“This was a diverse collection of images, from highly technical to low-resolution,” juror Laurie Frankel said. “But a great idea comes through no matter what the execution may be.
“I was really impressed with the editorial work,” said juror Jimmy Bonner. “Some of the photographs of human injustices and tragedies were difficult to look at, but they speak such truth about the world in which we live, they had to be included in the Annual.”
“I tended to respond to simpler, more daring approaches for the commercial work,” juror Tim Hartford said. “Photography can be a tool for carving out a unique, ownable brand vision and voice.”
As with any large body of submissions, themes tended to emerge that didn’t necessarily please the jurors.
“In many ways, it felt like there was a lot of repetition of the same themes,” Frankel said. “I was hoping to see more completely new, out-of-the-box ideas.”
“Most of the images were technically proficient, but I was disappointed with some of the trite solutions,” juror Henry Yee said. “But once we edited them down, the entries we were left with were all winners.”
“I was surprised by how much the lines between photography and illustration continue to blur,” Hartford said. “There was a lot of digital manipulation and some post-production gimmickry evident. That kind of futzing doesn’t necessarily make a bad idea better. With all these options comes more responsibility to exercise some restraint.”
“There were some powerful, honest, authentic moments in the editorial work. Some of the best were extremely moving.” —Tim Hartford
One of the most notable themes this year was not in content but in choice of platform.
“There seemed to be a large amount of camera phone–generated imagery,” Yee said. “They were very good but it was hard for them to transcend the limitations of the medium when compared to images taken with higher-end equipment. Soft images, flatness and lack of specific focus made the majority of them skippable. I believe that the equipment doesn’t matter as long as the image produced is special. But I really didn’t see anything created with a camera phone that went beyond looking like a snapshot.”
“Like the desktop computer, which enabled millions to become ‘designers,’ the cell phone camera and color-correcting apps are turning rookies into pros,” Bonner said. “However, not everyone who points and shoots can capture an image that will be forever enshrined in the pages of a CA Photography Annual.”
I asked the jurors what future directions photography might take.
“Photo-illustration and a lot of filters,” Frankel said.
“Perhaps with the rise of the iPhone, photos will have a greater sense of immediacy, looseness and implied journalistic realness, and rely less on elaborate studio or location setups,” Yee said.
“I imagine the video buttons on digital SLR cameras are making directors twitch,” Bonner said.
“The end results were very impressive. In each category, from documentary to conceptual, I looked for images that would stand up years from now.” —Jimmy Bonner
“More still photographers are getting into motion, with all the additional considerations for editing and sound that implies,” Hartford said. “But I don’t think discerning clients and audiences will lose sight of the tactile advantages of print. Look at the resurgence of vinyl records: there’s something reassuring about a physical object in a time when so much of our lives has gone digital.”
This year’s jurors worked in two groups of three (I was the sixth judge) during the screening round. All categories had been divided so each team screened half of the entries submitted. The judges alternated between viewing multiple sessions of projected digital files and a setup of print entries. Any juror could place a photograph in the finals by handing a printed piece to a member of our staff. Digital files were screened by checking the “in” or “out” column on prepared scoring sheets.
All five jurors worked together in the final round. 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. Final-round selections that were submitted as digital files were again voted on by each juror checking “in” or “out” on scoring sheets. Four “in” 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, our executive editor, or I would cast the fifth vote.
I would like to thank each of the judges for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 55th Photography Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca