Judging pictures

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Soeren, Apr 7, 2005.

  1. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    A quick one
    As a member of a Camera-/Photoclub I sometimes attend the monthly competition. Didn't last year cause I wanted to concentrate on learning B&W.
    We had one "judge" who is returning every year. He is so used to judging in our club that he knows the older members and their style very well. He can actually point their images out very acurately.
    (darned the PC dictionary wont work)
    I feel this may be a problem. What do you think ? can he be "neutral?" ?

    Regards Søren

    BTW feel free to correct my english it can improve :smile:
     
  2. David

    David Member

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    Isn't this type of pre-judging what camera clubs do best? It seems the best approach is to submit what you know or think the judges will like instead of what your own mind or heart can achieve. In the end, I think they are counter-productive activities that stifle rather than encourage creativity. What could be better than finding and expressing your own voice?
     
  3. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    In our club (AFA in Århus) we have the same "problem". The judges from around the country are having preferences, and to some extend they follow trends. At the moment I see that digitally made pictures featuring two or more element from different photos. These are very high-scoring in competitions.
    Without wanting to down other people in the photoclubs (especially mine) I think that some people are making pictures to fit the trends and likings of the judges to score high and get their SDF (danish) and FIAP (international) titles.

    The judges are getting to know us, and we are getting to know the judges. This ends up with more and more similar photos. Just look at the trends at danish site www.fotokritik.dk ...

    Morten
     
  4. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Just don't take it too seriously.
    No judge is neutral, everyone judges by their own preferences, knowledge and philosophy. Everyone. From the common snapshooter to the great artist or curator.
    Just remember that is their opinion and only matters if it matters to you.
    I rarely ask people to judge my photos unless I know and respect them.

    In any way, don't let it influence you in a negative way.
    If you don't succed don't let it stop or discourage you.
    If you do succed don't let it get over your head and think "you are it".
    An artist should be a judge of himself/herself and an honest one.
    Underestimating or overestimating yourself can destroy you.

    I guess it comes back to the old greek philosophy of "know thyself" and I would add "don't let the bastards get you down" from a t-shirt that I wore as a teenager.
     
  5. roy

    roy Member

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    I agree with "arigram". It is however, possible to find totally unbiased and objective assessors but they are in the minority in my opinion. On one occasion we had a judge who happened to have another staying with him as he was delivering a lecture locally the following day. Mostly they agreed with one another but disagreed when it came to picture display. One was for white mounts and the other accepted black mounts !
     
  6. biloko

    biloko Member

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    "can he be "neutral?" ?" Of course not... I'm not neutral, you are not... my mother and my wife are not neutral, nobody is... But would you stop photo if your wife tells you she prefers photo a to photo b... of if your mother tells you it's too expensive for all the out of focus pictures you produce...
    But Photo clubs are also for that... getting the eye of other people on your work... and having this done regularly... Getting your eyes on someone else's work... and finding if you like it... and WHAT you like... and WHY you like... Then, you take this, keep what you think usefull and throw the rest... Same when you shown your pictures in any exhibition... don't be afraid of negative comments... they sometime are usefull...
    What is true is that many photo clubs members are just like chameleons... in competitions, or in their usual photography practice they just follow the style of someone else... And for the next competition (or next circulating portfolio as we do in our federation) you'll see two or three people producing the same kind of picture...
    So, what's the issue... if there is something positive you can get from the photo-club, let's go to the photo club... If there is something positive you can get from competition, let's do it... and if your judge can, each time, give you only one single usefull remark... be friendly with the judge even if he'll eventually prefers very bad and common pictures from all these idiots.
     
  7. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Thats a problem to. The judge isn't very useful in his remarks.
    I don't want to enter prints or slides to suit the taste of one person. I want the one who is making the judgement to be openminded, not be extra hard on some catagories because "we see so many good images of that kind elsewhere". I want him/her to look at the pictures and see them on their.... their .... aahh don' t know the word (dictionary still down)
    I want the person to see the quality in a picture even if its not his kind of subjects.
    It's not a quality in itself that there are people shown in it.
    In a way this judge and his kind are making photographers stop developing cause theres no need to do anything new or different just stay true to your style and that subject.
    Ok for me these monthly competitions are only for fun. my way of "seeing" is very different from the others (I hope) and it's gonna stay that way :smile:
    Regards Søren
     
  8. biloko

    biloko Member

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    In that cas you don't need a human... let's try with a god! But I'm not sure he would do it better... gods also have bad taste!
    And that's what most teachers, trainers, judges do... what most human do... they expect you to be "as much the same as"... they don't ask you to be an artist, a genious, a brillant person...
    He is! Because sometime he will have the right look on what you do... or, just because he doesn't he'll force you to defend yourselve, to know why you are not doing the same thing than everybody... why you think what you are doing is what you definitely want to do...
    Not every movement is the result of someone pushing you in the right direction... in many cases it's just the opposite.
     
