Some of you already know that I was asked to judge/jury the 2019 version of The f-Stops Here photography exhibit at the Hygienic Art Center in New London, Connecticut. It was flattering to be asked to do something that I never thought would be part of my journey into photography. Of course, my first thought was that I would not be able to submit work to the show. My second thought was more like, “Me! Really?!” I suppose it's all part of the impostor syndrome that many of us endure. When I sang in several bands, and played a bit of guitar, I would never say that I was a musician. When I worked at a service station, not a gas station, as the owner always insisted, I never said I was a mechanic. I did the work, but always felt at odds with the 'title'. All these years later I will still not claim either appellation. But after reading some, and talking with some friends, I felt I could do the job, and so I did. It was not quite as difficult as I thought it would be. It was a little surprising that there were not more entries, about 130. The gallery thought they would be able to exhibit around 70. I needed to eliminate about half the work. More could have stayed, but I felt it was better to stay close to the number the gallery felt could be shown well. I have had work in some shows that were overpopulated, and so some work was shown in locations that did not really work well.
I was not asked to provide a juror's statement, but the next day I felt that there were a few things I wanted to say. And so I sent them the following:
2019 The f-Stops Here Juror’s Statement
First, I'd like to thank Hygienic and Cherie Powell for the opportunity to participate in the role of judging this exhibition, and everyone who entered for putting yourselves out there.
Second, nearly all of the f-Stops Here shows have been judged by white men. I would like to see future shows include other perspectives, as Hygienic has done in other areas. There is so much excellent work being done by non-white, and/or non-male artists and I would like to see how this show might be rendered by someone else. In the end, the art is the art, but it might invite participation from those who might otherwise be reticent.
Regarding the choices for this show, I have, as much as possible, tried to stay away from the personal. A suggestion would be to avoid having signed work, or cover the signatures before judging; this is done in shows at other venues. The work of judging is, as you might expect, a process of elimination. The work that remains is the work that has not fallen below some highly subjective standard that can vary even in selecting one show. A piece that stays might not have if it were larger or smaller, or were framed or matted differently. Is the glass clean, are there unintentional marks on the photo, or matte, under the glass? Everything in the presentation figures into the judgment. What I have tried to avoid, most of all, is hewing to a particular style, genre, or aesthetic.
Photographers need to stop arguing among ourselves about what qualifies as "Photography". To me, none of this matters more than the work itself. Does the work speak to me, regardless of the process the artist used to make it? Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to talk process; it's fun, and you can always learn from someone else's process, but it’s not the most important thing.
In closing, I would like to encourage everyone who entered, whether your work was selected or not, to keep making images and keep entering shows. The photo that didn't get into one show may be the winner of another. MAKE MORE ART.