Over the last two weeks I looked at 606 different photographer submissions for the Critical Mass competition and helped narrow it down to the 180 finalists (here). As you might expect the images ran the gamut from “are you effing kidding me” to “holy crap that’s amazing.”
I tried to only vote for photographers I would hire or that I would put on a list and ultimately since I won’t be doing any hiring in the near term I’m going to share some of the photographers I found with the PE’s that read the blog. There is a tendency to vote for work that would look good on a wall or in a book (the grand prize) but I know the organizers have carefully brought in people with different backgrounds (and that’s not mine) so I tried to force myself to avoid doing this.
I made sure I voted for any photographers who had pictures of people smiling. That was like 1 or 2 votes. Everyone else was either suicidal or staring a hole through my skull (kidding, sort of.)
Pictures of houses and of people standing staring seemed to outnumber empty parking lots and shopping malls which I think is a noteworthy trend but ultimately the majority of the photographs fall in the “landscapes with shit in them” category (i.e. people and objects).
I’m a complete sucker for pictures of kids (unless engaged in a suicidal stare). I have kids as I imagine many reviewers do and it’s an easy emotional connection to make.
I can’t escape the influence of familiarity and novelty on my decisions. If I’ve seen a photographer blogged favorably and liked their work the bias was strong. Same goes for things that I’d never seen before. Also, I found myself on the fence about an image a few times and looked down to see the image title and many times it felt incredibly stupid and suddenly I’m no longer on the fence.
One thing that struck me was the incredible number of original ideas and subjects that just quite didn’t hit the mark. So much originality that if the images were only better executed it would be so compelling. I think some of those photographers just need more time working on it and developing their approach. I hope not making the cut or the top 50 doesn’t mean they will abandon the project.
Finally, when the next round comes for voting I’ll be interested to see which photographers who’s work I loved, missed the cut. Also, which photographers I voted against made the cut and suddenly I realize I made a mistake (or not). When a group of people votes on something there’s inevitably great work that’s left behind. Law of averages people.