John Warton at Photo Laureates Discusses Judging Amateur Photography

March 12, 2008

John Warton actively works at reviewing and evaluating photography submissions for a photography association called photography laureates He sometimes reads sceptical comments in Internet forums, some from professional photographers, which sometimes doubt his ability to judge photographs.

1) Does photography only belong to professionals? Do only professionals have the exclusivity on what is publishable or not on behalf of amateurs?

John says, “The answer is a resounding NO! Inflexible and rigid professional photographers have laid down certain rules and then, being a certain sort that they are, call them guidelines and see themselves as rule-makers of some sort. I say to them: Diversity is a source of creation. I embrace the diversity of the creations of my fellow amateur photographers, their passion and interpretation of the thousands of daily instances that make our lives memorable. They deserve the promotion and exposure that I work on getting for the most talented of them.” 

John Warton encourages Peer to Peer learning as well as a collaborative approach to judging photo contest.

A good example of this can be observed on the photo challenge, a site that clearly showcases John Warton’s review style.

2) Can photography contests be judged?

According to John, photography is subjective, art is subjective – but it can be judged. And it can be judged, differently. If one prefers a particular style, that does not make one wrong.

For example, the F/64 school insisted upon sharp photographs, which notion still dominates much thinking, today. So they therefore judged certain work – bad – because it was fuzzy, the so called pictorialism; while others seek to add that dimension to their work.

As part of John Warton’s evaluation of photo contests, he has a basic rule. The photograph must speak for itself; regardless of the photographer, the equipment, or the history of the shoot. This is the “painting-must-stand-by-itself” rule. One may speak of the meaning of the photo, but whatever that meaning is; it must be reasonably presented to the viewer. What you see is what you get! John always keeps this in mind when selecting entries for photo laureates.

Hence, another rule might perhaps be to have a reason for why everything in that photo is there. Why is the subject there? What is the object, or the point, or the effect, or the emotions, even? Does anything detract? Is it a clean shot? Can something be removed by the angle at which the amateur photographer shot? Is the photo just of what you wish it to be?

Amateur photographers: Think about what the shot is all about. Less is more. 

Finally, when reviewing photography contests, John looks at the line, or composition, taken from art – sculpture, painting, etc. to determine which photographs he recommends for publication in the anthologies at photography laureates.

This line must stand out. John looks for referential points within the photograph. He looks for amateur photographers that successfully manage to find shapes that emphasize lines, curves and even repetition of same.

John Warton is a senior photography editor. He has decades of experience in photography first as a freelancer, reporter and then as publisher. He is a member of various international photography associations.

Photo laureates offers the following:

* A unique platform of self expression to the amateur and professional photographer through a photo contest
* An opportunity to be published as part of a leading photography manuscript
* Review and pieces of advise from the editors on submitted entries
* A leading membership community,
the photo challenge, where members can exchange and learn with other peers and experts as part of a photography contest
About photography laureates 

·         The mission of Photo laureates is to provide, through a worldwide photography contest, a platform of artistic expression for amateur and professional photographers to gain exposure and recognition.

·         Photo Laureates promotes photography and photographers through technical workshops as well as improvisation sessions.

·         An independent panel of experts at photo laureates reviews photographs based on the following criteria: technical quality, composition, flow, texture and light.

·         Photography laureates manuscripts are distributed internationally.

·         Photographers retain all rights to their photographs.

·         Photo laureates has more than 90,000 members and a 98% satisfaction rate.

·         For more information on Photography Laureates, please visit photo laureates


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