Anyone who has ever had their photograph judged will know the feeling. of your eyes slowly rotating into your eye sockets as the judge chooses another photo with seemingly little artistic merit, while overlooking your photographic masterpiece. In the inevitable post-mortem at the pub later, the losers discuss the judges obvious lack of understanding of basic photography (while the winner obviously tries to make a case for the opposite)
Well, on Monday I had the opportunity to be a judge for a day as my prize for winning the previous weeks #Sharemondays competition.
So how did it go?
Firstly, I had not exactly been looking forward to it. It meant that a lot of strangers were relying on me to carry on the mantle of the competition. What if I made a cock up of it ? Would it mean I would be for ever castigated by other twitter photographers as the person who killed #Sharemondays?
On the Monday, I started watching as the entries rolled in. It is here that I hit my first issue. Twitter is in many ways a great platform, but for a application which is used by millions world wide it has its quirks.
One of these is its search capabilities.
I had assumed it would be quite easy to filteron the required hashtag within a certain date range, but when I went through advanced search and set the search criteria as the required hashtag and the date range as the day before Monday and the Monday of the competition, I got absolutely nothing. My response was "you have to be fecking kidding me"
It took me a while to find out it only seemed to work if the end date was missed off. Once that was worked out I could see the entries for that Monday. On Tuesday I made the conscious decision to stay off social media for the rest of the day. When i got home, I did the search again, and created a twitter moments of all the entries.
Twitter moments is a nice way of creating a collection of tweets together. It also allows you to filter those tweets that have either been incorrectly tagged with #sharemondays or have attempted to hijack the feed.
I however quickly hit an issue. In moments, like the main twitter, you can filter the tweets using a search criteria such as tag and date range. I used the same one I was using on the main twitter feed and it came up with a selection of images. Good I thought, this will easy. It was only when i started going through them I noticed some images from the main feed were missing. It was clear that the two search strings gave a different selection of images.
"You have to be double fecking kidding me" I thought.
I therefore I had to manually go through the twitter feed adding in entries the moments search had missed. Still by 6 O'Clock I had what I thought was the complete list and published the moment and went for dinner.
Except I hadn't.
Two people contacted me to say their's were missing and they were right. For reasons only known to Twitter, some images, although tagged correctly, did not show up. It makes you wonder how many entries from the other twitter competition feeds never get seen for the same reasons. Still to this day I cannot guarantee that I got them all. All I can say is that I tried my best. I did however have a dream a few days later in which total strangers accosted me in the street complaining I would not look at their photos.
Armed with the most complete list I could compile, I went about judging them.
I had thought quite a bit in the previous week about how to judge the images. Judging them on a purely technical level seemed pointless. The photographers would range from ability to beginner to pro. For some it would be like assessing a Picasso by looking at the brush strokes. Anyway one of my bugbears with competition judges is their tendency to concentrate on the minutiae imperfections , but not the image as a whole, something I was determined not to do.
Instead I decided to use two criteria. Firstly did the image resonate with me? The image needed to to have some sort of connection at a quite instinctive level. Secondly, was it an image I wished I could of taken? I must admit that my judgement may of been colored by my own desire to push the boundaries of what I consider photography, so I was looking for the same criteria in others.
Maybe these are not the best criteria to judge photos and it would make the choice a very personal one, but it was the only way I felt I could do it.
The first task was to filter the 80 or so images down to a short list of 4. In truth I could of chosen double that number, and I tried to include a wide range of images and genre's in the final 4.
Then we had to choose the winner. In hindsight, this was easier than I made out, since the eventually winner had stood out from virtually the 1st time I saw it. However I had to go through the process to ensure that I was choosing the right image for the right reasons.
So did the correct the image win?
Well in one way yes, since it was only my decision to give and therefore it does not matter if people agree or disagree with it. Of course, one of the problems basing the decision on a instinctive like or dislike, is that another image may of made it on another day. In other words, at the end of the day judging will always be subjective and while its nice to win, not being chosen does not in anyway de-value your work. Its just one person out of 6 billion opinion.
Now its over, I have to say I quite enjoyed the process. I learnt a lot about assessing other photos and a little about how the criteria I use to assess my own images. Of course the big question is, now I have been a judge for a day, will that mean I will have more sympathy for people judging my own work?