTW he never changed a poem to suit an editor. The rejections did not make him happy but neither did they alter his own journey. What I can see that he does do is this. He truly labors over every line of a poem. He will write and rewrite,sometimes working on one poem for years. Only when he believes it is done to his satisfaction will he consider submitting it. I realize that there are differences in these two art forms. However, there are probably many similarities and especially when it comes to the artistic approach to work. One of the most famous contemporary artists,Sally Mann tells us that her success was based on tenacity. She just does not give up. She believes in herself but is also quite harsh on herself and her own work. I like your idea of be true to your vision because if you do receive a publication based on an idea of your own it is a natural high! Thanks to you and all the curators here who spend so much of their own time volunteering to help keep this site professional and help to display some amazing art. A compliment came from my daughter tonight who is not a member here nor a photographer. She saw the lx photos on Instagram and was truly wowed by them as she said they stood out as something special indeed. The Founders can also be proud of the vision they had which inspired 1x, and how they developed and changed it over the time to meet the natural cultural and technological changes over the last ten years. Phyllis
It's great that touched on this subject! 12 I thank all curators who refuses to publish, when I came to 1 last year. I am very glad to be denied and now in some work, when I can see that flawed. You helped me, you made me, thank you that you are! Good light to all! Best regards Mikhail!
Thank You Peter Svoboda! )
although i'm sometimes not really happy with my personal results of the curating process (i do like to win :-), in my opinion curation is much better than user voting. i used some user voting websites before and i didn't like the user cliques and the "do you give me, I give you" - mentality. so i'm generally satisfied with 1x and the curation process! i like the user curating (active), because so i see not curated, but yet gorgeous images and it gives a feeling for the real curator's job to me. i like the user curating (passive), because my not curated images nevertheless get sometimes a high user acceptance.
Totally agree with you Udo. This is one of the reasons why at the end I have only one website subscription... the best one ;-)