“I was pleasantly surprised by how strong the book category was,” says juror Todd James. “Making a successful book requires a singular vision, an immense amount of dedication and the ability to be ruthlessly self-critical. These are important qualities for making memorable images in any genre.”
“Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of the concepts and the execution of the entries,” juror Sarah Wilmer says. “I was surprised by how moved I was by some of the short films.”
Several judges commented on the visual trends they saw across this year’s competition.
“Widespread uses of saturated color and color gels seem to be popular,” says juror Jerry Takigawa.
“There was a blur between art, editorial and commercial photography that isn’t exactly new, but is evolving in interesting ways,” juror Erin Mayes says. “I appreciate that the folks who commission photography might be expanding their horizons; published work is becoming more and more thoughtful.”
“I have seen a lot of trends come and go,” says juror Noah Dasho. “It seemed to me that the photographers who excelled stuck to what they do best rather than chasing a style.”
Not all the trends noted in this year’s competition were viewed positively by the jurors.
“There was a large focus on stories about makers,” says Dasho. “Although interesting, stories about makers who create small-batch, carefully curated items have almost become parodies of themselves.”
“I was disappointed to see how similar the food photography looked,” Mayes says. “This made the images that tried something different really amazing.”
“My biggest disappointment was the repetition—or, rather, redundancy—of the entries,” says Wilmer.
“Like any trending technological development, the use of drones was present and accounted for,” Takigawa says. “Finding a meaningful reason to use this tool was, seemingly, less evident.”
“I was sorry not to see more original work from the student category,” James says. “I expect the creative ideas that shape our culture to come disproportionately from young photographers, musicians, authors and filmmakers who are eager to challenge orthodox thinking.
“I would also like to have seen more classic reportage entries this year. Having people on the front lines of change, recording the visual history of our planet, also has cultural importance. I am concerned that the decline of news magazines has led to an equal decline in assignment work.”
I asked the jurors about current trends in the photography industry as a whole.
“The big shift is the desire to capture as much content as possible with every shoot,” says Dasho. “If we are capturing motion, we are expected to have stills as well. If we are capturing stills, we are often shooting behind-the-scenes or some additional elements to round out the content.”
“I’ve been spending a lot of time recently with older images—Nathan Lyons, Garry Winogrand, all the New Deal photographers—and maybe it’s just where my head is right now, but I see recent photographers starting to go back and embrace the chaos of capturing a moment while still managing well-crafted images,” Mayes says. “Maybe there is some correlation between the way those older photographers changed photography by exploring outside the established rules of the last century and how modern photographers are doing the same as they face this changed industry.”
And what about the impact of technology?
“Photography’s rapidly shifting technological evolution invites endless experimentation, but I still credit the artist—not technology—for making art,” says Takigawa.
“Advancing technology has made it much easier to produce good photographs, but I still believe the difference between good and great is not a matter of technology but of personal vision,” says James. “I hope we will always value that both intrinsically and monetarily.”
A minimum of four out of five votes was required for a project to be awarded in this year’s competition. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects in which they were directly involved. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 59th Photography Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Noah Dasho is a senior art producer at Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. With more than fifteen years of art buying experience, he has helped execute memorable campaigns for AT&T Wireless, Chevrolet, Comcast, Frito-Lay, Hewlett-Packard, Saturn and TD Ameritrade. As a printmaker and painter, Dasho brings an artistic eye to all of the projects he produces. This creative mind-set has been essential to his ability to produce out-of-the-box, experiential and breakthrough programs in an ever-changing production environment. Outside of work, he loves spending time with his wife and two kids, creating and collecting art, and skateboarding and traveling.
Todd James is a senior photo editor for National Geographic magazine, which is published in 33 languages, reaching print subscribers in 75 countries. It has the largest social media following of any magazine. In the two decades since joining the magazine, he has produced and edited numerous award-winning stories spanning the globe from the Galápagos Islands to the Saudi Arabian desert. His work has received recognition from Communication Arts, the National Magazine Awards, Pictures of the Year International, the Society for News Design, the Society of Publication Designers and World Press Photo. Frequently, the science stories he edits inform ongoing debate over public policy, such as his recent cover stories on addiction and forensic science.
Erin Mayes received a BS in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked as an art director and designer for more than twenty years. In 2006, she founded EmDash, a graphic design firm in Austin, Texas. Her clients include many colleges, universities and alumni associations. Her work has received awards from AIGA, American Illustration, American Photography, Communication Arts, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Print, the Society of Illustrators and the Society of Publication Designers, and was nominated in 2013 for a Grammy award. Mayes has also taught editorial design at the School of Visual Arts in New York and at the University of Texas at Austin.
Jerry Takigawa is a designer and photographer based on the Monterey Peninsula in California. His work has been recognized by AIGA, the American Advertising Federation, Communication Arts, 50 Books | 50 Covers, Graphis, the Independent Publisher Book Awards and the Summit International Awards. His work is included in the Brooklyn Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, the Hiroshima Museum of Art, and in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the Oakland Museum of California and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He previously served as president of the board for the Center for Photographic Art and as a trustee for the Monterey Museum of Art.
Sarah Wilmer was born and raised in Missouri and now lives and works in New York City. Her photography explores the strangeness, beauty and impossibility of this natural world that surrounds and supports us. Her clients and the publications that have profiled her work include Artforum, BB Dakota, Billboard, BUST, Communication Arts, Lea DeLaria, EMI, Esquire, GEO, Gilt Groupe, the Guardian, Hemispheres, Inc., Look, Los Angeles, Marie Claire, New York, the Observer, PDN, Rolling Stone, Spin, Surface, TENNIS, TIME, Virgin Records, Vogue Korea and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Wilmer has exhibited in Helsinki; Japan; Los Angeles; New York; Portland, Oregon; Skagaströnd, Iceland; Warsaw, Poland; and Washington DC.