Photography News issue 20



BEFORE THE JUDGE Micki AstonCPAGB Each issue, a respected judge or exhibition selector shares their thoughts and experiences. This month, we hear from esteemed photographer, judge and lecturer Micki Aston CPAGB


Words by Micki Aston

Micki Aston CPAGB: Widely

published and exhibited as a photographer herself, Micki has caught the travel bug and lectures extensively on her travel photography as well as judging throughout the country. Home club: Windsor Photographic Society Favourite camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II Favourite lens: Canon 28-135mm Favourite photographers: Frank Hurley, Elliott Erwitt and Don McCullin Favourite subjects: Character portraiture, derelict buildings, beaches and movement combined with stillness

I became a camera club member in the mid- nineties, having been recruited into my local club when they’d seen an exhibition of mine. I had many reservations about joining a photographic club and what it would entail. How wrong I was! Through the camera club, a master printer took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew about darkroom skills. That knowledge gave me endless hours of blissful creativity. At the start of the digital revolution another club member taught me all I needed to know about Adobe Lightroom, so my digital darkroom seamlessly replaced the real one. I’ll be forever grateful to these members and to many others who’ve helped me over the years. In 1997, I attended a seminar about training potential judges within the Chiltern Association of Camera Clubs (CACC). I discovered that my knack for public speaking (I’m a lady toastmaster) held me in good stead and I recognised that my natural inclination to teach was very useful. Probably most importantly, I realised that judging was a way to give something back to the camera club community. I judge at and give talks tomany clubs throughout the southern area of the UK. Judging by feedback, club members feel my enthusiasm and passion for photography. I don’t enter into discussion with individuals once I’ve scored an image. At the outset of a competition I explain that, as an outsider, I can better assess work than the authors themselves whose subjectivity will bias their opinion. Of course, it’s human nature that judges have likes and dislikes, so judges need to work hard to be objective, analysing and judging with a clear, unbiased eye. There are several aspects of judging about which I feel very strongly:

n Judges should judge for the right reasons, namely to encourage club members by building their knowledge and confidence. Judges should generate enthusiasm to motivate entrants to improve and try again. Negative comments can put them off photography for life, something that happened to someone I know personally. n Judges should not be on a personal ego trip, a common occurrence. They should give clear, concise and relevant critique to help the author improve their photography and be helpful to all. n Judges should assess and comment on the ‘feel’ of an image, its atmosphere and emotion. Judges shouldn’t rigidly dismiss images if they don’t meet the rule of thirds, have no lead-in lines etc.

n Judges do not need to bang authors on the head with very low marks, the verbal critique should suffice. I never award a mark below 13 out of 20. n As well as informing, teaching and guiding, judges should be entertaining. There’s nothing worse than members snoring during a competition! Judges are responsible for ensuring members enjoy themselves and, whilst taking the judging of images very seriously, try to include anecdotes and teaching points to enhance the evening. I feel so strongly about recruiting the right people to be judges that I’m an assessor at CACC’s annual selection of new candidates. I have no compunction about rejecting unsuitable candidates and am very protective of camera club members who work so hard at their photography. I consider it a mark of respect that the right people should be selected for the job of judging members’ beloved images. In judging a wide range of competitions I see many superb images that inspire me. Analysing why an image ‘works’ is very satisfying, while images that don’t ‘work’ give me the challenge of assessing why not, how the image could be improved and telling the audience. It’s this process I find totally absorbing.

Judges should judge for the right reasons, namely to encourage club members by building their knowledge and confidence

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Have you seen a photographic judge at work who you’d like to see profiled in Photography News ? If so please drop us a line to with the judge’s name and, if possible, their contact details. What do you think?

ABOVE Taken early in the morning in Montana’s Glacier National Park. LEFT Cheetahs in the Masai Mara, Kenya.

Issue 20 | Photography News

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