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Editor’s Column

This year’s 4,421 photography competition submissions differed from previous years in a multitude of ways. The addition of student work as a dedicated category added new creative voices to the mix. The increasing use of smart phone cameras and Instagram filters and the inclusion of greater cultural and social diversity in mainstream media influenced both style and content.
Go to Jurors Biographies

“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.

Other complaints?

“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

Jurors Biographies
Arem Duplessis
creative director
Arem Duplessis is currently a creative director within Apple’s worldwide marketing department. Previously, he served as design director for the New York Times Magazine, where he led an award-winning department that was named Design Team of the Year by the Art Directors Club for three consecutive years. Duplessis has been recognized by American Photography, the American Society of Magazine Editors, AIGA, the Art Directors Club, D&AD, the Type Directors Club, American Illustration, Communication Arts, Creative Review, Graphis and Print, among others. In March 2012, he was honored as one of five distinguished alumni of Pratt Institute.
Jim Fiscus
Jim Fiscus Photography
Jim Fiscus is a native Texan who got his first taste of photography at a bullfight in Mexico when he was six years old. His dad gave him a camera, and his uncle goaded him to use up the entire roll of film, which he promptly did. He studied briefly at East Texas State University under his mentor, Jim Newberry, and in the years since, he has become known for his cinematic style and his ability to tell a story in a single frame. His work can be seen in campaigns for clients ranging from a&e, hbo, Showtime and Britain’s itv to Levi’s and Motorola. Fiscus makes his home in Athens, Georgia, with his wife and two children.
Lisa Lytton
creative director
Lisa Lytton is a creative director at ScrollMotion’s San Diego office, working on product design and mobile enterprise solutions. Previously, she served as the director of digital editions for National Geographic maga­zine and the director of digital storytelling for ng.com. Along with partner Antony Shugaar, Lytton packages photography books for Paraculture Books. Formerly a senior acquisitions editor for National Geographic Books and a senior design editor for National Geographic, Lytton has pro­duced more than 100 books. She most recently packaged A World in One Cubic Foot, by David Littschwager, published by the University of Chicago Press.
Mitch Markussen
creative director
Mitch Markussen is a creative director and an art director at BVK in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After his discharge from the us Navy, where he piloted aircraft carriers, he attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Markussen has crafted work for a wide range of clients, including AT&T, GE Healthcare, Maine Tourism, the Orlando Visitors Bureau, Sea-Doo, Target, Toyota and WD-40. Prior to BVK, he spent time at Cramer-Krasselt, 22squared and other ad agencies. His work has been recognized by the ADDYs, the Art Directors Club, the Chicago International Film Festival, Communication Arts, Graphis, Lürzer’s Archive, Print and the One Show.
Krista Prestek
director of photography
Krista Prestek is the director of photography at GQ. She has been with the magazine for nine years, during which time it has won American Society of Magazine Editors awards for photography and general excellence and numerous Society of Publication Designers awards for photography and cover as well as for Magazine of the Year. Prestek, who has been commissioning and producing photography for more than thirteen years, has held photo editor positions at Details and BlackBook magazines, and she was a Lucie Awards Picture Editor of the Year nominee. Prestek lives in Brooklyn with her husband, documentary film editor Tom Griffin, and their two children.

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