YPS Saturday Meet - Road to PSA Distinctions by Anitha Mysore - How did it go

Road to PSA Distinctions – How Did it Go!

From the initial years of its formation, YPS members traditionally have been following the distinctions offered by FIAP, PSA, and RPS. There were a few members with IIPC distinctions also. Many other photographic bodies have emerged in the later years, including ICS, GPU, IUP, and MoL to name a few. Snice the year 2016, our own country federation FIP also has expanded its portfolio of distinctions. While most of these distinctions are straight forward and many YPS members have achieved them in the last few years, the PSA distinction path appears to be a bit confusing. Hence a ‘YPS Saturday Meet’ session was arranged on the eve of 24 Jul 2021, for the YPS members aspiring to go for PSA distinctions. Here’s a brief report on the session…

The session titled ‘Road to PSA Distinctions’ was taken by YPS Life Member (LM-272) Ms Anitha Mysore, MPSA, EFIAP/b, EFIP/g, EFIP/g (Nature), GPU-CR4, c***MoL, EIUP, AAPS, ES.CPE, G.APS, GPA.PESGSPC, Hon PESGSPC. After an introduction by the moderator Srinath Narayan (LM-296), Anitha started the session explaining that the Photographic Society of America (PSA) offers two types of distinctions: 1) Portfolio distinctions and 2) ROPA. Focus of the session was ROPA. ROPA is the short form of ‘Recognition of Photographic Achievement’ as PSA calls it. Anitha showed a list of URLs from the PSA website (https://psa-photo.org/), which is a very good source of information on all these matters. Then Anitha proceeded to explain the steps involved in achieving ROPA.

First step is to become an individual member of PSA. Though YPS is a club member of PSA, any YPS member going for PSA distinction must become an induvial member of PSA. PSA offers the choice of different durations of membership (1 / 3 / 5-year). The membership fee depends on whether one wants to go for the digital version ($45 / $120 / $180) of the informative ‘PSA Journal’ or a printed version ($100 / $195 / $285). The membership fee for youth (below 18 years) is slightly less than the adults (Refer: https://psa-photo.org/index.php?membership-membership-categories).

All the salon acceptances after becoming a member of PSA count for the ROPA distinctions. For the acceptances earned before membership to be counted for distinctions, PSA offers a ‘buy back’ option with a fee of US$25 per year. (Note: Acceptances 1 year prior from the day of becoming member are counted without paying any fee and are not called ‘buy back’). For PSA distinctions only the distinct works and acceptances in PSA recognized salons count; there’s no role of awards won, number of salons or countries. The Exhibition Data Acceptance Spreadsheet (EDAS) sent by each salon organizer, is the basis for PSA to verify the acceptances of any author in any PSA recognized salon.

Anitha showed the six ‘divisions’ that PSA is organized as: Projected Images (Color, Monochrome: PIDC, PIDM), Pictorial Print (Color, Monochrome: PPDC, PPDM), Nature (ND), Photo Travel (PTD), Photo Journalism (PJD), and 3D (3DD). Any salon that has PSA patronage goes for recognition under these divisions (Refer: https://psa-photo.org/index.php?divisions). Special themes such as Water, Children, Woman, Landscape etc. need to be checked on the salon website or the PSA website to know the exact PSA division they are recognized under (Refer: https://psa-photo.org/index.php?exhibitions-current-exhibition-list)

She then showed examples from PSA exhibitions list webpage of how salons are listed on the PSA website: Closing date, Short name of the salon (this has to be entered in the salon data maintained by individuals), PSA recognition number, number of judgings, number of sections, PSA divisions approved for the salon and names of the sections recognized by PSA in each of the divisions. PSA gives one patronage number to a circuit, unlike FIP or FIAP.

At this point Anitha stressed on the best practices to be followed by the salon participants, irrespective of which distinction they aim:
1) Do not retitle an image once accepted in a salon
2) Enter your name the same way in all salons
3) Colour and Monochrome versions of the same image shall have the same name in any section or any salon.
She showed her salon acceptances list and how she maintains record of her salon participation and acceptances.

She then explained the ‘Star Path’. In PSA, each division has a star level from 1-5, Galaxy level from 1-10 and Diamond level from 1-10, thus total 25 levels. Tables showing, the distinct images and acceptances required for different levels of this path (https://psa-photo.org/index.php?star-galaxy-diamond-acceptance-requirements) stressed the point on having to create distinct images and not just focus on accumulating acceptances. She showed her star rating applications and explained how, different titles, sequence number of acceptances and patronage number are listed, verified by the ‘Star Rating Director’ (SRD) and returned to the individual for the next level (thus, same file has to be used for applying to the next level). One can apply for a star rating of up to level-4 the first time and not to level-5. Galaxy ratings can be tried only after achieving star-5 in a division. She also showed her star certificates earned in different PSA divisions and the need to preserve them since they are the basis for applying for distinctions.

Once required number of acceptances are verified by PSA through star ratings certificates, one can go for the ROPA distinctions. Different levels of PSA ROPA distinctions are:
Qualified (QPSA): Needs 54 acceptances
Proficiency (PPSA): Needs 288 acceptances
Excellence (EPSA): Needs 700 acceptances
Master (MPSA): Needs 1500 acceptances
Master 2 (MPSA2): Needs 2250 acceptances
Grand Master (GMPSA): Needs 3000 acceptances
Grand Master, Bronze (GMPSA/B): Needs 5000 acceptances
Grand Master, Silver (GMPSA/S): Needs 7000 acceptances
Grand Master, Gold (GMPSA/G): Needs 9000 acceptances
Grand Master, Platinum (GMPSA/P): Needs 11000 acceptances
As said before, all acceptances must be demonstrated through star rating certificates. And for the purpose of distinctions, star ratings from different divisions can be mixed. So, the path to any PSA distinction is: 1) Earn acceptances in PSA-recognized exhibitions 2) Use acceptances to apply for Star Ratings Certificates 3) Use the Star Ratings Certificates to apply for a ROPA distinction.

At this point, the obvious question was how much money does it cost to achieve a distinction! Anitha showed from her experience that she had spent US$715 towards different payments to PSA (membership fee, star ratings, ROPA distinction fee), excluding the salon participation fees and other cost involved in creating images.

She then touched upon briefly the portfolio distinctions: Bronze (BPSA), Silver (SPSA), and Gold (GPSA), which are awarded based on the submission of a portfolio of 10, 15, and 20 images respectively and not on any salon participation (Refer: https://psa-photo.org/index.php?portfolios-overview). She concluded the session with an invitation to new PSA distinction aspirants to reach out to any experienced YPS member for help if needed.

The session was attended by close to 45 members and Anitha clarified the doubts and answered the questions of participants.

Author’s note:
1) Mr Subrata Bysack from Kolkata is one among the 9 people in the world (as on date) to have reached the highest ROPA distinction awarded by PSA, GMPSA/P, which he earned in the year 2020.
2) MPSA is the highest ROPA distinction achieved by any YPS member so far and we have 3 members at that level as on date:
• Mr Mohammed Arfan Asif (LM-050), 2018
• Mr Raghavendra Joshi (LM-298), Nov 2020
• Ms Anitha Mysore (LM-272), Mar 2021
3) Mr Dinesh Allamaprabhu (LM-309) is the earned the portfolio distinction BPSA in the year 2019.

Thanks to Anitha Mysore for the informative and educative session.

-V Madhusudana D Rao, AFIAP, cMoL (LM-220)