  9. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I've had some experience with "Juried" shows ... Work submitted for competiton, with prizes awarded.

    The most closely guarded secret is the identity of the judge. No exhibition committee will let that be known (at least to "outsiders"), because there are data bases correlating the judge with the prizes they have awarded ... Judge AB has a history of awarding 93% of all prizes to "Large, Color Photographs of Floral Arrangements; Judge CD, 87% to "Oil Paintings of Maritime Scenes- Sailing Ships and the Like"; Judge EF, 85% to "Large Black and White prints of Weathered Wood, Rusty Farm Equipment, Old Barns" ...
    And they are categorized by the work they do... One Judge may work exclusively in Silverpoint...

    If the identity of the Judge is known beforehand ... the show will be deadly monolithic ... Judge EF? - Expect the "Old Weathered Wood Show" ... and the Judge will have a heck of a time deciding on a winner. And ...more darkly, an "Insider" will have lost their advantage.

    Camera Club Judges are much the same, except thir identities ARE known. They spend a lot of time in acclimation... Learning the work that is acceptable in their particular "kingdom".

    A friend of mine Was ACCEPTED!!! into a *very* elite, incredibly exclusive (read snobbish to the point of being ridiculous) Camera "Association".
    I asked him, "How did you manage to do this? I've heard their Membership Committee, who judged submissions of work to see if the applicant was 'worthy', was impossibly tough."

    He replied, "No great mystery. I went to their last exhibition. All the work was large, warm-toned black and white ... nothing but images of old, weathered barns, rusty farm equipment, rough textured wood.
    I went out and took photographs of old weathered barns, old weathered wood, an abandoned farm tractor. Printed them LARGE on Warm-toned paper.
    I went through the Membership Committee evaluation like I was a long, lost Messiah. Never even touched the sides of the door.
    I really only joined to see if I could. Personally, I thought the work was lousy."
     
  10. RAP

    RAP Member

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    I have always hated competitions, camera club critiques for that very reason, they are usually biased, highly political, skewed towards a particular style, technique, gimmick.

    You need to determine what you personally are trying to accompish with your own work and then compare it to the masters, those whose work is being published, displayed in galleries, what is selling and decide, where does my own work stand or fall in relation to all that. The library is a great source of research because you have such a wide selection of books by noted, famous photographers that you can bring home and sit and contemplate over.

    Then when you think you are ready, try some local galleries, find some local space in libraries, offices, etc to display your work and see what happens.
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I doubt it

    I believe it takes a very special person to judge prints without bias. I doubt that many can be found.

    Take me...I know I can be hard to take...If I were a judge at a dog show the winner every time would be the beagle.
     
  12. haris

    haris Guest

    Ask Les Mclean about judging photographs in photo clubs. I remember he once wrote in Practical Photography magazine next story: He photographed horse race, and bring slides in one photo club. So, judges put his slides in projector. Comment was like "Photographs are OK, but if he(Les) waited that red dressed jockey get before yellow dressed jockey, photographs would be better..." !!!!!!!. I mean, what those judges think. What Les should to do, to stop the race and to arrange jockeys to race in order how colours of theire outfits are suitable to be photographed...

    This was written by my best memory. If I made mistake, I appologize to Les Mclean and to all of you. And, If I was wrong, please Les, correct me.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2005
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    At the Risk of sounding repeititous...

    The line from the "Garden Party" by ricky Nelson ...

    "You can't please everyone - so you've GOT to please yourself!"
     
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  15. Ornello

    Ornello Inactive

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    Camera club competitions can be very vexing. I would caution against giving too much weight to them.
     
  16. Susan Buchanan

    Susan Buchanan Member

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    Greetings,
    This is my first post to this website. I was immediately attracted by this topic as I am the president of a camera club in Sydney, Australia and it is my responsibility to organize the judges for our monthly competitions. The concerns expressed in this thread have been expressed to me personally. I try to overcome them by asking accredited judges (accredited through our state federation of camera clubs), professional photographers and photographic teachers or other professionals involved in photography to judge. Yes, they will each have their biases and it is only one person's opinion but over the course of the year our members are subject to many different opinions about what good photography is. I would like to think that this increases the chances that someone will be inspired/challenged photographically by the experience.
    Regards,
    Susan
     
  17. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Well done Susan

    Sounds like to picked the right person to run their club. Well done program of judging from the sound of it.
     
