On the Sunday of the September long weekend I spent an enjoyable day judging the Barriere 4H club members photography presentations at the North Thompson Fall Fair.
Although I have taken on the role of judge many times before, I am still slightly uncomfortable in a formal critique. Just looking at a photograph and discussing it, even placing a grade on it, as I did for years as a college instructor, is easier because everyone is competing with themselves. But when choosing a first, second, and third place is a competition about who is better, one has to work very hard not to be influenced by personal feelings, taste, and opinions on the subject.
Most photographers seem to think a photographic “critique” means “to find fault with.” I don’t think that’s right. When one critiques another’s photograph they should be analyzing its strengths and successes. What doesn’t work is important and should be part of the discussion, but the main concern is what works, not, what doesn’t work.
This was my first time with the 4H club. Photography in this instance was set apart from the other events at the North Thompson Fall Fair that included animal husbandry, and the judging was, in my opinion, more about the young member’s personal development in photography and how well they could adhere to the guidelines than how good their individual photographs were. Although unusual, the process was interesting, and I think valuable.
I will say that the quality of the photography was surprising for such young individuals. I was able to pick out specific interests and strengths in each of the young photographers. Yes, like all photographers, I expect those that are serious about the medium will undergo growth as they become more experienced with their cameras, and experiment with the medium of photography in general.
What is a good photograph?
“Life” magazine, “Time” magazine, and “People” magazine photographer, John Loengard, said, “It is not important if photographs are “good.” It’s important that they are interesting”.
Anyone who wants to take better pictures should focus on the fundamentals, and a successful photographer must have an understanding of composition and lighting because what is important for the viewer is how the photographer composes (or arranges) the image, and how the light is captured, both which sets the images apart.
William Reedy, in his book, “Impact Photography for Advertising” writes about how the successful photographer must, “…stop the eye…(and)…set the mood…” I have liked that quote for years. And I am pleased to say that there were some of those young 4H photographers that were able to accomplish that and I hope I get to see their again photography in the future.