March 16- May 12, 2018
I think judging a photo contest is something like teaching a class. But a big difference is about getting to know the photographer. In a class, you do; in a contest, you don’t.
Contests are hard, I think, because you are judging a photographer based on a few images. Sometimes only one. In reality, good photographers have a larger body of work which generally shows a consistency of vision, maybe a philosophical or political clue. Maybe simply an attitude.
There are other factors that make judging photo contests difficult. Quantity, for example. So many great images that are almost impossible to rule out, but there’s just so much room and rule out we must.
I wrote the following in a recent book called Shoot What You Love:
Teachers (read: judges) often learn their trade from their own teachers. I had some good ones. One teacher I studied with early on was Minor White. Minor’s life philosophy was based on the writings of Gurdjieff, a 19th century spiritualist, and it smacked hard of The New Age. One of Gurdjieff’s best selling books was titled: “Life is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am.’” Really.
I’m more of a Western guy. I don’t meditate or chant and I even believe in inoculating kids against measles. Minor’s workshop drove me crazy. But he was The Great Man and I was 21 years old—and not so great. But I didn’t agree with his message, so I quit his workshop.
“You don’t have to buy everything I say,” said Minor when I told him I was quitting.. “Just take what you can use and toss out the rest.”
Hmmm. So, maybe my worst teacher was actually my best. He taught me what not to do. Don’t make my students parrot what I say or follow what I do. Don’t try to be all things to all students. And remember there are many ways to skin a cat.
I tell you this not simply to name drop. Rather to say that as a long-time teacher, I am very aware that experience and training are important when judging. But so much of it is opinion when it comes right down to it. One judge likes landscapes; another portraits. You try to be even handed, but are you really?
Who knows? I think I did my best in this contest with so much fine work, and I am confident that what I picked was worthy. But I will forever wonder if the same could be said for the ones I didn’t pick. Congratulations to all the entrants.
Henry Horenstein Photography
“Celebrate the creative experience – be a community catalyst.”