I happened across a remark in a completely different context to the effect that words have no power. The context was such that what the writer clearly meant was some loser yapping on the internet has no power. My immediate reaction was well, propaganda and marketing have power. And so I got to thinking, as I sometimes do.
The difference between some loser yapping on the internet (e.g. me) and actual marketing (propaganda) is that the latter has power specifically because the speaker has, as it were, seized the microphone. People are listening. When @Adolf13938239 starts talking about Jews, nobody cares. When Goebbels did, people cared, because people were listening to Goebbels. When I say that such and such a razor is excellent, nobody cares. When Gillette, or Consumer Reports, says something about razors, people are listening.
It works the same way with Art in general and Photography in particular. It's about seizing the microphone, or having it thrust into ones hands. We all have opinions about what's good and bad, but only people who have the microphone actually get to choose. Szarkowski and Stieglitz, famously, held the mic in the USA with what one might term somewhat mixed results.
Anyways, this leads us around to competitions.
Competitions are pretty much explicitly an attempt by some entity to seize the microphone. It turns out that if you've got some money to throw around, you get to make these choices. If you or I offered a 100,000 euro annual prize for the best political art, or whatever, by golly we'd find the microphone thrust into our clumsy paws. People would be crawling out of the woodwork to help us out (they'd like to control things too, plus, the smell of money). Possession of a large sum of money in no way correlates with taste, however.
Deutsche Börse, for instance, has no taste. Their PR department simply decided that it would be good marketing to sponsor a prize. I guess before that it was Citigroup, about which, well, ditto. The Photographers' Gallery of London is in the mix someplace as well, advising, no doubt pretending that they're the source of taste, of historical knowledge, of Art-Legitimacy for the prize. I have no opinion of TPG, for the record, and this is just a single example which may or may not precisely fit the mold into which I am attempting to thrust it.
These prizes have no legitimacy, basically. They're nothing but an attempt to seize the mic, using money. There is no reason to suppose that anything which wins such a prize is anything good, or bad.
Now, it has always been this way. The moneyed sponsor is as old as, well, as money.
Deutsche Börse, Citigroup, even I dare say The Photographers' Gallery, all differ from John Szarkowski, Alfred Stieglitz, and Lorenzo de' Medici in an vital way. They are corporate entities. Their taste, such as it is, is mediated through committees, who in general are working from some sort of brief. The individual, however justly or unjustly they hold the microphone, at least has room for idiosyncrasy, for whimsy, for taste to penetrate.
Culture is, by and large, the collective taste of individuals. What the corporate entities would like to give us is the individual taste of a collective. The former is culture, the latter is a crummy imitation.
And that's why big-money competitions are bad.