I want to talk about how we assess photographs.

January 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment
And I apologise in advance, because I’m probably about to offend someone. 


But first, I must tell you about dog show judging - because I find parallels with the photography world. 

In the Australian dog show scene, and I suspect in the rest of the world, there’s a thing called “face judging”. Who is holding the lead in the ring is at least as important as the dog at the end for some judges. I’ve seen some horrible examples put up by dog judges, and in every case, at the end of the lead, you’ll find a “face”; someone with status in the dog world.

More on that in a minute.

The other feature of dog judging is the phenomenon called “fault judging”. Basically, when you look at a dog in the ring you can judge it two ways. One way is to look at all the dogs (with a full understanding of the standard for that breed) and pick the best example in the ring. The winner may have faults (although no major faults) but overall, it will be the one that is closest to the ideal Pug or Great Dane or Labrador or whatever.

Fault judging is when the judge looks at a line of dogs, finds their faults - and then picks the dog with the fewest faults. It may look horrible, but hey - it’s the dog with the fewest faults! (No-one can fault that! (Boom, boom!)

So to come back to my heresy: there’s a lot of fault judging and face judging in the photography world.

The internet has given all of us an unprecedented opportunity to show our work. (More power to the World Wide Web!) But it has inevitably led to a lot of images being shown that should never have seen the light of day. At the extreme are those people who simply upload the entire contents of their camera’s card to the web site of their choice, and wait for the plaudits to flow.

Others of us try to be a bit more discriminating. I place images on my web site (shaneb.smugmug.com - check it out!) either because I think they’re good shots or simply because people may find them interesting. (Hopefully, they’re both, BTW.) I also post snaps for family and friends, but these are generally in folders that aren’t inflicted on the unsuspecting public.

Unfortunately, some well-known photographers who should know better (and can do better) sometimes place pretty average images on the internet - and they’re generally greeted with rapturous applause by their followers.

That’s face judging folks. 

To be fair, I’ve had plenty of “what was I thinking?” moments, after which I’ve quietly deleted an image from my web site. Clearly, so do photographers who are better and more highly regarded than me. That’s part of being human. What I can’t understand is when a famous photographer posts a snap - and the internet explodes with praise.

We all have to do better - both as artist and audience.

And now to fault judging. In photography, I’ve seen it in the flesh and I’ve seen it on line: someone puts up an image,and armchair experts immediately work it over for faults. It may not be sharp, composition could be better, too much/not enough contrast, blown-out highlights.

You know the drill.

Check this out:
Robert Capa - D-Day landing.
Horrible? Not level, not sharp, print includes sprocket holes. The fault judges would put that on the reject pile in a heartbeat.

Or what about this? Badly composed, huh? What's the subject; surely not the doves??

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Henri Matisse

Both photographs work - despite their faults. Maybe even because of them?

So my thought for the day? We need to 
  1. Be rationally critical of our own work.
  2. Recognise that even the best of us don't always get it right. No need to criticise, but let's not applaud by reflex, either.
  3. Assess an image, either it's one of ours, one by friends or one by the famous simply by asking whether it works. 
My apologies to those I have offended. I didn't mean to.

Shane Baker










Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...

Archive
January (1) February March April May June July (1) August September (2) October (1) November (1) December (3)
January (2) February (3) March (2) April May (2) June July August (1) September (1) October November December
January (2) February March April May June (1) July (2) August (1) September October (1) November (2) December
January February March (1) April (1) May June (2) July August September October November December (1)
January (1) February March (1) April (1) May (1) June (1) July August September October (1) November (1) December
January (1) February March April May June (1) July August September (1) October November December
January February (1) March April May June July (1) August September October November December