“I was struck by the range of photos entered in the contest, from highly produced professional images to simple, amateur pictures,” said juror Jim Fiscus.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing diversity. People of color were well represented,” said juror Lisa Lytton.
“It was quite easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of work. But, this just made the quality work stand out more,” said juror Mitch Markussen. “We were all looking for ‘the interrupters,’ work that stopped us mid thought.”
Several jurors commented on the trend towards greater authenticity in content and imagery.
“I saw some really nice work that used documentary photography to tell the story,” said juror Arem Duplessis, “When appropriate I cannot think of a better approach than finding the real story versus a story that has been softened or created to make a point.”
“Refreshingly, it seemed like more people are getting back to the true nature of using a camera, more than manipulation of the pixels, or gimmicky filters,” said Markussen.
“I think it is particularly important to millennials that a photo feel authentic,” said juror Krista Prestek. “There is so much real shared experiences now—social media, reality TV, etc.—that this generation is used to authenticity and balks at anything they perceive as being manipulated too much.”
“The sheer quality, craftsmanship and creativity of people’s work was inspiring. It made me want to come up with ideas just to use what they've already shot.” —Mitch Markussen
Not all trends noted this year were viewed positively.
“There was a sameness in the advertising category that suggested a herd instinct,” Lytton said. “We looked at a lot of washed-out, backlit lifestyle images of young people.”
“It seems the new trend is to snap a picture and then rely on what happens in post to bring out the art,” Duplessis said. “What a backwards way to work. The process should start with a great idea, and then rely on the art direction and the talent of the photographer to bring that idea to life. Even a small budget project can be solved with a solid idea and a photographer with an amazing eye.”
“Sadly, it is moving more towards ‘how can I make this different in post’ instead of thinking about how the shot can be better from the beginning,” Markussen added.
“The overuse of Photoshop,” Duplessis said. “Several of the photographs that I viewed should have been entered as illustration.”
“New to me in the context of judging was the experience of seeing a photo and not knowing whether it was a Photoshop creation or a really good in-camera moment that looked too good to be true,” Prestek said. “I wasn’t sure whether to give it the benefit of the doubt.”
“Some photographers had such great ideas, but the work was low-quality and therefore not selected,” Fiscus said. “I almost wished there was another category called ‘near miss’ for great photographic ideas that were poorly executed or under produced.”
“I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the institutional entries.”—Krista Prestek
I asked the jurors about the current challenges in the photographic industry and what photographers need to do to thrive.
“There will always be commissioned work, but it seems that now projects are either very high-end or under-budgeted and low-end, Fiscus said. “It seems that mid-level work has disappeared and without the middle, it's a difficult ladder [for photographers] to climb to top-level projects.”
“I think non-traditional wedding photography is an incredibly recession-proof market,” Prestek offered.
“The photographers who will win are going to be very strong hustlers, working all the angles, and supplying assets for every kind of media outlet,” Lytton said. “They not only have to shoot stills, they have to gather audio clips and field video, and know how to package it. These makers won't wait for permission or commissions. They will make their own work and produce it in interesting new ways.”
A minimum of four out of five votes was required for a project to be selected for inclusion in this year’s Photography Annual. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 56th annual exhibition. —Patrick Coyne ca