DRAFT 10 – 1/26/08

 

 


What’s Wrong with the way we judge Competition photography,
and how did it get that way.
by Robert A. Baron
member, Westchester Photographic Society

www.wpsphoto.org

To the reader: This paper is about judging amateur photography competitions. It was delivered to the Color Camera Club of White Plains, New York on 18 December 2006, and to the Westchester Photographic Society, Valhalla, New York, 5 January 2007. The text, below, is a slightly revised and edited version of what was delivered to the two clubs cited above. In addition, portions of the original text, not delivered for reasons of timing, have been restored. These additions are rendered in the Courier font. Comments and suggestions should be mailed to robert@studiolo.org.
 

Forward: Competition Guidelines and their relation to the History of Art

Art historians have come to realize that the “evolution” of artistic style, unlike development in the sciences, is not one of continual improvement, but rather expressions of the changing goals and values of those civilizations that create visual arts. Since the beginning of the Twentieth Century (and even earlier), artists have recognized and paid tribute to the styles of earlier masters and modes of creation. To this writer, it therefore seems peculiar that the stylistic guidelines to which amateur club photographers are expected to conform tend to limit themselves to a particularly art-historically blind aesthetic. Needless to say, the process of judging tends to inculcate an aesthetic. As taught by judges hired to assess our competitions these guidelines tend to follow the so-called PSA rules  – a misnomer, by the way. Not only do these “rules of practice and composition” tend to ignore the stylistic possibilities open to all creative artists, but by methodically disregarding meaning and subject matter in club photography, they discourage both budding and advanced amateur photographers from participating in one of the most exciting developments of our time – the acceptance of photography as a fine art worthy of commercial and aesthetic recognition. In this way club competition photographers are encouraged to create in an hermetically sealed atmosphere that isolates them from the advances and practices of the wider photographic world -- at least with respect to their competition work. This presentation will demonstrate a few of the above assertions and will endeavor to show how one of the most influential studies of the “evolution” of artistic style, Heinrich Wölfflin’s Principles of Art History, may have been partly responsible for the way such rules became paramount in the amateur photographic environment.


I. Problems in judging.

Recently I attended a presentation by a well-known professional photographer who enjoys a lively business selling his nature photography. At the conclusion of his talk, which was given at a local camera club, as the audience was leaving the room, I overhead someone behind me complain about the quality of his photographs: He said something like this: "I don’t think his pictures were so good; few would score well in our contests; he was breaking so many of the rules."

What happened here? Great pictures, as, hopefully, we all know, do not necessarily materialize from conforming to rules. My unknown observer had inverted the relationship between adherence to the "rules" and creating good pictures. Yet, most photography teachers (and even some professionals) know well that while the so-called "rules" may help prevent making really bad or unreadable pictures, they can’t ensure that a photographer will make good ones. It is not the rules that make the picture; it is the photographer. But, even more disturbing is the possibility that this critic actually believed that the use of "rules" to grade images is somehow authoritative. I think that following these rules is like an ice skater competing by trying to produce perfect figures, as they once did in the Olympics. Skating figures demonstrates the quality of technique. It does not display inspiration, ingenuity or creativity; it is not art.

Let’s look at a few works by some well-known and respected photographers and analyze how the so-called rules are, or are not, followed in the making of their pictures:

Richard Avedon: 1969,
Staff Members of WBAI,
including Bob Fass, Larry Josephson and Steve Post.
(From the New Yorker, Dec 4, 2006)

Rule Problems:

  1. Symmetry in composition
  2. Heads, feet and bodies are merged into the margins. In fact, they are stuffed into the frame.
  3. The "frame," itself is merely the shadow of the negative clips, and is, in a sense, no frame at all. Technology has interfered with image-making.
  4. A hand obscures the face of the leftmost person.
  5. The white background is the brightest part – but is not the center of interest. Far from it; it is, if anything, negative space. In fact, there is no center of interest -- at least in terms of drama. The observer may allow his eyes to ramble freely over the group portrait. The figures look as if they were pasted in.
  6. Moreover, the figures don’t occupy a full three-dimensional space; it is extraordinarily shallow. In fact, ignoring the standing figures, there is hardly any space at all – no foreground and no background.
  7. This is a group portrait with no interpersonal connection, and no narrative relationship to study.

Avedon has caught something of the isolation and egocentricity or self-absorption of his subjects that is not attractive. It is even irritating. But, there is something going on here that is keenly interesting. I don’t want to suggest that Avedon depended upon specific sources, but in the history of art there are parallels and analogies that will help us understand what he has done and they are not necessarily modern.

