Aug 21, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Anasazi Moon New Mexico State Fair 2008

Trials and tribulations of juried competitions in a state fair photography exhibition can be either exhilarating or daunting. Let's take a walk through three nights of judging at the New Mexico State Fair, then, if you will, please add your judgment by commenting.

Scenario: In three nights, five professional judges have to go through 800 photos. The photographers range from youth to professional. Photos have the range of character from the Clint Eastwood movie "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". So much of judging is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren't the point or aren’t conceptual (by Judge) or aren't the 'right' image. Really, it's that last couple of images they see that makes all the difference.

At NMSF, each of these nights contains an added tableau. Volunteers put each image on an easel under direct, tungsten lights. Votes were averaged, tabulated, then each image was put into a bin based on score. When the category is done, judges congregate around a table to openly discuss a final order for image awards - First, Second, Third, and Honorable Mention. When the categories’ all done, professional, adult, and youth each get a Best of Show from all first-class winners.

This process is exacting. It's also tiring, both for judges and volunteers. Putting it simply, you sat through 300 images a night. Come 10:45 - your view is not on images ~ but on getting home and to bed. But you still have to finish category.

Crème de la crème - the exciting moments begin when your image sits on the table among six others. At this point, you've already survived a significant numbers game - let's say 12 of 180 - you're in 95 percentile rank (only 5% are better).
Now, your image sits there - third place one moment, honorable mention the next - depending on Judge chatter. Only 5% of images were better. Or, let's say your image scored was in the 95 percentile, but doesn't make the cut. So you drop to 94 percentile (so 1% of photographers are better).
Or, you took first place - even Best of Show for your major category.

But, you're still crème de la crème...
Now, if you let a small 1% difference affect how you feel about your ability as a photographer, that can lead to some really bad juju.
Remember, judges were tired, they wanted to go home, they had a duty, or any one of a number of other/different reasons.. After all, tired judges were painting on a wet canvas at the end of a series of long nights.

So, for several nights, You ranked among the Best of the Best. When it all fell out, you still were... And, you've only been competing two years, you’ve been in finals 3 times, you got People's Choice in another image, and there are numerous other award-winning images...

We invite your comments on the quality of a non-placing photo shown above.

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