Over the past two days, I had the chance to sit in on and observe the judging for the international Pictures of the Year competition, taking place over the course of a few weeks at the University of Missouri.
The first day I sit in on judging, it is in the early stages of judging for Newspaper Division for Stories and Portfolios. The speed of judging is actually very impressive, as slides of up to fifteen pictures are shown and removed in about ten seconds. In only the twenty minutes of judging I am able to sit in on, about ten portfolios are shown to the judges. The portfolios of pictures are incredibly diverse, as some show sports moments, while others are of cities and towns leveled by disasters. That diversity iss not just limited between portfolios, however. In back-to-back photographs in one individual’s portfolio, a candle light vigil is immediately succeeded by a photo of lacrosse players.
Having had class not too long from when I sat in on judging, I am forced to leave early, but I come back the next day at the tail end of judging in one of the sports categories (I do not catch the specific division of this category). However, even without having heard the pre-game speech from the man running the competition, it is immediately clear that I have walked into the latter stages of judging, and not the beginning, with hundreds of pictures shown. The judging is a bit slower, with far, far less pictures shown. Those judging vote a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ on sixty-eight pictures, and after about ten minutes, have those narrowed down to ten. I am shocked there were that many chosen. It didn’t seem that ‘yes’ had been voted more than three times.
Having narrowed the list down to ten, they return to those of the sixty-eight that they voted ‘no’ on, which they refer to as the “out list”. The main purpose of this, I hear, is to give second thought to any that the judges might want to pull back into the competition. Eventually, seven of these are chosen, and so the finals consist of seventeen photographs. I am able to listen to each judge’s individual critiques of the seventeen, and the detail and way in which they describe them is incredible.
With my computer about to die, I am not able to stay much longer, but it has been a wonderful experience, being able to see these three individuals, renown in their field, debate and pick apart what makes a great photo, great.