Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Black Art of Photographic Judging - Introduction

 "pot and window" (C) 2016 Jean-Francois Cleroux
What would your critique of this image be?
Photography Judging is one of the arcane arts that always seems to baffle photographers and always raises questions about the validity of judging itself. I have seen incredible images get trashed by judges, simple boring images get praised by judges. I have seen judges trash an image one week and judges praise the same image the next week; ward winning images not even get any good comments and obviously soft images win honorable mentions.

Judges and Critics will look at great images and decide it would look better one way or another without properly evaluating the image presented to them. They will criticize an image for not using the ‘rule of thirds’ totally ignoring the fact that divisions on the quarters or fifth are OK. They will cite rules that are not relevant and many seem to make the mistake that rules are absolutes when in reality they are not rules but rather ‘guidelines’. Some judges feel that they are ‘critics’ so therefore they need to ‘criticize’ an image no matter how good it is.

How is a photographer supposed to take in all the above information and make any sense of what is required of them to create a good image? Does the judge’s critiquing of images citing all the ‘rules’ crush creativity and cause photographers to create pre-boxed images? Should a photographer try to make sense of any of this and then try to created images that fit into the standards set by ‘judges’. Who are the judges and do they even know what they are talking about? Who are they to trash or praise your images?

This all gets confusing and having images critiqued should be a positive experience, not that the critique itself needs to be positive, but rather what you learn from the critique should be positive. Often it is not. Should you even have your images critiqued? Will it help you in your quest to becoming a better photographer?

In this series of posts, I will try to make heads and tails of all this. I will discuss the who and what of judging and whether or not you should have your images judged. In clubs, there is always an assumption that your images should be judged, that you will become a better photographer because of it (or will you just be brought in line with the masses?) Should you change your photography to get better marks and critiques or perhaps to win a competition? As an artist, are you selling your soul when you do this?

At a presentation a few years ago with Freeman Patterson and a follow-up workshop with him I was able to discuss a lot of these issues with him. In doing so I found out that both he and Andre Gallant use to have their images judged but both quickly stopped doing so as they found that their images changed and became more mainstream. Their images also lost their personality that they had because of how their creativity was stifled. These discussions led me to review my last five years of having my images critiqued, taking the Canadian Association of Photographic Arts (CAPA) Judging Course, becoming a Certified CAPA Judge, doing a lot of Judging and Critiquing, studying art and photography, and then reviewing whether any of this is beneficial or not? The simple question is; Did any of this help out my photography?

In this series started with the “Don’t Criticize the Critic”, I hope to answer all your questions. If you have any thoughts on the subject or any questions, please feel free to e-mail me. If you are against having your images critiqued or judged or for it, I would love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Francois, I've wondered about some of this myself and have sometimes been "deflated" after a critique instead of learning something positive. I look forward to reading your next posts.


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- Francois Cleroux