Judging Photographs

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Alex Hawley, Aug 18, 2003.

  1. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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  2. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Thanks for the info, I enjoyed the article and the links.
     
  3. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I tried a couple of local photo clubs years ago. It was just awful. The meetings were consumed by the meaningless bi-weekly competitions in which everybody seemed to run out at the last minute, snap off a roll of Ektachrome and, no matter what the results, enter whatever the maximum number of slides happened to be. This made for endless, mind numbingly tedious sessions of viewing mediocre slides while a judge drones instant evaluations concerning the use of "leading lines" and "the rule of thirds". Pure torture. I can't imagine what the advent of digiphoto has done to the process, lousy pix with photoshop effects I expect.
    Give me an international group of serious, experienced analog photographers any day.

    -Neal
     
  4. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I have seen a lot of that article at our camera clubs print nights but I do think you need to put it in context. In our situation, the 'judge' (they call them something else which I can't remember) has 1-2 minutes for each print (usually 60-80 prints) so I guess you get what you pay for.. not much. However, rarely do I come away without having heard a few things to take away from what they've said (not about my pics of course! I rarely put any up anyway!) so I will continue to go and ignore the bits I don't like/agree with, or have heard 20 times already that night :smile:
     
  5. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    After reading the article, I realized two things: one, I now know why I hated clubs and why the Annapolis Camera club failed, and second, I am not, nor will ever be, qualified to be a photography judge.

    Thanks for bringing this to the Forum.

    Truly, dr bob.
     
  6. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Judges of competitions must have a set of guidlines or values that they can fall back on to make decisions. If a photographer tries to work outside of this "box" he will almost always fail to win the judges praise. Of course there are those individuals who probably study how the judges decide winners and they embark on focusing effort on pleasing judges and not creating for themselves.

    I can gaurantee you that for every criticism, or rule that a club judge says you violated, I can go to my book shelf and find dozens of examples of the same rules being broken by masters of the medium in famous images.

    The key is to recognize the rules, understand them and then have the courage to toss them out the window if your vision and creativity take you in that direction.

    When you quit worrying about what others think of your work you can find the freedom to go on to greater things.
     
  7. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I've heard about these "rules", or "guidelines", or "values", but I've yet to see anything *published* about them.
    The only crtieria I've ever seen are that the work must be "no more than "Y x Z" length and width; no more than "A" thick; must not weigh more than "B"; occasionally, "Must have been done withhin the last "C" years;.... and, "Will be judged on `originality'" (An out-and-out LIE).

    Judging is based on SUBJECTIVE evaluation/s - and that means "whatever the judge chosen thinks about it."

    Competitions have reasons for NOT publishing "The True Criteria for Judging" ... the first is plainly that the judges don't know, consciously, themselves; second, if the entrants did know, all work submitted would invariably look the same - resulting in a boring, monolithic exhibition.

    In my opinion, critiques have one redeeming factor: they satisfy one's curiosity about how their work affects others - inaccurately.

    Some critique (I estimate about 1%-2%) *IS* useful in steering our work - but it is a DEADLY sin to use them as the sole determing factor for "what to do".
     
  8. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I agree with Ed that any such competion or critique shouldn't be used to determine the direction of ones work.

    In my experience any club,photography based or not, can become, well, to clubby. The social aspects become bigger then the purpose of the club. And with any organization or group you will have individuals who are there for the social aspect, some who are there strictly to improve or learn about photography and the gamut in between.

    I think what happens is that it becomes easy to fall into the trap of familiarity with the work of others and sub-conscious need to be part of the group and then slowly begin to emulate the work of others or at the least continue doing what you have always done if it is well accepted.

    I was in a club for a couple months when I brought in some selective depth of field images shot with large format of an older neighborhood and the older folks who still lived there. The prints were small, cropped square about 6"x6". I was quite proud of the images but was told by several that it was a waste using a view camera when I could have produced the same results with 35mm.

    These photographers who basically were Adams, Bond, Barnbaum clones didn't even consider the subject matter and my reason for use of the format. I wanted the control the camera provided and the tonality achievable with a larger piece of film. I feel that the use of the large camera showed I had dignity for the subjects because of the time and involvement required with the camera. In there eyes if you are going to go to the trouble and expense of using a view camera the print should be tack sharp edge to edge, 11x14 or larger and God help you if you don't use the whole negative.

    If i was ever in a club like that one again, I think I think I would do a similar subject but use an 11x14 camera and really blow their minds.

