Friday, May 10, 2013

Maybe It's a Rant, Maybe It's an Explanation,,, Everwhat

I was recently honored to be asked to present a discussion on how to judge the Out of the Box category at the monthly club print competitions. I declined.

I realize that I am a worse than lousy camera club member because I refuse to judge prints. I am unable, or possibly unwilling, to assign numerical values to aesthetics, originality, impact, technique, appropriateness, whatever criteria is determined for judging. That is the reason that I have attempted, not terribly successfully, to start a group to discuss photographs.

I have very seriously considered no longer attending on competition nights. There are several reasons for that. One, unwilling to participate in the judging does make me somewhat uncomfortable in entering prints. Two, I very sincerely believe that the practice is far more detrimental to the participants than it is beneficial.

As I have frequently mentioned camera club competitions and Internet photography forums homogenize photography by their insistence on rules and conventions. It creates a ‘follow me’ or ‘do as I do’ attitude rather than strengthening the insight into photography and enhancing the abilities of the individual photographers to move beyond clich├ęs. It is nothing that will be changed. It is nothing that can be changed. I have made efforts on an individual basis but emphasis on rules, technique for technique sake and the tendency for people to want to comply or fit in is simply too strong. Any opposing voice is quickly drowned out. I hope along the way I have imparted some insight but I have no hope of combating the infectiousness of the illness.

I might as well attempt to persuade an East Coast liberal Democrat to become a conservative Southern Republican. That would actually be easier and as I have found even that is unachievable. Or to make a Catholic into a Baptist of vice versa, or a gay into a straight. All, along with opposing the conventional impediments of amateur photography, are equally unattainable goals.

I also do not agree with what the Out of the Box category has become. Michael Young initially instituted it when he was competition chairman as a category where the photographer who wanted to move his work or his photographic experimentation well beyond the confines of straight photography could have an opportunity to compete. Michael understood that manipulated, highly manipulated prints, could not be judged with the same criteria as an unmanipulated print. A highly manipulated print is nonobjective, allegorical, mystical. It can have a variety of themes or purposes but its primary purpose is to separate the image from the presumed reality of the straight photograph. It throws all the rules out the window to rely on shape, form, lines, color or purely subjective content and imagination. It can’t be judged on the rule of thirds or impact beyond emotional impact and therefore stands no chance of being acknowledged when mixed with the other categories when you attempt to apply the rules created by the club and promoted by the club for competitions. It rapidly degenerated into basically another open category or in the case of the past two years where there is a ‘theme’ another assigned category.  It is no longer an “Out of the Box” if it actually ever was.

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