Upper Midwest B/W Music Photo Contest

Interview with Upper Midwest B/W Music Photo Contest Creator Steven Peterson
by DeWook
August 2021

Image courtesy of Steven Peterson - photo by DeWook

Image courtesy of Steven Peterson
photo by DeWook

I recall when I first got into photography that eventually I’d be persuaded to enter a photo contest. I haven’t had much experience in contests. I was in cub scouts when I was little, way little. They had that block of wood they sent you home with. Expecting to carve some type of crazy supercar into this sanded piece of tree. It was exciting seeing this block morph into a pinewood derby race car. My Dad and I thought about looks over function and made wheel wells. Painted it black. It looked slick. I was very excited. That day at the race I went up to put my car on the rail and the damn wheels were too close together. Car wouldn’t even go on the track. I was freaking out! With a last minute change to the car my Dad pulled out the nails holding the wheels in just enough to accommodate the track. I still was freaking out. Boom, the wood gave way and the cars went down the track. I won! Believe it! True story. Wish someone would have taken a picture.

Contests for me in the photo world were a little different than with pinewood derby. I have always respected and admired excellent photography. And most importantly, other photographers. I was approached by Steven Peterson via email on my way home from the Wisconsin Dells in central Wisconsin. I read his email over pancakes and thought, “wow, he wants me to be on his panel of judges for The Upper Midwest photo contest.” I was completely blown away. I spoke with Steven about his contest and was on board to be on his panel. I then set up a day to chat with Steven to get to him and his contest a little better.

DeWook: Thanks for meeting with me today. Let’s start on this. How did you get into photography?
Steven Peterson:
On my Facebook page on Father’s day I have posted a picture of myself holding a little camera. I’m probably 4 years old in my grandmother’s front yard. My sisters are in the background, my parents on my left. I have a little tiny camera in my hands. Everyone else is looking at the camera and I’m looking straight down at my camera.

My father was a professional photographer and he had a studio in Wisconsin in a small town and he was a wedding and news photographer his entire career. So I did work in the studio and printed high school swaps, mopped the floors and other glamorous tasks like that.

DeWook: What type of photography are you personally drawn to right now?
Steven Peterson:
I have a shoot scheduled with a tap dancer coming up. I like working with artists directly one on one. I am ultimately in service to the artist, not myself. If you look at my artist statement you’ll see I’m trying to help an artist achieve their highest realization of their own craft as being an observer. I see your art. And through my photos I try to find that moment of expression which is a high expression of their own skills and creativity and capture that moment. And reflect that back to the artist so that they can see “ look! Someone saw that ! I worked so hard on that!” and someone actually saw that.

DeWook: Let’s talk about this photo contest? What is The Upper Midwest Black & White Photo Contest. How did this start?
Steven Peterson:
I get my best ideas at about 6:30 in the morning when I can’t seem to get out of bed yet . So, Ideas come then. It was just a culmination of the pandemic easing. The pent up creativity that artists are feeling everywhere. Lack of funding. I feel that artists need to express themselves, and being paid for that is more and more difficult. There’s a great army of music photographers out there. They don’t get a lot of press. I feel that they are underappreciated because they seem secondary to the artist. There’s a great subset of artistic expression and extraordinary skill level at the photography level as well. I think that photographers need a forum to be recognized in their craft and feel part of this community which we all work so hard to achieve at our own skill levels. And to share that joy of shooting music photography. You know, and I know, and the American people know that no one is more enthusiastic about music than a music photographer! They slay for hours to go out and shoot it. The Black & White Music Photography Contest is more about supporting the photographers that support the music community. And still also supporting the area venues that provide live music as well.

Entering is simple! Enter to win $500 1st place, $300 2nd, $200 for 3rd.

Final winners will be selected by social media, there is no entry fee.

Email to midwest-bw-photo-contest@centurylink.net.

Attach 1-2 Black & White Music Photography images with Your Name, The artist(s) subjects name and band, and Venue the photo was taken at.

The photos will be posted on the Upper Midwest Photo Contest website, Facebook and Instagram. There is no entry fee. They have funded the program with crowdsourcing. Those donors have been extremely supportive. The level of photography is wonderful.

DeWook: Want to talk about the judges we have for this contest?
Steven Peterson:
Yes, we have six judges right now. They are all highly skilled photographers in Minneapolis and Wisconsin. As well as a couple highly respected musicians. The first round judges are Andrea Canter, Benny Moreno, DeWook yourself, Jim Vasquez, John Botkin, Michael Ruth, Steven Peterson and Tim McGuire, with musicians Paul Cebar a Milwaukee Musician and Mary Louise Knutson from Minneapolis.

After the judges make their selections, we will send it out for the public to vote for the winner.

DeWook: Anything you want to add about the contest?
Steven Peterson:
This has been a really good experience so far and I love seeing the entries. There has been a variety of styles of music photography, portraiture, action shots, it’s unending!

DeWook: Thanks so much for sitting down with me today! Looking forward to this project.
Steven Peterson:
Thank you!

I always love finding out different paths other photographers have taken to get the skills and talent they now possess. The idea of giving the Midwest photographers an open forum to express their art on a larger scale is such a welcomed opportunity. To be a part of this project, Steven thank you very much for such a warm moment.

So now it’s all up to you. Take advantage of this moment and enter those photographs. No time like the present!
We all have a pine tree derby to win!

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