War Time Photography Contest

From a French Newsmagazine
* see also this war-time trench-art contest link

The most expensve photograph of the war so far.


'Le Miroir', a French newsmagazine, regularly published amateur photographs of all manner of subjects having to do with the Great War, be they of military matters or of human interest. Apparently, after it became obvious that the war would not be over in few months times, the publishers of 'Le Miroir' started a contest for the best war photograph. There were prizes of 15 000 FF for the best photograph of each year as well as a grand prize of no less than 30 000 FF for the best photograph of the whole war upon conclusion of hostilities. This probably helped out enormously with submissions of new material, of which it must be said, 'Le Miroir' generally printed quite original and interesting photos.

Above can be seen the photograph chosen as winning entry for 1915. It was taken by a French cavalry officer while his unit was advancing on foot. A German shell has just exploded, killing two of his men.

To show how honest the publishers were, 'Le Miroir' also printed a photo of the receipt for the prize money, which was handed to the officer's sister for safekeeping, the winner being on active duty at the time and presumably not allowed furlough, even for such an unusual monetary windfall. It is somewhat difficult to calculate the worth of the prize money in modern terms, but we can get a rough idea by comparing the price of the magazine (25 centimes) with the winnings. The prize money of 15 000 FF comes to 60 000 times the price of a single issue of 'Le Miroir'. Figuring a conservative price of $1.50 per issue for a similar newsmagazine in today's prices, this would amount to around $90 000 in current terms. The grand prize would then come to $180 000. Even with a 50% downwards margin it would still come to respectively $45 000 and $90 000, more than considerable sums for photographs indeed.

Asides from being a wonderful promotional gimmick (though editors at the time would have used different terms to describe the concept), it also gave the magazine a wealth of original amateur photographs to use for publication. For by participating in the contest and sending in entries, publishing rights for the photos were conceded to the magazine.


left : announcing the new contest rules
middle : the winning photos for August 1916
right : a 1918 announcement totalling prize money awarded up til then : 72 250 FF


Later in the war, 'Le Miroir' organized a monthly photo contest instead of a yearly contest. The prize money was still considerable, with 1000 FF being given to the monthly winner along with 500 FF for the runner-up and 250 FF for third prize. While not quite the jack-pot given away in the yearly contests, these sums for monthly prizes were still very generous, 1000 FF being 4000 times the price of an issue of 'Le Miroir'.

Contest rules included inadmissability of staged and faked photos and required that all photographs be of authentic war scenes.


Le Pays de France


'Le Miroir' was not the only French newsmagazine to organize a war-time amateur photo contest. 'Le Pays de France', a somewhat similar magazine in concept also awarded prizes for amateur photos, but in this instance on a weekly basis with prize money amounting to 250 FF.

* see also this war-time trench-art contest link


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