What would ethical dilemmas look like, if you tried to depict them? How would you attempt to catch the relation between cause and effect on camera? Can the categorical imperative, an Aristotelian ‘tode ti’, or even mathematical intuition itself be photographed?

Since the Rotman Institute was founded in 2008, we’ve collected an array of photos. Many were taken during events and talks, organized and hosted by the Institute, while others captured memorable moments of the activities and the intellectual life in the Institute. As our current Social Media and Public Outreach Research Assistant, Philippos Papayannopoulos has organized these photos and created a Rotman Flickr account. Today, in recognition of World Philosophy Day, we’re very pleased to officially launch our Flickr account, and to announce our first ever photo contest.

Rotman Institute Philosophical Photography Contest

First day to submit photos: November 17, 2016

Last day to submit photos: January 20, 2017

If you have a photographic eye and a taste for philosophical problems, or if you are a philosopher of any level (student, professor, amateur, etc.) who enjoys taking up photographic challenges, or even if you just enjoy entering contests… then this contest is for you!

About the contest:
We’re looking for high quality photos in two distinct categories. First, Life at the Rotman Institute: photos that depict members here at the Institute, around campus, or engaged in other related activities. Entries in this category could potentially be used on our website, on social media, or even included in our annual stewardship report.

The second category is Philosophical concepts: photos that somehow capture a philosophical idea, problem, theory, etc. Submitted photos could depict events, activities, people, urban settings, etc. All genres of photography can offer inspiration for philosophical issues: street photography, still life, abstract, landscape, close-up, portrait, documentary, architecture, experimental — anything goes, as long as there is a recognizable connection with a traditional philosophical topic. Each photograph in this category can be accompanied by a short caption (7 words maximum) alluding to or explicitly mentioning the related philosophical topic.

The contest runs from today, November 17, 2016, until January 20, 2017, giving everyone a chance to take photos during the winter break.

How to enter:

  • Photos should be at least 1100 x 1500 pixels, and submitted as a JPEG or TIFF attachment.
  • Entries should be emailed to rotmanmedia@gmail.com with the subject line, “Philosophical photography contest entry”. Be sure to include your full name in the email.
  • For entries in the life at the Rotman Institute category, please provide names and contact information of any individuals shown in the photograph. (Their permission is needed in order for your entry to be considered for the contest.)
  • For entries in the philosophical concepts category, a brief caption (7 words maximum) is encouraged for each submitted photo. If more than one entry is submitted, the photographer should make sure it’s clear which description corresponds to which photograph.
  • Participants may enter photos for either or both categories. Limit 4 entries in each category per person.
  • Entries must be submitted by the contest deadline, January 20, 2017.

Use of photographs:
By participating to the Philosophical Photography Contest, contestants agree to grant the Rotman Institute of Philosophy use of any photos submitted (whether selected as a winning entry or not) for the Institute’s website, social media accounts, print materials, advertising, or event posters. The Institute agrees to always accompany any photographs used with proper credit, including clearly visible use of the photographer’s name.

Judging and prizes:
Submissions will be judged on content, form, composition, and originality.

In the philosophical concepts category, be creative and imaginative! We are not looking for photographs related to philosophy in general but to philosophical topics themselves. A simple photograph of an effigy of Aristotle or a sign that reads “Philosophy” does bear some connection to philosophy, but it’s not what we’re looking for because it’s not about a philosophical topic itself — unless a case for it is made.

The winning photos will be selected by our panel of judges, and will be announced before the end of January on the Institute’s website and social media accounts. A selection of the best entries will be featured on the Institute’s Flickr account, with proper credit given to the photographers. The first place winner in the philosophical concepts category will receive a $50 gift card for Amazon.com. The winner of the life in the Rotman Institute category will receive a copy of a philosophical book.

While photography deals with the material world and objects that can be seen and captured by a camera, philosophy deals with the invisible world of concepts, abstract ideas, theories, etc. This contest aims to challenge this view in a very specific way: by photographing the very subjects that philosophers think about! Ansel Adams famously said, “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.” We can’t wait to see the photos you submit, and the way you choose to depict abstract philosophical concepts.

Happy World Philosophy Day, everyone!

Pictured above: ‘Inside Plato’s Cave’ and ‘Does perception involve representation’. Both photos by Philippos Papayannopoulos.