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.
I would not like to be a judge, I don’t think I’d want to BE judged either! 🙂 It’s good that you try to be impartial but it must be so difficult when you can’t help ‘liking’ one shot more than another.
YOu are so right. Actually, because of the criteria the 4H placed on the photographers and on me the best photographer didn’t get an award. I could see her disappointment and even though I took time to explain the restraints placed on us by the 4H club I know she felt betrayed.
well that’s a shame, that’s why I don’t like competitions in artistic pursuits, so much feeling invested in what you produce, that not being appreciated feels like a slap in the face! Competition is good for sports but not the arts really.
yes, How can we help someone get better by saying first, second, third, instead of discussing what is good and what is weak, then shuggest what to do to be better?
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Hi John, I hope you enjoyed the 4-H Club Photography judging. I did it 2 years ago with a fellow member, Dave from KPAC, I must say we were amazed at the talent. Some thought they would like to pursue photography, others not. We were asked to do it again the next year as the kids were really pleased with our comments etc but unfortunately neither one of s was available. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.. Very nice experience
I suppose I said it all in my blog post. I am uncomfortable with judging and prefer to enter into a discussion with photographers that might help with personal growth in the medium.
I have acted as judge for lots of organizations, Professional and amateur, they all have their own criteria.
I told them I would judge the Winter fair also.