Andrea Orcagna, Strozzi Altar, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. (1354-57)

In this 14th-century altarpiece the saints have been arranged in their own niches, with no perspectival or narrative connection, except, perhaps, for their traditional gestures of identification. The background is conventionally flat, airless, and gold. There is a floor, and the figures seem to stand on the limited space it projects, but its allover pattern bears no hint of perspective. Verisimilitude is not the goal; rather, the design is theologically determined. It is conceptual, not observed.

Avedon’s image uses the same compositional technique, dividing his five figures into three groups, with the outer figures intersecting the outer edges of the composition. This, more or less, is a scheme typically used in devotional triptychs, as in this one by Roger van der Weyden from the mid-15th Century. We see the figures in the wings symmetrically turned to the center.

Rogier van der Weyden,
Triptych: The Crucifixion. c. 1440

Compositionally, Avedon’s picture has the quality of an icon – like a triptych. And its subject matter, likewise, is iconic – 1960 icons of New York’s WBAI, then a left-wing, anti-war radio station. Some older folks in the audience might recognize Bob Fass, Larry Josephson and Steve Post. The distance Avedon places between the subject and the viewer could well signify the innate disjunction between radio personalities and their listeners.

Lee Friedlander, Grand Tetons 1999
Here is a photo by Lee Friedlander. The subject is the Grand Tetons – but from this picture you’d hardly know it. The Tetons are barely visible through the brambles. He is reversing the expected object/subject relation. I suspect he is showing that by concentrating on creating a single point of interest, we loose sight of many fascinating and appealing things. On re-examination, the wild branches are not quite as chaotic as they may have first appeared; they are cleverly composed, interesting in their entirety, but for all that, they lead the observer to no single significant center of interest. Nor does the photographer trouble himself with making the shoreline coordinate with the presumed horizon. Why? Because it serves no significant purpose to straighten out the vicissitudes of the act of taking the photo. Once you see the brambles as the subject, your eyes cannot let it go; their structure, chaotic is they may first seem, dominate the image.

Peter Aertsen, ca. 1551
Butcher’s Stall w/ Charity in Background.

I’m comparing the Friedlander to a work from the mid 16th century by the Dutch painter Peter Aertsen, in which the actual subject (Charity) has been pushed far to the rear. Masquerading as a view of a butcher stall, this image also inverts the subject/object relationship, as if to say that in a world of plenty, charity gets only a little space. It is morally charged.

From this we might guess that Friedlander is saying to us that in a world of Super-Star Mountains and tourist attractions, the simple beauty of unadorned nature goes unnoticed.

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother
Here is Doreathea Lange’s famous Migrant Mother. Her plight and her suffering are well-known and obvious, but so also are her resolve and inner strength. This is not a candid shot; once you look you can see that it has been carefully posed – and, to some extent, is awkward for it. Its incipient symmetry is nearly a rule-breaker. On inspection, its air of artificiality and manipulated structure seems to refer to some of the figures Michelangelo painted into the Sistine Ceiling where we find both formal and conceptual relationships:

Sistine Ceiling. Niche Figures – Salmon
Sistine Ceiling. Niche Figures – Jesse


These two figures are from the Sistine Ceiling – from the vaulting over the window lunettes. They depict the ancestors of Christ (the so-called "Tree of Jesse") who theologically are condemned to live in limbo waiting for the day of redemption. But Michaelangelo gives them a very human meaning as well. In this way they symbolize all those who are weary, suffer and are doomed to wait for help and relief – just like Lange’s Migrant Mother.

Sistine Ceiling, Isaiah.

Here is the Isaiah figure from the Sistine Ceiling. You can also detect a strong formal relationship between it and Lange’s "Migrant Mother." It could well be her source and is often cited as such. But if it is the source, it is the formal source; it doesn't tell us much about the meaning that is infused into Lange's picture.

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter
Just for fun, I’m showing you Norman Rockwell’s famous "Rosie the Riveter" poster, which, obviously, is also based on the Isaiah figure from the Sistine Ceiling. I’m very fond of her ham sandwich. Notice that Rosie tramples on a copy of Mein Kampf. In this
way it replicates an ancient tradition -- images of Christ trampling on the serpent of Eden – the symbolic surrogate for original sin. The message may be hidden, but is there nonetheless.

