COCHRANE— Representing Team Canada’s photography team, Cochrane-based photographer Jacquie Matechuk has won herself a bronze medal in the World Photographic Cup, for her digital composition “Zip It.”
Matechuk said she was at home with her husband, connected via Zoom to the rest of Team Canada, watching the awards ceremony broadcast on her computer when she found she had won bronze.
“I was really happy that I was not alone because I made a lot of noise. It would have been awkward in a big room by myself,” she said. “We were all joined together today, the entire Team Canada, finalists, curators, the judges, past team members, we gathered virtually to watch the whole thing unfold.”
The way the announcements worked during the ceremony, Matechuk explained, is the presenter would start with the 10th place photo and work their way toward first place.
As photo after photo was announced, Matechuk had a growing sense of excitement at her chances of being on the podium at the end of the show.
“The first three or four got out of the way and my heart really started to skip some beats,” she said. “I was deeply hoping for halfway, top five type of thing. Then we got past fifth, and I sat here with my husband going ‘not fourth, not fourth, not fourth.’”
When they announced fourth place, and Matechuk realized she had medaled in the competition, she and her teammates exploded with excitement.
“They announced someone else, which meant there was a medal on the line. We all kind of blew up and started cheering,” she said.
It was a historic moment in Canadian photographic history, Matechuk said, as her fellow Team Canada photographer Louis-Philippe Provost also won a silver medal in the same category.
“We ended up taking a bronze and silver, which is the first time Canada has ever double podiumed in any class as well,” she said.
The reprieve from anxiously waiting was short, Matechuk said. With Provost’s silver, and Team Canada photographers Stephanie Lachance and Ammara Sadiq placing ninth and sixth, respectively, Team Canada’s hopes of reaching the podium as a group grew.
“We picked up a ninth and a sixth in portraiture, and everyone was struggling to figure out the math, where we were sitting. We knew we were close,” she said. “Spain had a couple more podiums and we knew Australia had already done well in the first three classes, so we just didn’t know where we would come in as a team.”
Team Canada, it turned out, won an unprecedented third-place finish in the World Photographic Cup, a first for the country.
“It was that tight. They said literally hundredths of a point from image winning to the next. It really put it into perspective for us. Every point, every micro point, every feature really counted,” Matechuk said.
When the top three teams were revealed, and Canada had placed third, the team erupted.
“Everybody was fist-pumping and screaming. I couldn’t hear anything because we were making noise and I don’t think anyone else could hear anything either,” Matechuk said. “Everybody was celebrating hard. It was something that they have worked toward for many years and have fallen short, not by a lot, I think last year they were fifth.”
Although she hoped for a placement for herself and her team, the result was something she never expected.
“I’d be lying if I said I expected it. That’s the thing about art is that it’s perception-based. One person never looks twice and another person deeply connects to it. You’re dealing with judges from all over the world, all with different influences and tastes and styles,” she said. “If you were to take all these same images and introduce them to a brand-new panel of judges next year, I don’t think you would see the same result.”
Matechuk said every competition she has entered has helped her grow as an artist, but this was the first time she had entered a photography competition with a team.
Having that support network of talented teammates, all focused on bringing out the best in each other's art was a fantastic learning experience for her.
“You were never alone in this, it was just so much fun having so many other photo geeks to share it with,” she said.
Matechuk said she is ready to start preparing her portfolio for next year's competition and even hopes to become a national Professional Photographer of Canada Judge this year, which she said should help her better understand the finer details of creating competition-worthy imagery.