Club Competitions: Good or Bad?


Last night I gave a presentation on environmental portraiture to The Porthcawl and Pyle Photographic Society.  During the evening a couple of questions were raised about how a judge would respond to a number of the images I was showing.

I find I’m frequently being questioned in this fashion, having talked to a good number of clubs on a wide variety of subjects over the last year or so.

It’s a little worrying that within the club world there appears to be a fairly tight and at times narrow view about the construction and content of an image. Comments such as ‘…..but if you put that in front of a judge it would be rejected’ are often levelled at the work, yet it is not a criticism of the images themselves, which are more often than not enjoyed as being ‘fresh’, but more a statement of fact.

I would advise people to photograph for themselves and not for judges. The classic rules within art and photography are certainly worth exploring but not to hold as a holy grail for the production of fine images.

If we all photographed to prescription it would be a boring world of predictable images that would, by definition, deny creativity. We must  embrace and explore new ways of image construction and aim to create a unique vision, our vision, of the world. Photography is a complex area of study that functions on many levels, often beyond the pure aesthetic. We must be willing to question both modes of representation and the formal methods by which the illusion of the photograph is generated.

I can appreciate how the competition environment can generate a healthy rivalry between clubs and act as a cohesive element within the framework of the Federation but I worry about its narrowness in promoting a new way of seeing.

It would be interesting to get some feedback in the comments from club members, judges and anyone else about how they feel about this.

Comment Away!

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