Robert’s cemetery in the woods
A word on behalf of judges: It isn’t easy for judges to read the intention of an artist. The picture before you is one of my own creations (not among my best, perhaps, but useful in the present context). The scene appealed to me because the overarching branches and the bright light streaming through the leaves reminded me – in association with the tombstones – of a cathedral, thus adding a level of spirituality to the memento mori of the graveyard.

Ste. Chapel, Paris 13th Century
Here is the gothic chapel known as Ste. Chapel, in Paris – a famous tourist attraction.
Easily, you see that my photo’s reference to a cathedral is not such a crazy idea; moreover, it is not unusual for gothic structures – cathedrals, chapels, etc. to be understood, metaphorically, as forests and the overarching rib-vaults as tree limbs. I just turned the metaphor around. [note: I'm told that there is even a Girl Scout song that sings of a cathedral in the woods.]

Whatever -- yet all this went past the judge. (Perhaps, I should not have expected more.) The judge approached his criticism solely in terms of the visual. Correctly, he saw the trees as framing the tombstones, but suggested that they be cut lower because that way they’d look better. True enough, I suppose, but this test revealed a form vs. function disconnect. The judge thought "form;" I was thinking "function" or "meaning." Sometimes you can’t have both together – something has to give. The closer they get, the better the picture, I suppose. In my own work, I often expect form to imply meaning. The synergy of form and content, when properly developed can create powerful images.

I’m suggesting that in these cases the photographer’s stylistic decisions and choice of sources indicate what they want to tell us about their pictures. Even when photographers are not conscious about their choices, their broad experiences nudge them into selecting revealing examples from the present and past that help people comprehend their purposes and give their pictures relevance. At the same time, I’ll warrant that illustrative metaphors like those shown above, are frequently intended to be invisible and unnoticed, yet nevertheless reveal the artist’s or photographer’s frame of mind. In these efforts adherence to "rules" – if they have any importance at all – may have little to do with their meaning.

Not long ago WPS conducted one of its so-called "special" theme competitions. The subject this time was sculpture. At WPS it is understood that showing another person’s work requires the photographer to transform it into his own creation or to establish a unique context for the work. Unfortunately, the judge for this contest knew nothing about sculpture, to the point of not recognizing any of the well-known works presented. Embarrassingly, he often couldn’t tell the difference between a work that had or had not been altered for the competition.

Photographs offered in this contest were sometimes about sculpture, as sculpture, or sometimes parodied sculpture. Unrecognized, in this way, many otherwise acceptable photographs fell by the wayside in the up-down phase of the judging. The only tool the judge employed was rule-based. People said that he did a credible job in this; but to my mind he should have recused himself. If theme competitions are going to be judged solely by pictorial rules, I can see no reason at all to have such competitions.

In the end, perhaps the judge’s ignorance did more good than harm because it demonstrated (at least to me) that judging amateur contests is mired in a mind-set where the only functional value is the visual – unfortunate when many pictures ask that so much more be understood.

Here are two examples that require more than what the eye can see:

Salvo Galano is an Italian photographer who spent a year in New York living with and photographing the homeless.

Salvo Galano’s homeless man with cane

The subject seems oddly posed, setting itself up for a hit by the judge; moreover the brightness of the background draws attention away from the subject's face and the image seems rather tightly cropped on the sides. But all this pales in the light of the projection of personality that the photographer reveals. The pose exists because the photographer based his photo upon a known precedent, in this case one of several ancient sculptures of the River God of the Tiber. Here is one of them:

Roman Sculpture River God of the Tiber
I’m going to show you a well-known set of dependencies, familiar to almost everyone who studied Art History in College.

Renaissance engraving of the Judgment of Paris, by Marcantonio Raimondi, detail

This is a detail of a Renaissance engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi. The subject is the "Judgement of Paris."

Paris, the son of Prium, the king of Troy, was given an opportunity to select the most beautiful of three Olympian goddesses. As in the continuing soap-opera that is Greek mythology, every event has political repercussions. In this case, Paris chose Athena, who, in turn, promised him the love of Helen of Troy, whom he kidnapped from her current husband, Menelaus of Sparta. And thus began the Trojan War…


(Do you see how much trouble judges can cause?)

Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass
Manet’s famous "Luncheon on the Grass" derives from the Raimondi, as the Raimondi derives from its Roman source. The nudes come from the Olympic goddesses, and the reclining man is derived from the River God. In Manet’s picture we interpret the nudes as muses who inspire the men in their discussion. They are allegorical, as was the river god. Given its source, one might guess that the men are discussing aesthetics -- of women.