  18. RAP

    RAP Member

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  19. arigram

    arigram Member

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    No offence Susan, but when I hear of credits, titles and awards of a "distinguished" judge or critic I instinctively feel an uneasiness in my stomach. I am sure you have no other ways to help the club members get their required criques and I am glad that atleast you choose many different people than relying on the same "club officers". You seem to mean well.
    I think the best way to choose a person to critique your work is to look at their work, listen to them speak, read a book or article they have written. Understand their philosophy, their likes and dislikes. For example I have great respect for a greek photography teacher after reading his books and looking at the photos of photographers that he has published and have also taken his workshops. But I also know what he likes and doesn't. He is focused in BW for example and doesn't care about Ansel Adams or Helmut Newton, LF negatives or overworked prints. He prefers Sudek, Bresson and Kudelka. So if I was an Ansel Adams fan with 8x10 prints of landscapes he couldn't tell me much.
    Some people like easy cliches others complicated experiments. Some care about technicallities, some only about the image, and so on.

    You got know the critic before (s)he critiques you.
     
  20. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Welcome, Susan.

    I appreciate what you are trying to do ... and the amount of effort you must be expending to try to keep things as unbiased as possible.

    I would think that the most effective way to really obtain a learning experience form Critiques would be to submit the *same* photograph to each of many distinguished judges, and to consider their combined critical comments. Possibly, out of many, the differences as to - "preconditioning" would be a better term than "biased" ("bias " suggests some sort of volition - "preconditioning" would be involuntary), would be minimized. Probably, the most effective utilization of Critiques - but to tell the truth, I have never heard of that happening.

    At any rate, I get more out of listening to a "Great" photographer describe his/her own work, their philosophies and motivations -- the way they approach photography - so much more - than I would where they make educated guesses about what is in my head and what I am trying to do.

    One of the most useful sources of inspiration was in the form of a videotape of and by Ansel Adams. To get some insight into the personality of the man, and the way he related to photography, and to correlate and try to understand something of how all that affected the final images was fascinating and - to me, priceless. No, I have no idea of what he would have thought of my work. I do not intend to recreate his work, at any level .. i'm not even interested in that particular genre - but still, they are invaluable insights.

    To me, "Competitions" are synonymous with incoherent gambling - where no one really knows the rules.

    I LOVE to attend lectures, with photographic examples, and prominent? - significant? - photographers describing her/his work - and preconditioned "biases".
     
  21. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    Oh, boy. I was invited to judge a local "competition" in early May. I promise to be random, aloof, snobbish and post modern. I think that the fourth photograph shown will be the winner.

    It will be a fun time.
     
  22. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Welcome Susan and well done.
    It is the same way our chairman tries to "work" except for this the last "monthly" of the year. This judge has been evaluating pictures for my club once every year for the last 20 years ! I can't help feeling that something will happen to the minds of the persons involved in such over that time.
    When we look for new judges we have them come and show their work, talk about their photography, or art if it's an artist. It is no quarantee that they are good at evaluating other peoples work, that takes more than being a good imagemaker yourself. You have to put words on what photographs make you feel and much more.
    Susan you are doing the right thing. Keep the flow going :smile:
    Regards Søren
     
  23. haris

    haris Guest

    I belive some if not all of you are familliar what happened on last summer Olympic games, I particulary mean what happened in female gymnastic. Beside obvious, and allowe me to say, justified reaction of public, judges gave some very questionable points to some performers. OK, let say that those judges were not corrupted, and those points were not given "politically" (but cinically me, I think that is exactly the case). That means, those judges are, by nature, institutionalized, and simply not ready to react fast and good enough when they find themselves in front of something which is different from things they are used to. For example, you can performe best gymnastic(photograph) act in history, but if you don't include "classical" elements in that performance you will not recive high points form judges. No matter how good you are, you have to play "institutionaly" if you want some institution, and judge IS instituton, to give you positive credit. And as we all know institutions are "giants" and we all know that giants moves slowly (but unstopable). That means it is extremely hard for institutions to accept that rules by they are making theire decisions, and what they learned through theire careers or lifes, simply don't play anymore. In order to mantain theire positions, judges simply must play hardcore and to play with established "classical" rules... It is case in sport, art, and any other aspect in life in which there are some judges to tell what is good or bad. Yes, there are changes, of course, but not fast enough for people who are different, and not get positive feedback from judges.
     
  24. pmu

    pmu Member

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    I heard from one guy, that in the 70´s / 80´s when he was in a local photoclub, the brand of your camera was the key to success in monthly "competitions". If you had fex. Olympus, no chance for winning...Nikon shooters took the trophies.
     
  25. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I agree with JDEF.

    Why would you want to compete in the first place.

    How can photographs compete with each other.

    Why do you care what a judges opinion is of your work.

    If you want a critique go to people you admire and ask for one.

    Personally I find clubs like this a meeting place for losers and political types anyways.

    Michael
     
  26. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    One of the good and, unfortunately almost unique, aspects of APUG is its lack of judging, voting or ratings. Just look at the photographs and enjoy them or not.