What Makes A Good Picture?
A note from photography judge Carl Corey
After 40-plus years of working in the picture business I believe this is the first time I have written about what makes a good picture. This is the basis of how I judge work and I feel compelled to share this with you folks looking at this year’s Hal Prize photography winners.
A picture must emotionally connect, it should share content that intrigues, interests and uniquely displays the photographer’s intent. Re-hashing postcard views and good technique won’t cut it. Technique, while very important to master, should never get in the way of content. Joyce’s Ulysses was written with little grammatical technique, but what a masterpiece it is. The same holds in the visual arts. It is all about the content. While it is true that the better you command your craft, the better you can share intriguing content, I would much rather look at an interesting poorly crafted print than a wonderfully crafted boring one. I always encourage young photographers to feel, then see, then figure out their technique for making the picture. I want to see work that adheres to Robert Frank’s mantra of Passion and Purpose. I want to feel the artist’s passion for the subject and the craft. I want the work to have a purpose. This is the criteria I have used to make the selections for this year’s Hal Prize.
1st Place. “Kelly and Victoria III” by Pam Ferderbar. Judge’s Comments “Selected because it is a portrait of strength and integrity. The young girl’s obvious command of the powerful dog conveys her inner strength as she and the dog gaze outward in anticipation. They are ready for what lies ahead and the image serves as a strong metaphor.” – Carl Corey
2nd Place: “Still Life” by Tom Mulinix. Judge’s Comments “This is an interesting picture as it presents a dichotomy in a stunning visual way. Even the title is a dichotomy: Still Life. The light appears unnatural yet the scene seems so real. The color pallete is cold and the scale is visually playful. I am unsure if this is a interpretive diorama or a wildlife photograph. I enjoy the dichotomy and really don't need to know. This picture questions our relationship to nature and invokes thought in a visually interesting way. Not an easy task.” – Carl Corey
3rd Place: “Glacier Up Close” by Laura Joeckel. Judge’s Comments “Conflict, protagonist and antagonist, but who is which? An environmental statement for sure. The helpless humans observing the unrelenting force of the glacier is humorous yet foreboding. How long will we have glaciers like this to observe? Are humans causing the destruction of this mighty force as seen in the flotsam in the foreground? How ironic we destroy that which we admire.” – Carl Corey
Notable: “Girls and Phones, Valencia, Spain” by Tom Groenfeldt Young women glued to their phones in Valencia.“Graveyard” by Ron MaloneyTwo old work horses, from different backgrounds, who served their owners for many years. They now sit alone and abandoned, forgotten by those they served.
Notable: “Road to Happiness” by Guido S. Taken in King’s Canyon, located on the other side of Sequoia National Park, California. This curvy road provided for some fun shots this spring. I live for the photograph that captures the feeling of a place.
Notable: “Girls and Phones, Valencia, Spain” by Tom GroenfeldtYoung women glued to their phones in Valencia.
Notable: “The Musician” by Guntis LauzumsStreet photograph taken at Times Square, New York City this last fall. The gentleman with the hat seems to be a bit tired from his journey.
Notable: “Share My Refrain” by Stanley Horowitz It is difficult to believe the deafening cacophony of noise in the NYC subway can be overcome by the live sweet sounds of jazz. It has become the only high note to offset the dirge of underground travel.
Notable: “Best Friends” by Ron MaloneyA boy and his best friend sit precariously on a cliff. Both impervious to the danger of their situation but trusting in each other’s decision.
Notable: “Mid-Summer Residency” by Casey Buhr An inordinately wet summer brought a stranger to our home. This grey tree frog spent nearly a week mostly nestled in its cave, atop a tenon in a border fence.
Notable: “Princess in Her Turret” by David BueschelA young woman is seen gazing through this city window with an ornate chair at the right hand side of the photo. It reminds me of a medieval princess looking down upon her kingdom from her turret.