by Mike McNamee Published 02/02/2015
The prints submitted for this competition remain one of the highlights of the Convention experience. A panel of 24 judges adjudicated proceedings, chaired in two rooms, by Terry Jone sand Dennis Orchard, with judges occasionally taken out of the pool for qualifications assessment, led by Trevor Yerbury.
As previously the judging of the initial rounds was conducted in public followed by a closed session to pick the winners. The Nouveau category was well supported and more judges' feedback was given to help the first-time entrants. This did not actually involve any compromises in the scoring, which remained the same as other categories, but the quality of the entry was extremely high and it is significant that the overall winner came from this section. The entry is open to first timers (ie first entry to the print competition) but that does not mean beginners; some experienced photographers, with well-established businesses, took part.
The scoring process may seem confusing to the first-time viewer to the public 'gallery' but there is an underlying logic to the proceedings! Those of us who have been judging for years (decades in my case!) sometimes forget the importance to the entrant and a nice little vignette was played out in front of me as I took a break at the back. The author of an image was sitting at the back with some companions and their print scored 79. The shoulders went down, but wait ... a challenge came in. The highscoring judges managed to persuade their fellow judges on the virtues of the image and it was bumped to a merit score of 80 - cue much hugging and gleeful squealing at the back! Yes - it really does matter a lot!
One feature this year was the increase in onlookers for the judging; on the times I counted there were 20 people standing at the back and sides of the room. Everybody enjoys success and part of the Panel Chair's brief is to try to push the 78 and 79s up to the magic 80 so that they can be seen on the display stands later! The philosophy is to give the entrants the maximum chance of success.
Each year styles change a little. This year was 'categorised' by an increase in the number of flush 16x20 prints, with images right up to the edge. This is not a good look most of the time, vulnerable to edge damage, no protection from a matt but actually quite difficult to hold together on quality at the larger scale. A few images also used the bars across top and bottom with an image flush to the sides. Some of the double-mounted entries with fine art paper for the image looked truly sumptuous. In the enthusiast sector their judges are encouraged to go easy on mounts but a professional presentation in our competition is vital. You might get away with it if the image is stunning but most times a poor presentation gets things off to a bad start. Don't forget prints are examined in close detail especially as they progress towards the final selection; that is the stage where any excessive noise, over-sharpening or distracting highlights will attract failure. Another comment worthy of note here is the method of binding a matt to the back board. Some prints had so much residual stress locked in that they almost bowed off the wall overnight when mounted on the display boards - this is not a good look!
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