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WPPI Grand Master Cheryl Walsh

WPPI Grand Master Cheryl Walsh


In March 2022, after more than 10 years of entering WPPI International Print Competition, I achieved my goal of earning the Grand Master status. I am proud beyond words to be ticking this off my bucket list. At this time I am only the 12 person in the world to be Grand Master, the 6th American, and 4th woman.

So what does that really mean? First and foremost WPPI is a Print Competition. That means that entries have to be an excellent quality physical print using the appropriate paper for your image. There are not many Print Competitions left in the world. This one is truly international and highly competitive. I've always appreciated that WPPI doesn't offer an award for the best image or best photographer of the year. Awards are earned for the best in each category, a Grand Award, so images are being compared to comparable images. It's the most fair, well-thought-out system I've seen.

The Grand Master is the pinnacle of what I will ever achieve in international print competition and in the public arena. It's a huge checkmark off my bucket list. And it's extremely meaningful and important to me. It's the one award, unlike first, second, or 3rd place awards, that is not achieved by competing with others. It includes only one step that involves beating out other entries - winning a Grand Award. Achieving Grand Master is all about doing really well on your own. It can be argued that you would have to exhibit originality and most certainly consistent excellence.

A Grand Master must achieve 65+ points, and win 5 or more gold awards, and at least 1 Grand Award from The Annual 16x20 Print Competition. Points can only be earned from your top 4 scoring images per year. There are no Bronze Awards or awards for "standard professional quality, sellable work." Earning more than 1 point per entry is actually quite difficult as the standards go up exponentially. I started entering to get feedback so I could become a better portrait photographer. It worked. Between the feedback I received on my own work and all that I heard about the thousands of others I got to see by attending the live judging for over 15 years, I definitely learned a lot and improved.

My ultimate goal was to expertly print my own competition entries and mount them myself. Having done that makes me more proud than anything else. My first entries were printed at Costco. I learned my lesson and have only used Canson Infinity papers since. I also learned what it was that I really love to do and that's to create portraits underwater in my signature style. While my work scored very high initially, my lack of originality over the years has been reflected in my scores. As it should be. So I'll be honest that I am very relieved to hit this goal so I can relax and not worry about it anymore. I've achieved what I set out to do and now I can take a much-needed nap!

#cansoninfinity #wppi2022 #cherylwalshfineart

Huge thanks to Christine Jade for the beautiful photo thumbnail from the awards ceremony.

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