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Question: If I produce a very huge and dramatic 40x50 black-and-white, partially torn portrait photograph of an astoundingly but unfortunately God-awful ugly old man of about 98 years old, and if I turn his eyes all red, and if there's a bit of drool spilling from his cracked lips, and if some rusty old barbed wire is wrapped around his neck and a bloody chicken bone is sticking from one ear, and if his stringy unkept hair has not been cut in 25 years and includes some visible live insects, and if he is missing one eyebrow, and if his face reflects pain, misery, hopelessness and psychological blackness not to mention a bunch of scars, and if he appears about to be ready to slur something shocking and mean, and if I smear key parts of this image with a bunch of suspicious mud, would, then, an art show judge automatically proclaim this to be the finest and boldest visual statement ever about the human condition and man's station in the universe and lavish me with a huge award?


Just askin'.  


(Wanna steal this idea to cop a best-of-show, award? Have at it, brothers and sisters!)

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I couldn't resist jumping into this discussion because of the way the lead was written. I was just clowning around, but I admit that there is a very serious side to the issue.

Photography can be extremely complex, extremely technical, be it digital, film, pinhole, daguerrotype, polaroid, colatype, you name it. Luck, anticipation, skill all go into making the difference between a pretty picture, and a one-of-a-kind image. Advertising photography requires just about total control of all aspects of each image.

On the street, snapping the shutter at exactly the right time can make all the difference. I give you the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, as an example of the decisive moment.

Folks, don't dis the tools, it's all about the process. If you have the know-how, digital cameras are fully capable of a wider range of value and color saturation than film today. In fact, unless you have the most basic low-resolution snapshooter, it is not the camera that limits the color gamut, but the printing process used.

I made a living for a while printing 20 x 24 black and whites. It frequently took me two days to work out the dodging and burning, process times, temps and chemistry to get a complicated interior ad print balanced to the satisfaction of the photographer. One print. It was perfect, but looked completely ordinary, until you noticed that there was detail in both the deepest shadow, and lightest lights, razor sharp from front to back, full range of values. 

Color processing was beyond my capability.

I can achieve the same quality now in two hours with basic Photoshop tools, and a good large format printer. 

Two people cannot take the same shot. Physically impossible. Viewpoint, time of shutter release, variations in media, mechanics, in-camera rasterization algorithms will be different. Framing, sharpness, all different. You would need to know what to look for, but each image is different just the same.

A good judge knows these things, is aware of the limitations and capabilities of each media, and I agree, judges tasked with picking one best piece of work out of a sea of paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, is darned near impossible. Been a judge too, Thanks, Trudi.


Who really cares what some judge thinks or does not think of his or her artwork at an art show?

The only opinion I care about at an art show is the opinion of my buyers, i.e. the people that are spending their own hard-earned money on something nice for their home or workplace. I don't care what some guy with a clipboard and someone else's money thinks of my work, my neighbor's work, or anything else for that matter. I used to look at judges with a certain degree of suspicion, but now I just have nothing but indifference and even apathy when I see them coming. A couple of years ago, I started telling them I prefer not to have my work judged - it has been a liberating experience, second only to telling my merchant account to take a hike when I got the Square Up account. 

The bottom line for me regarding judges at art shows is this:

I don't care what they think. 

I don't care what they like.

I don't care which artist or which artist's piece they choose.

I don't care who won.

I don't care how much money is involved.

I focus on my customers - my buyers rather than this archaic and suspicious practice that cannot be measured or validated.

If you're having problems with judging, try it sometime. It's a big weight off your shoulders that you shouldn't have to carry anyway.

It worked for me, but then I just don't jump through hoops very well at all.


All of those tormented academic art shows judges (most of whom have regular paychecks by the way, as opposed to most of us) sould be compelled to consider the Munks Manifesto!
Right on, Munks!
Post it on the home page of AFI!!!


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