Judging Professional Photography – Critic or Critique?

There are clear definitions of both in the world outside of photography. A Critic is a professional who communicates his or her opinions and assessments of various forms of creative work such as art, literature, music, cinema, theatre, fashion, architecture, food and indeed most importantly here – photography. Critical judgments, whether derived from critical thinking or not, may be positive, negative, or balanced, weighing a combination of factors both for and against.

In our industry, the perception of one who is critical when making an image assessment is more often than not perceived as destructive. Looking for every facet to express a negative opinion without the means or guidance towards a resolution that may result in a successful submission at a later date. These ‘critics’ also use projection to negatively influence the opinions of others on a jury. The worst example of course is the judge that instead of talking to a print, stands, faces the audience and loudly exclaims how he or she would have made the image and perhaps finishes with the comments, “I’d have done it this way…”. Not satisfied with that ‘showboating’ they proceed to offer their training wares for a price.

On the other hand, ‘Critique’ is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Although critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgment, it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt.

In practice, the very best jurors will offer a deeply constructive analysis of the image before them, always addressing it directly and finally offering possible solutions to problems detected. Suggestion rather than unjustified command to execute an image in the way they would have done it. We must always be respectful to image makers and forever bear in mind, like it or not, we can influence careers.  This clearly illustrates exactly why Judge and Audience (participant) training is vital to the worldwide photographic industry.

In 2016 it is my intention to hold a series of workshops in the UK as well as overseas, to train photographers in the various judging procedures that they may better self analyse images in preparation for both competitions and qualifications. If you are interested I strongly suggest that you contact me at mgrahamedunn@mac.com to register your interest. My Leamington Spa training studio is perfectly and centrally placed, fully kitted out for the exercise including the equipment and software to perform ‘mock judging’. It is so often said that photographers learn more from constructive image critique than any other type of workshop.

Judging in action at WPPI 2015

Judging in action at WPPI 2015


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