    And please don't misunderstand me, i am not down on all clubs. Some are probably excellent for personal growth in the medium. The above was just one man's experience.


    Anyways, enough of the club rant, I need to get more coffee before I head back out to the shop.
     
  9. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    This has been a struggle, trying to determine just where to post this.
    Here goes...

    Last night, I watched a PBS program - all about Jascha Heifitz.

    One prominent critic (see - they are not ALL bad) wrote, in a review of one of his preformances:

    "For crying out loud .. will you PLEASE play a few wrong notes --- we NEED to know that you are human."

    I feel the same way abut the galleries here - so much of the work here is so far "above" what one encounters elsewhere. Possibly another gallery - something like "Other Photographs - Proofs That We ARE Human."?

    Incidentally, Heifitz replied, "Wrong notes? Oh, I do play them. I am fairly good at disguising them so that they are not noticed".
     
  10. inthedark

    inthedark Member

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    Okay, again I come at things from a different perspective, but I gotta question.

    Do you ask your techs their opinions? If so, do you want them to be honest? If not, do you expect them to comment on the wonderfulness of your talent anyway?

    I personally have chosen honesty which means I am usually so looking at the detail issues, that I forget to actually look at the images as whole. I see the highlight here, the shadows there, and I am planning and prepping in my head about the shapes and such, but the image rarely registers unless it is really an eye popper. This is changing as the images are becoming more than aerials and pencil drawings, but I would imagine as more come in they will relagate back to being "usual" and I will quit noticing again. My momma alway told me I couldn't see the forest for the trees. :wink:
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    First question .... I don't have any techs. Do I ask those I associate with for their opinions? Uh... about what?
    My answer would be the classic, "Yes, no, and sometimes". If I have a technical problem, certainly I would try every avenue possible to solve it, including asking someone, without hesitation.
    If it is a matter of curiousity about how others respond to my work (happens occasionally) I don't think I'd out-and-out ask, but I'd try to subtly "worm" it out of them. Or maybe I would ask them directly. Depends.
    If it is a matter of deep probing questions without answers - discussions of aesthetics, vision, impulses - what I will react to from some unknown stimulus in the future --- It would not be so much of a question as it would be provoking a discussion and LISTENING.

    I too have chosen honesty. That doesn't mean super-pickiness. The - not ultimate - but something close, - appreciation of a photograph would be based on the over-all `macro' photograph as a whole. The details, proper focus, tonal scale, empiracal compositonal structure, are all interesting, but to de-construct a photograph and judge it by the bits and pieces is to me a terrible, gross DISHONESTY.

    Now... *do* I expect - *would* I expect anyone to comment on the "wonderfulness" of my work? No, I don't. It would be closer to the truth if I emphasized that ....

    It is great to connect with someone. I recently commented on an oil painting in a gallery" "Reminds me of the style of Waterhouse's `Death of Ophelia'. Not anything like a copy, but in some way, I `see' something like that here." Her reply, "Wow!! That is who I was thinking about when I painted that!!"

    It is great when it happens ... but I do not "expect it - and that is not the motivatoin behind my work. I do it because I feel better when I do it than I do when I don't do it.
    All else, the connections, the good comments, praise (gratefully accepted) is a plus - icing on the cake.
     
  12. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    That's easy for me. I'm my own tech. I do try to be honest with myself and don't pat myself on the back very often. But someone else's opinion is always of value, depending on their agenda. As the article explains, many people have an agenda to push.
     
  13. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    The judges may have a "personal" agenda but they are invariably safe within the confines of typical "good taste." Such agendas as an egotistical notion of individuality are usually about as novel and invigorating as the descision to mow your lawn side-to-side rather than front-to-back like your neighbors. Individual? Maybe, but still within the narrow standards defined by the Homeowners Association.

    This of course is exactly why their opinions are useful for camera clubs, where no one really wants to get challenged too much in terms of their values, and where the underlying (and usually banal) values of the local community are to be strengthened, not stretched. It goes hand-in-hand with the definition of "club."
     
  14. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Well said. I agree.
     
  15. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    This is also typical of internet sites where everyone "rates" the photos. Everyone becomes a "judge" and "clubs" develop within the site membership. IMO, that's why this site is working well - no ratings.
     
  16. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    Yeah, I'm pretty much in the anti-ratings camp now too. Too often the highly rated stuff seems to fit a specific formula. But, once you have it figured out, it's easy to get high numbers (if you care about that). But then I've seen some of what I think is God-awful junk get raves, and to me it was still junk. Go figure.