What is important to us in the current context is that Manet’s scene is intellectual and middle class. Whatever their discussion, it takes place in nature – in the open air and that might well be their topic.

I believe that the photographer Galano, whom we must assume knew Manet’s famous picture, is asking us to draw a parallel between the middle class picnickers and Ronald Rosario, the homeless man, who, despite his situation, displays a nobility of aspect and an uncommon humanity. Indeed, Galano tells us that his subject actually believed in homelessness as an ideal state of existence. In this case you can only fully understand the image by comprehending the range of associations implied by the photographer. But if you just realize that the subject shows a singular nobility, you are already half way there. The photographer used his sources well, and by doing so has diminished the importance of ignoring what we consider the "rules" of composition.

Lee Friedlander [shadow play]
This photo by Lee Friedlander puzzles the rule-based observer. At first glance it seems to cut off the head of the main figure. That is until you realize that the main subject is the shadow. The photographer’s shadow is projected onto the woman’s rain coat, and the two worlds, one material (no pun) and the other, shadow, are merged as we come to realize that the woman’s hair has been placed to fit on the photographer’s shadowy head. It is the photographer who owns the pun.

Here, what startles as an obvious gaffe of the rules, resolves itself as shadow play. But to accomplish this, the photographer has to traverse the boundary between the photographic image and real life. Now we realize that the shadow, alone, is not the subject. The subject is a concept – an interaction between otherwise incommensurate realities. Pictures with multiple levels of reality, such as this one, are rare in photographic competitions, but are common in other fine arts. We’ll see one example later.

We must acknowledge that rule-based competitions in other areas of our lives are the norm. What would tennis or any other sport be without rules? Rules make these competitions fair and exciting, but while the quality of the play is crucial, in the end these contests are about competition – that is, about who wins!
In sports, when rules are broken it is not to improve the game, but to gain an unfair personal advantage. In such games there is a defined goal and defined procedures for success.

Are photographic competitions really about who wins? Or, are they about quality and ingenuity in photography? Are the rules firm and fast as in sports, or are they there to be broken?

An art (or photo) competition cannot operate from a rulebook and cannot definitively determine which images achieve their intended goal. The judges are always the intermediary and are always subjective – just as in boxing and in modern ice-skating. Breaking or ignoring rules for inventive purpose should be rewarded, not penalized.

Yet, there is something appealing about competing with rules. Competition with rules in some ways can be likened to writing poetry – for instance like writing sonnets. All sonnets must have 14 lines and be written according to a pre-defined rhyming scheme. The point in writing a sonnet is to produce something enchanting and inventive while honoring the formal requirements that define it.

Certainly it is fun to think of sonnets in that way; but to my mind such a construction seems so very Victorian (if not Elizabethan) and discordant with modern values and ways. Even here, although working within an architecture of rules, the judges would tend to exercise their power of subjectivity.

Today, invention and ingenuity seem more important than conformity to rules. Producing photographs with the rigor of ice-skating figures seems quaint and dated. Today's photographers want to exercise their freedom to create without the burden of having to conform to pictorial guidelines.

STYLE

Personally, I prefer to think of "Rules" as a prescription for creating a "style" or, better, as a way to use your photography to express yourself and your values. But rule-based images risk expressing the trivial, and may even block attainment of its desired purpose.

We tend to use the word "style" carelessly – in a very empty way – meaning fashion, manner or technique – or just for your own personal way of rendering your visual perceptions in a form that pleases and characterizes you. But "style" has a deeper more profound meaning. Style can be an attribute of a temperament, disposition or character – as expressed across personal, national or cultural domains.

I tend to think of "style," metaphorically, as a multi-layered affair. The outer layer contains those techniques and methods (and rules) that tie you aesthetically and ethically to your time and civilization. As you go deeper, each subsequent layer shows your dependence and association with increasingly intimate groupings and their value structures. At the core lies your personal style – not just your outward manner, but something deep, hidden and powerful that may not only determine how your photographs look but how you select and project your subject matter. Observing the rules we learn in club competition will only take you so far. The deeper you go, the more you are asked to rely on your own ingenuity and invention and, in doing so, the more you’ll find the "rules" to be an imposition and a barrier to creativity. At its heart, creativity honors no laws other than those you create for yourself. Ultimately, the creation of a personal style or temperament in art cannot be taught by imposing rules unless they are intended to force you to shed them. Mandatory use of "rules" is tantamount to a restriction of freedom of speech or of thought. The descent to the center can be a journey filled with pain, suffering and self-doubt.

