“The range of subject and technique should not be as surprising as it was (given that we’re living in 2013 where everyone’s phone is a high-res camera connected to the Internet), but I was surprised to see how many different formats, techniques, constructed environments and computer-assisted work were out there,” said juror Emily Lessard. “It made what we know as a ‘straight’ photograph, that uses natural lighting in a found environment, stand out and seem extraordinary.”
“The truth of great photography is the person behind the technology,” juror Jay Giesen said. “Their skills and professionalism are what drives true innovation in the craft, and that is clearly evident in this year’s body of work.”
“The images that stood out were powerful,” juror Tim Bruce said. “Like a jolt, it took less than a second to feel a visceral and direct connection, yet those images lingered in the mind for days. They had substance. I expected it to be very difficult to narrow down the selection from the first round to the second, but the good images quickly rose to the top.”
“What I liked about the competition in general is that it’s a blind vote,” said juror Amy Feitelberg. “You don’t know who took the images or what agencies or publications they come from, so as a judge you’re not swayed politically by anything. All of the votes come from a pure place of aesthetics.”
When asked about disappointments in the submissions, juror Andy Anderson echoed the comments of many previous juries on the need for better editing by photographers. “There were so many amazing images that never made it past the first cut, especially in the series,” he said. “Four images in a series are too many to enter. The narrative breaks down after three. We are all guilty of this.”
“There were some great images that really made a lasting impression—they were beautiful, surprising and heartfelt.” —Tim Bruce
Other disappointments? “The disappearance/rarity of ‘straight’ photographic images throughout the entries,” Lessard said. “So much of the work was made by relying heavily on post-camera manipulation. There’s already a small group of photographers who make work without using a camera and instead construct entirely digital images; this small group is on its way to becoming the majority.”
“So many of the motion entries got one aspect of the whole right— there was a good story, or a good subject, or good sound, or a good visual,” Bruce said. “Rarely were all four combined into one powerful piece. I wonder if there isn’t more of an opportunity for photographers to collaborate with a broader range of storytellers to make more of this medium.”
When asked what other profit centers photographers might explore besides commissioned work, licensing was the most common answer. “Photographers must start licensing their own work,” Anderson said. “The libraries of photographers should be a profit center that they control. The image makers are assuming all the risk and reaping the least in these transactions. It will not change unless we start taking control.”
“Rather than look at the transitional time in our media as a negative, it’s a time for photographers to carve out a path of where they want the field to go,” Feitelberg added.
“Great photography is here to stay,” Bruce said. “It is an art that very few master—and that’s never more clear than when you see a great image among thousands of good images. Great photography will continue to have a market with discriminating audiences that value it. It’s too powerful not to believe in.”
“The more our culture gets inundated by meaningless images, the more the demand will be for people to produce high-quality work.” —Amy Feitelberg
“As long as there are photographers who have the passion, drive and skill that we saw exhibited in the best work reviewed for this competition, and as long as the field continues to be driven by creativity, the desire to create it will remain relevant,” Giesen concluded.
This year’s jurying began the morning of Sunday, April 14. We worked in two large conference halls, each equipped with projectors for digital entries and six rows of tables for tearsheets and proofs.
The jurors worked in two groups of three; I was the sixth judge during the screening process. All categories had been divided so each team screened half of the entries submitted. The judges alternated between viewing a session of projected digital files and then a setup of print entries. Any juror could place a photograph in the finals by handing a printed piece to a member of the CA crew. Digital files were screened by checking the “in” or “out” column on prepared scoring sheets.
The final voting took place on Monday with all five jurors working together. Print entries were again spread out on the tables. Two paper cups, one white for “in,” the other red for “out,” with slots cut in the bottom, were placed upside down to the right of the pieces. The jurors voted by putting a different colored tile into the bottom of the appropriate cup. The different colored tiles allowed us to make sure that every entry was voted on by every judge. Finalists submitted as digital files were again voted on by each juror checking “in” or “out” on scoring sheets. Four out of five votes were required for acceptance.
Judges were not permitted to vote on projects they were directly involved in creating. When a judge’s piece was in the finals, either Jean Coyne or I would cast the fifth vote.
I would like to thank each of the judges for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 54th Annual Exhibition. —Patrick Coyne ca