Saturday, 25 October 2008

Beauty in the Eye

What is it with the lottery of photo judging?

Now I have to be careful here, for a couple of reasons. First, because I am a judge myself, so anything I say can (and will) be held against me and applied by others to myself (if you follow).

And second, because this could quite easily come off sounding like a bunch of sour grapes - which it isn't - (honest).

But hang on a minute. What am I going on about? Let me explain...

We had our local camera club evening last week, and as is usual for all camera clubs around the country (and around the world I would suspect), our images were 'judged' by an 'expert' from away. Nothing unusual there, and I've had some very good feedback from this type of judging process.

This time, however, we struck a judge (and I'm naming no names) who must have forgotten to put his glasses on and had skipped his medication all that week! He was atrocious. Brief, bizarre, unfounded and horribly dismissive grading then ensued, to the point where he rejected a good 80% of all the images submitted.

Above is the image I submitted for the Set Subject which this month was "Still Life". It was rejected. "Don't like it" was about as helfpul and as informative as the judges comments on this particular image got.

This is where it could start to sound a bit like sour grapes. He rejected my photo - how dare he! But it really isn't like that at all. I don't think it's the greatest image ever taken, and it was a bit of an experiment for me with some gritty HDR photoshop techniques that I'd wanted to try out for a while. So I really didn't expect it to score highly, or get me an honor mark or anything. But rejected! Really?

And trust me, there were images better than the one above who also suffered the same fate. So it got me thinking - what kind of lottery is this whole judging process - and does it need to be?

We all know that judging art is subjective - right. You like what you like, I like what I like etc, etc, etc. But hang on. Do we really want judging to be purely subjective? Or is there some objective elements that can serve as guidelines or principles when judging others work? Well, I believe there are. But who judges the judges? And who gets to be a judge? Is there some test you have to take to determine whether you'll make a good judge (no, there isn't), and if not, why not?

If you're looking for answers to these questions, then sorry, you've come to the wrong place. I could give 'My' answer to the above (having been an Art Critic, Lecturer in Aesthetics, and Camera Club Judge myself I have probably pondered on this more than most), but it's a scope way too big for this blog. Suffice to say that I think the judging (and passing of 'opinion') of others work is not a job to be taken lightly, to be handed out to anyone just because they've been in the club the longest, or who doesn't take the responsibility seriously.

I'm not worried about me - it's the children for heaven's sake, think about the children! Fortunately, my 8 year old daughter didn't put anything in for last months camera club assignment, so she didn't have to be put through the farcical judging process. But what if she had entered...?

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