Every work of art and every photograph is created in an historical context, and that context determines their creator’s choices for forms and subjects in his efforts to give his works meaningful expression. But those choices need not be limited to the modern or the contemporary. As we have just seen, the entire world of the history of art and ideas (if the artist is willing and able) is available. This means that an artist may reach back in time or away from home for the raw materials with which to create those truths and/or fictions he needs to express his chosen content.

Here are two photographers who have merged style and content to form photographic expressions that go beyond obeisance to "rules."

Les Krims (Set ups.) from "Stack o’ Wheats" Murders (portfolio)
The first is Les Krims, and next one will be Cindy Sherman. In both of these we find a fictionalization of the photographer’s persona and staged situations. In the Krims, taken from his infamous portfolio, "Stack o’ Wheats Murders," violence against women is shown as a series of fetish murders – the murderer leaves a stack of pancakes as a signature. It is the task of the viewer to determine the nature of the photographer’s persona in these. Does Krims suffer from a Weegee complex and need to photograph blood crime? Is he showing what he hates or what he admires – or what others hate or admire? Must he cross the boundaries of normalcy to proclaim his individuality? What is the extent and direction of his social criticism? He does not answer these questions. This is your job. The blood we see (actually Hershey’s chocolate syrup) becomes an attractive pattern, ironically deepening our revulsion. Is the photographer challenging our ability not to be sickened by this? Why are the walls covered with icons of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, another fetish, if not to introduce yet another level of irony or social criticism? As if a blow to our "rules," or just by indifference, the photographer has shown us an arm whose entire body has been sliced off by the frame. In the end, "rules" are a first cousin of propriety. [See website of Les Krims.]

Cindy Sherman. [Untitled Film Still] 1979
In the Sherman, we find the photographer posing in a pseudo movie still, with plenty of persona questions to ask here. This picture is purposefully amateurish, even voyeuristic. Neither of these powerful images will ever be judged well in our competitions.

From the above examples we must conclude that relying on dictated or conventional guidelines of composition and expression may be suspect. This does not mean that guidelines (or "rules," if you so choose) are irrelevant – we know how powerful certain configurations can become. Rather, it suggests that artists’ motives may best be served if they distance themselves from the support and comfort that the rules and guidelines promise.

Indeed, the familiarity of the rule-tools we customarily use may ultimately exert a destructive force on works that use them – because these works, so easily seen as castings from familiar forms, quickly turn uninventive, repetitive, boring and trite.

=====

I must mention a few of the gimmicks upon which we traditionally depend to create our competitive works. I’ll limit myself to naming just a few of them, without explanation, because most of you know them all already:

  1. The "Rule of Thirds,"
  2. Placing the horizon away from the vertical mid-point of an image.
  3. Using leading lines to point to the center of interest.
  4. Having a single center of interest.
    Boat Sculpture, Lincoln Center (Photographed 8/7/06, artist name, not recorded)
  5. Having a red canoe as a center of interest.
  6. Avoidance of symmetry – especially bilateral symmetry.
  7. Making the brightest part of a picture coincide with the center of interest.
  8. Making the composition manipulate the interest of the observer.
  9. Not allowing the frame to cut off body parts – such as heads or feet, or whatever.
  10. Not losing the sense of the complete, or confusing the subject, by overlapping figures.

And so many others, that in so many ways have worked well to improve images. In the end, advocating use of these rules routinely, I believe is paternalistic; it treats photographers like babies. In general I agree with the Dalai Lama who says "Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly." [note: See Elinor Stecker-Orel, "A New Look at Composition," © 2006.]

=====

Whatever their apparent value, rules haven’t improved all images. Indeed, such "improvements," when they do occur, may come at a cost. It has been suggested that the rules or expectations under which we work were popularized not necessarily to serve our individual or personal aesthetic goals, but, rather, the unending needs of commerce. In competition the need to grasp the attention of the judge may have stimulated our use of the visual language and style of advertising, where the ability to seize and hold the attention of the observer is paramount. Alternately, the judges, themselves, may have been influenced by the advertising aesthetic and in judging may have created an atmosphere that calls for these devices. In advertising we want to exert control over the observer, to tantalize him with, say, a bottle of Grey Goose, and lead him, consciously or not, to the nearest liquor store.

