Well at least last night, I did. Asked to be a third juror for a local photography competition, I had to place a numerical value (up to 33) on over 400 images. It is always an interesting exercise and makes me very aware of how judging an image is often quite subjective. I tried to create an internal process that allowed me to not spend 10 minutes on each image (that would have taken 3 days!).

I couldn’t help thinking while driving home what numerical value I would place on my own images. Maybe I should go through that process when evaluating my work. I suspect though that some of my work wouldn’t do too well even though I really like the images. So what that tells me is that I am much more interested in my work having an emotional component than being a technical 33. I think I’ve known this for a while though, I’m more interested in the art of photography than the process.

My work is judged though, and actually all the time. Beyond myself of course, it’s judged by the tens of thousands of people I put it in front of each year, by the viewers of my website and blog, by the members of the gallery I belong to, by the editors of publications I submit to, the jurors of competitions I enter, by my wife and even my 12 year old daughter!

That’s a lot of judging! The result? Well my own judging is the most important and in some ways defines who I am as an artist, but I do listen very attentively to all the others as they can affect my own vision and views. Editors have brought my attention to images I overlooked, art show patrons have informed me of attributes of my work that I missed, my very supportive wife sometimes dislikes work I’m very fond of, my daughter doesn’t particularly like my most popular print but really enjoys a newer piece I suspected she would not.

In a year’s time I may judge my work and other’s differently than I do now. But what you see now and how I value other’s work is always based on my own best judgement.

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7 thoughts on “Who Gets to Judge?

  1. This is a great post. I like getting feedback on my work and hearing what the positive and negatives are and why. I think the hardest part earlier in my career was trying to photography for myself first and not creating images to please certain people or clients.

    I take the feedback, add it to my thought process and keep evolving.

  2. A couple years ago I wrote about some of my experiences as a juror for a design contest, and how that effects my opinion on juried competitions: http://blog.danielsroka.com/business/what-being-a-juror-taught-me-about-juried-shows.htm

    I agree that as an artist, you need to pay the most attention to your own judgement. The creation of art needs to reflect the motivations and talents of the artist, as well as their flaws, misperceptions and inconsistencies. It is the rough edges of an artwork that drive its personality.

  3. Lovely little bird (phoebe, maybe?) I hear you on the judging. I find that I’m usually NOT the best judge, at least of my own stuff, so I value the input of others.

  4. This post relates back to your previous posts (more viewers = more art?).

    If your judgement (of your own work) is the most important, which seems obvious that it MUST, then it is art if you feel it is so, regardless of any other viewers. More viewers may make it more-art, but it becomes art the moment you alone define it as such. (ps. Is it still art if you don’t like it, but others do? Murky waters you’re wading in here…)

  5. ps again. I forgot to put this in my note above. By the way, you are one of the best “judges”, at least of being consistent & able to appreciate work not to your taste, being able to cobble together a coherent few sentences of why you react plus or minus to an image. You’re doing something right.

  6. Marty – thanks for your comments and feedback, I appreciate both. I would clarify that when I say my opinion of my own work is most important, it is so in the sense that I must control the message. I do not feel that because I like my own work I believe it must be art. I absolutely believe that something may be art even if the “artist” doesn’t like it. Oh yea, it is murky!

  7. I know it is the double edged sword of judging, but I also have always hated assigning a number to the perceived quality of an image. Really, what makes the difference between a 30, 31, or 33? Typically it is some little details that is a pet peeve of that particular judge. I have always disliked photo competitions because of this aspect.

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