Originally Posted by benjiboy
I had hoped, we moved on from that.
Photography is not a sport.
Constructive feedback is a good thing, but judging one photograph against another gives me the shivers.
Ralph I just mentioned this because many entrants to shows just aren't aware of this,most photographers at some point in their life need to measure their work against other peoples to seek the approval of their peer group, and although I no longer enter or judge competitions some judges are capable of constructive criticism and many of them give their time and know-how for free.
No issue with that, but in my opinion, it should not go beyond exactly what you've said. Constructive criticism is very valuable, but a rating system to compare the 'value' of a photograph is just wrong. Rating one print higher than another undermines all efforts to promote photography as an art form. Who has ever heard of a oil-painting competition or a rating system for sculptures? Just plain nonsense. I'm ashamed to admit that I've participated in the past, but like you, I have stopped this BS about 10 years ago.
Originally Posted by benjiboy
Good point about entering only unsigned prints, by the way. That's also beneficial for honest and objective, constructive criticism.
Last edited by RalphLambrecht; 05-05-2011 at 01:26 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht
Funnily enough, I have very recently started involving myself in competitions like these. The ones I have been involved in are club competitions - strictly amateur, with little more than recognition (and sometimes publication) as prizes. I'm definitely of two minds about them.
They seem to really emphasize a particular type of photography, and a photograph that doesn't fit within that type has to be really exceptional to "score" well. They also, IMO, put way too much emphasis on the immediate impact of a photograph, and way too little emphasis on other factors. Typically I don't score well, but then I rarely "see" (in my mind) the types of photographs that do score well.
There are a few good things about them though:
1) Print competitions actually encourage people to make and share prints of their photographs. I think that is a real advantage, because I see so many people who don't make prints;
2) Well I decry some of the judging criteria, they do provide some objectivity. For a lot of the beginning photographers there, the judge's comments are the first meaningful and understandable criticism they encounter;
3) Competition seems to encourage learning - somehow the "gamelike" atmosphere results in people seeking help and advice, taking more photographs and paying more attention to the results;
4) The "winning" photographs I've seen tend to be quite good, even if they aren't necessarily ground-breaking. In a few occasions they are quite exceptional. Most importantly though, the people I've encountered who are successful at these competitions seem to usually have some perspective about them and tend to be very generous about sharing their time and knowledge with others;
5) The social atmosphere surrounding them is quite pleasant - it is fun to be in a group which shares a lot of enthusiasm about photography;
6) It has been a good challenge for me to experiment with "thinking outside of the box". I've played around a fair bit with shooting for the club and the competitions, and think that I've stretched a few capabilities that wouldn't otherwise have been exercised; and
7) I enjoy sharing with others any relevant knowledge and experience I do have. And I smile at the digital gadget speak that swirls around, because it reminds me of the film gadget speak that swirled around 30+ years ago when I worked selling cameras .
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
If you need print competitions for people to print, they do it for the wrong reason.
I wish all 'print competitions' could be turned into 'print critiques' instead.
This would provide all the benefits, you've outlined, without turning a creative process into a competition. Isn't life hard enough already? Does everything have to be a competition? I think it does more harm than good. Again, ever seen a painting competition with judges, first and second price? They wouldn't dream of it!
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Oil/acrylic/watercolour competitions are actually quite common.
Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht
If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
Alfonso the Wise, 1221-1284
Competitions can be quite important and/or useful and I don't think they can be dismissed en mass as 'all the same.' They can be an excellent way of getting your work 'out there', making a return (in the case of oms of the bigger ones), and building up a reputation. Of course they are subjective, but I disagree with Ralph that they suggest one images is 'better' than another in absolute terms and that this is somehow a problem. They are human judged and subjective and as long as you go in with thick skin and take it for what it is, then it does not matter. It is not science! Certainly winning some prestigious competitions can really make people pay attention to your work when you make submissions to galleries or apply for grants. I am not referring to local club comps but some of the bigger ones with well respected judges form the photography/editorial/gallery world.
Like everything else, you need to know your audience and there is no point in entering classical work into a competition aimed at contemporary/conceptual work. It is also important to pay attention to who makes up the judging panel.
Another flip sides to competitions (some of which are free or at least very affordable) is that you can learn a bit more about what triggers responses to your work and this is useful information. This allows you to better manage portfolios and submissions in the future, and balance these factors against your own personal motivations. I consider every competition entry 'forgotten' unless I get an email with some good news. At no point do I feel the competitions set the value of my work, but I do think they can be useful to me under certain circumstances. They never have a bearing on my creative compass either.
As for signing editions, pencil on the back of the print, outside of the image area and gently i.e. what everyone else said
Most competitions I see seem to favor the latest "innovation". I haven't entered any, so this isn't a sour grapes rant, but based on what I see in magazines when they post the winners, runners up etc, you're better off with a technical gimmick. Stained, scratched, burned, and otherwise degraded things appear to do well. It seems as long as you do something different, regardless of whether it is any good, or even intentional, you've got a better shot, because virtually anything that hasn't been done before is hailed as "fresh" and exciting. As the previous post says, know your audience.
I thought it was obvious. They do suggest that one image is better than another by calling it '1st Prize'.
Originally Posted by Tom Stanworth
The question remains: Why rate them at all? Get the images out there, have them reviewed, critiqued... all of that, but why do we need a rating system? Do humans need to compete, and be better than at least one other person, to feel good about themselves?
That does not sound like creativity.
It's more like a nail in a coffin for photography art.
Yes, that's a bit of a problem.
Agreed, and there is that word again: 'winner'. What a nonsense!
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974