Too bad you are not here to help me judge the Washington State High School Photography Competition this Saturday. It is something I have been involved with since 2006. I have been a judge on and off and this was to be an off year, but a judge bowed out for some reason and the director of the program, who is a good friend of mine, asked me to step in. Now he tells me another judge; there are 3 of us, has covid and did I know someone who could help out. Unfortunately all the folks I know are old, some even dead. He tries to get a mix of judges from the fine art world, the academic world and the world of commerce. I fit all three. It is always interesting to interact with other judges who have singular perspectives. The academics often gravitate to cerebral works, while commercial guys demand technical perfection. I have developed a reputation for seeking out a fine shot of the Space Needle. It is a brutally long day, looking at close to 4000 prints and whittling them down to 33, 3 each from 11 categories. I don’t agree with all the categories, like Traditional and Manipulated and I hate the Animal category. But I don’t make the rules. The Traditional category, ie film and darkroom work is getting smaller each year. And for a while they had a Camera/Phone category, until they realized they couldn’t tell the difference between an image made with an iPhone and Nikon. You would probably enjoy it, though your eyeballs would be burning by the end of the day. We always manage to come up with a fine show, but invariably, some beautiful images are left on the editing table. One interesting aspect, students and parents are allowed to witness the process. It is held in a high school gym and the spectators have to maintain a distance. But they can hear discussions of the judges as we debate the merits of an image. And the debate usually means one image is in the show, the other gets a thank you ribbon. Only once was there a nasty discussion among judges. My first year. I got into with an academic. She was all a twitter over a very mundane image because it “resonated” with historical significance. I forget my image, maybe a Space Needle shot. We went back and forth and she finally blurted out, “I wouldn’t hang that image in my bathroom”. To which I said, “I wouldn’t hang that print anywhere.” She caved, I won, but I felt bad because I wondered if we were being over heard by the students who created the images. My friend, the director, just chuckled. After the judging my friend invites up all over to his home, where his wife has prepared a wonderful meal. Teachers and judges are invited to discuss the remains of the day. The judge I feuded with bowed out due to a previous engagement. When I got to my friend’s home he said he wanted to show me something and took me to the bathroom. There hung 2 of my prints. What a hoot. That story comes up from time to time, and I am disappointed my prints no longer adorn the throne room. Here’s a link from one year to give you a sense of the event.
See what you are missing?
How’s your show coming along?