June 19, 2013
My Blog Archive
Competition Winners - Not Me Again This Year
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Winter. The end of the year and the beginning of a new one. Usually a fairly slack time for wedding photographers although there are still weddings going on and still photographers there to snap them. Most of us are wrapped up warm, in front of the telly, or, as I was for much of November and December, constantly shovelling snow away from the house to try and keep the drive-way passable.
Winter is competition time with many photography organisations and societies calling for entries to their annual shows. This time I entered two prints into the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP) annual 20x16 print competition. I'd not entered in previous years, partly because I was hard on myself and judged my shots to be not worthy of entry. But this time I felt that my stuff was as good as the next persons and, if I wanted to progress, I had to be prepared for some criticism.
In fact, much of December was taken up with selecting and entering shots for various on-line compos; to the extent where I lost track of which images I'd submitted to which compos and when the judging was taking place. I consoled myself by saying that if I won, or came in the top 2 or 3 they'd let me know. Needless to say, the phone not been ringing and I've let my breath out as I was going red in the face waiting.
Competition entries are judged in a way that is mysterious to mere mortals. Certainly, clients are not as critical nor as fussy, so that does that mean that they are ill informed? Discuss!
No, it doesn't. It means that judges and clients are looking for different things. Commercial success with an image or two is no indicator of its aesthetic value to judges. Photography judges are akin to judges of other subjective competitions such as flowers, vegetables, fashion, literature, film, music, TV and just about everything else. Unlike their legal counterparts, there is no written precedent or law for them to fall back on and for which a plaintiff can consult in an attempt to predict the outcome. Does success in X-factor guarantee critical success? X-Factor, a show where the "judging" is visible, vocal, arbitrary and complete nonsense. The prosecution rests, m'lud!
As a counter-argument to bland TV judging and one which argues the case against client objectiveness we have Strictly Come Dancing. Now, I'm not all that avid a viewer of this kind of TV, but SCD had me arranging my social life around it ... or, to be accurate, not having a social life while it was broadcasting. What I found so compelling was the way the professional judges views were overridden by the audience vote, such that Anton and "delightful" Anne Widdecombe continued to be voted in long after she herself had given up trying. As the weeks passed it threatened to make a mockery of the whole show as perfectly competent couples who were trying hard were eliminated in favour of a big-boned, ex-politician who, when she was in politics couldn't count on the masses to vote for her for anything at all! As the semi-finals approached, the tension in everyone connected with the show was palpable and seeping through the TV screen. Even Craig Revel Horwood was trying to take his criticism to new levels in an attempt to convince viewers that her continuing in the show was "not a good thing". "Dalek in drag" finally penetrated the mass conscience; they knew what a Dalek looked like and sounded like and a Dalek was "bad". No more votes for AW.
The SWPP compo completed at the end of their annual conference in London and, on checking the results, I quickly spotted that I'd not won again, so at least I'm consistent. Imagine therefore, my surprise when a week later I received, through the post, a merit rosette for one of my two images. The letter was good enough to inform me that I'd scored "over 80 marks" but negated to inform me both what the scale was (out of 100? Out of 10,000?) and actually which one of the two images submitted was the merit award for? So, I'm confounded and attempts to solicit the answer from SWPP are taking on The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy proportions. When I find out I'll let you all know.