How often have you been told that this or that picture has no "snap"? What is "snap," anyway, other than a means of seizing the attention of the viewer and holding him tightly in the grip of the work of art. And what does "pop" mean? Is "pop" different than snap? If I get "snap," and "pop" how long will it be before I’m told my picture has no "crackle"? The trouble with these devices is that they don't presume the presence of substance, meaning or content; for all practical purposes they border on being vacant or merely eye-candy.

It is disappointing in our own competitions to watch images increasingly become infected with "snap" and to watch colors become ever more saturated, and to see one photo after another take off in a blaze of red, and to watch the judges eat it all up. That’s not to say that advertising style photographs are not appreciated. In their context they can be quite exciting, but for us their style tends to sway judges and crowd out other serious and sophisticated entries. They defeat the purpose of the contest by influencing the results and rewarding the loudest contenders.

Man Ray, Advertisement from VU. 1933, Cover photograph. For the Salon de l'Automobile et Radio. (photo from Michel Frizot, The New History of Photography, p. 554.)

Hoover Dam, Tampax advertisement. Proctor & Gamble. (Designed by Leo Burnette Company) 2004 OBIE finalist.

Here are two advertising photos that illustrate my point: One is from 1933, photographed by Man Ray, and the other is an OBIE award winner from 2004.

Man Ray employs a familiar advertising subterfuge, turning the woman into the center of interest, when all they really want to do is to sell automobiles. Considering the market and the class to which this photograph is directed, the sexual dimension is obvious.

The Hoover Dam Tampax award winner uses a clever mind-trick to make the observer create the metaphor herself. The moment the audience understands the connection, the metaphor shocks. But the moment of revelation is transient and the photograph cannot withstand repeat viewings. This was a wall advertisement placed within the confines of ladies' restrooms.

As photographers, and especially as amateur photographers, I’ll wager we want more than that. Many stylized photos in the "commercial" mode are clever, but limiting in their focus. Sometimes we want the observer to wander over our images, exploring and digesting the rhythms and associations we have offered him so he may absorb the world we’ve created. There may be no center of interest, or the entire photograph might be the center of interest. We want our photographs to be interesting for more than their minute of fame before the eyes of some judge.

Still, whether our guidelines in one situation or another are useful or not, they can be turned into excuses for criticizing perfectly fine pictures.

How many times have we seen a judge stand before a contending photograph – blabbing away mindlessly about how nice he thinks it is, but obviously just vamping until he finds the words he wants? And, then, suddenly, pow!, he discovers something valuable to say -- typically of a destructive nature: "Oh, a toe has been cut off – 75." "This is the unkindest cut of all." [note: in WPS contests a score in the 70s is equivalent to "poor."]

Recently I attended a competition in which the judge passed every photo through the sieve of rules, damning those that couldn’t pass his test to picture purgatory. Even worse, one photo reminded this judge of a painful event, and penalized the photographer for having submitted it.

[note: After the presentation of this paper on 1/5/07 at the Westchester Photographic Society, one of my colleagues, Walter Kimmel, suggested that some judges read pictures through the rules, subconsciously. They are so familiar with the logic of rules, that an indiscretion in this area pains like hearing a grammatical fault.]

Any skilled observer of how amateur photography competitions are judged must at some time come to the realization that these "rules" play a diminished and diminishing role in identifying images of interest or importance. In fact, while they may succeed at identifying images of grace and beauty, they fail to determine which images deserve more attention or have a chance of making a noteworthy contribution to the genre.

For its own sake, unexamined beauty often proves itself an inadequate indicator of cultural worth and significance, and rarely opens new paths leading to increased knowledge. Thoughtlessly, we swallow the old dictum: "Beauty is Truth." But when we think on it a bit, we frequently discover that "beauty" is but reality idealized. Beauty is a balm to soothe our discontents. It conceals the defects in life – and hides its imperfections. And here is the rub: we naturally prefer these escapist fabrications to raw truth, and may even, ultimately, through beauty, be led to forget the deficiencies around us. Upon realizing that, we may have uncovering the path leading to an understanding of the exquisitely beautiful images we make.

Competitions can also become a game of gaming the judge. It is not a secret, but some of our members keep dossiers on our judges’ aesthetic preferences, and when able, choose their own competition entries accordingly. To combat this game WPS recently made the schedule of judges top-secret, only one person knows who is on the agenda for a given date.

Continued on Judging02.htm
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