When the jury reviewed this year’s selections, they saw little of the contentious political discourse and natural disaster coverage that have permeated recent Annuals.
“Looking at the winners, I am surprised that classic themes are so strong,” juror Marysarah Quinn says. “The photos that move us still transport us to gorgeous landscapes, allow us to meet exotic characters, capture dramatic moments across cultures and elevate our human quests to a heroic realm.”
“I was surprised by the Self-Promotion and Unpublished categories and the number of images I loved that have never been published,” juror Rob Haggart says.
“I thought that all of the entries were incredible submissions of artwork,” says juror Anna Alexander. “There were many pieces where I recognized the photographer just from their lighting technique—but so many other new and fresh shooters contributed.”
As in previous years, after just a few hours into the judging process, visual trends began to emerge.
“The color images were more sharp and saturated than I have seen in a while,” says juror George Simhoni. “The desaturated look of color photography was gone.”
“It’s not necessarily new, but I still love the dramatic lighting, saturated gels and colorful backgrounds photographers are using,” Haggart says. “There’s a limit of course, but I saw many entries that are employing these techniques smartly.”
“I think it’s getting more real, almost mock-documentary style, and way less Photoshop,” says Alexander.
“There was definitely an old-is-new theme running throughout,” Quinn says. “Kodachrome, Polaroid, emulsion edges, super saturated colors, diluted exposures—much of it at such a great technical level—were paired with vintage fashion, products and palettes. As observers, are we sentimental or afraid of the future?”
“I didn’t see anything which stood out as far as photography techniques or trends, but what looked new to me was the subject matter,” says juror Melissa Le Nicol. “A vast number of entries featured cannabis, especially a number of simple, beautifully lit and executed still life images. Who knew pot could be so pretty?”
“Dogs, dogs, dogs. So many entries with dogs,” Simhoni says.
“Perhaps 30 percent of the entries were landscapes with someone standing way in the distance,” says Alexander.
“There were also a number of entries which featured female portrait, empowerment images,” Le Nicol says. “This is understandable given the
last couple of years and the sheer number of articles written about the #MeToo movement. Women definitely took the center stage this year with those strong, heroic-looking portraits.”
When asked about the future of commercial photography, several jurors expressed concern about the impact social media and smartphones are having on the profession.
“Every year, Instagram influencers and other self-taught photographers are creeping into the commercial market,” says Le Nicol. “Everyone with a phone believes they can shoot a beautiful photograph.”
“Our phones and computers have devalued photography,” Quinn says. “Everyone thinks they can do it, and budgets are getting tighter. I do think there is money to be made by photographers capturing personal experiences and stories and then selling them later.”
“All these tech companies need strong imagery to compete for finite slices of our attention, and they’re beginning to see the value of professionally made imagery,” says Haggart. “It’s only a matter of time before there’s stiff competition for the best photographers.”
“The human thirst for visuals feels insatiable,” Quinn says. “Waiting on the subway platform, everyone is scrolling through their Instagram and Facebook photo feeds, hearting the images that speak to them at a lightning pace.”
A minimum of four out of five votes was required for a project to be awarded in this year’s competition. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 60th Photography Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Anna Alexander is director of photography at WIRED magazine in San Francisco, California. She has been producing photo shoots and commissioning WIRED photographers for almost 20 years; she recently took a two-year hiatus from WIRED to serve as photo director at Dwell magazine. Alexander is the recipient of several gold and silver Society of Publication Designers awards for photography, and artwork she has produced has appeared in both American Photography and Communication Arts. Alexander holds a BFA in photography from the University of Arizona. She resides in the Marin County city of Novato with her husband and two children.
Rob Haggart is the editor and founder of the popular photo industry blog aPhotoEditor, and the founder and chief executive officer of PhotoFolio, a customizable portfolio website builder. His clients are editorial and commercial photographers who regularly receive awards for their websites’ design. While spending eight years as director of photography for Men’s Journal and Outside magazine, Haggart reviewed thousands of websites and developed a list of user-friendly features that would become the foundation for PhotoFolio. Haggart works remotely from Durango, Colorado, where he spends his free time skiing and mountain biking with his wife and two children.
Melissa Le Nicol has more than 20 years of experience in the advertising industry, beginning her career at Leo Burnett as an art producer; moving on to represent photographers, illustrators and CGI talent; and then producing at Ogilvy and DDB. She is currently vice president, senior art producer of Cramer-Krasselt. Le Nicol has produced award-winning campaigns for Luna Corona, Cotton Council International and more. She enjoys a variety of interests, including being a martial artist, motion-capture talent for a video game, acupuncturist, private investigator, genealogist and DNA hunter. Le Nicol lives in Chicago with her husband, Christophe, and cat Heidi.
Marysarah Quinn is senior vice president and creative director of The Crown Publishing Group’s Clarkson Potter, publisher of lifestyle books and gift products. She has spent her more than 30-year career as an art director at the imprints of Penguin Random House. Her books have been featured in the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers show, the James Beard Awards, the Book Industry Guild of New York’s Annual New York Book Show, the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Awards and Print magazine. Quinn’s lifelong obsession with food, books and art made publishing a natural career destination.
George Simhoni’s photos have been described as a blend of art and photography. Since cofounding Westside Studio in Toronto in 1985, Simhoni has shot for the world’s most loved and well-known brands, and he has received recognition as a leader in the photography field and winner of numerous awards, including from Communication Arts. He has also mentored many of Canada’s up-and-coming commercial photographers. His philosophy is that if you plan the shoot well, you have the time to “allow the magic to happen.” Simhoni says, “If I can stop someone and give them a momentary thoughtful pause, a smile or a thought, then I have accomplished my mission.”