Wednesday, October 24, 2018


"ARTISAN" is the theme for this year's Michael Edwards Photo Competition.

It will likely be a tricky one to judge.

The rules specify the definition of "artisan" in Wikepedia as that to be followed by the entrants:
An artisan (from French: artisan, Italian: artigiano) is a skilled craft worker who makes or creates things by hand that may be functional or strictly decorative, for example furniture, decorative arts, sculptures, clothing, jewellery, food items, household items and tools or even mechanisms such as the handmade clockwork movement of a watchmaker. Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist.
Taking this definition on its own, and having looked over the entries, the following questions occur to me:
  • Does the artisan have to be present in the photo?
  • Wiki distinguishes between the artisan and the artist. Does this rule out musicians and painters, though sculptures are mentioned?
  • The artisan makes a thing with his hands. Does this rule out non-material outputs such as music?
  • Does the artisan have to have made the object and not just repaired it?
Having said all of this, the description on the poster may give a little more scope:
celebrating the artistic flair and skills of artisan workers
And, finally, it is never clear until the actual adjudication whether additional conditions are effectively brought to bear through the particular preferences of the adjudicator.

For example there was one adjudicator who couldn't abide Photoshop. He gave first place to a photo which could have been taken with a box Brownie and which had no obvious post-processing. Fortunately it was a brilliant photo and deserved to win.

Another adjudicator had a preference for photos with people in them, though this was nowhere specified in the rules.

Adjudicators are entitled to their views but it would be a help to entrants to know them in advance.

So to the actual photos in this year's competition. Unlike previous years where each of the six photo clubs had a separate month-long exhibition from which selected photos went forward to the final, we are straight into the final this year.

I viewed these with a friend who has a great interest in photography and though our tastes differ somewhat I think we agreed on three photos in particular which we thought potential winners:

I suspect that some of the possible limitations to the theme that I outlined above might rule out any or all of these. This will depend very much on the adjudicator's interpretation of what precisely is required here.

Some other photos caught my eye for all sorts of different reasons.

Having said all of the above, there were many other possible winners which I have left out.

Just in passing, I should mention that the competition this year is confined to clubs only. The experimental introduction, over the last two years, of a separate category for individual entries has been abandoned.

If you're anywhere near Donaghmede you should drop in to the Shopping Centre, enjoy the exhibition and make your own choice. I'm told it will be open up to Christmas.

Hopefully I'll be reporting back on the prizewinners after the adjudication.


OK. Here we are, early as usual, and not a soul in sight. The exhibition is still a blank page. Anything could happen. What is an artisan? What work is out of bounds? Does the artisan have to be shown doing the work? And what makes for a good photo?

It's all ahead of us, but not for long.

And the adjudicator? What will he make of it all. Will he come dressed as Santa to preserve his anonymity and save him from retribution, or just raise some of the Christmas spirit in these trying times?

None of the above. It's Eamonn again and it's serious business. He's been three times already reviewing the photos. He's taken them away on his Ipad and perused them again and again, letting them sink in. And he's ready for the kick-off.

Not forgetting Dermot who has organised the whole show - choosing the theme, briefing the clubs, getting the exhibition up and now tonight's event.

And Eamonn's missus, Christine, who is co-adjucator, keeping a close eye on Eamonn and supporting the presentation.

So it's down to business and Eamonn gives us an idea of what he wanted.

He reminded us that the purpose behind the competition is to get you to go out and take photos, to rise to the challenge of the theme and find new angles on what's going on out there. It's not really intended to provoke you into delving into your archive to find something that might suit. If you do have something that really fits the bill, that's OK, but the competition and the work that goes into it is geared towards what the EU would call "additionality", or making a difference in what you actually do.

He's all in favour of getting in and up close where necessary and that's with the camera itself and not just in a cropping afterthought where you will lose some of the available quality.

And wait, if you have to, to capture the right moment.

He had said last year that he likes to have people in photos and this year's theme gave him ample opportunity to expand on this.

He illustrated this with the photo of the blacksmith.

While he also commented on many other photos I'll limit myself to this one as it illustrates most of his points.

He pointed out that this scene had great potential but that this had not been fully exploited by the photographer.

The camera needed to have gone in close to concentrate on what the blacksmith was doing. As it was, this was almost incidental.

The angle needed to be lower and perhaps a short wait to get a glimpse of the blacksmith's face.

And, dump the dog, which really has nothing to do with it and is a distraction.

He praised the photographer for going for black and white which suited admirably. He said he was a fan of black and white (as I am myself).

And so to the winner, which had all of the ingredients he was looking for.

The winner, Brian Duff, was presented with a fine inscribed glass trophy by Michael.

There were five prizes in all, and the top ten, in Eammonn's view, were identified and commented on.

Michael then said a few words which echoed much of what Eamonn had said earlier. Don't be afraid and get in close, on your knees if necessary, but above all, take the photo.

You'll see above that I had identified this photo of the waitress as a potential winner. In fact it was my favourite photo. An opportunistic photo, with good composition, beautiful tones, and the look of a Dutch Master's. Sadly, it was not best suited to the theme of this particular competition.

The photographer was Martin Ryan from Benedict's Club, and it was his first time entering the competition. While I think he was a bit disappointed, he was a cheered to hear it was my favourite, and I'm sure he'll find a more appropriate venue for it where it will get full recognition.

And Fran Ryan, his other half, also a first timer. She was in the top ten, and narrowly missed a prize, coming in sixth. Both of these photos are hers.

And so on to next year. I pressed Dermot for a theme but, despite others telling me that he already had one in mind, he was giving anything away. I did pick up, however, that there was no prospect of a return of the individual category.

Incidentally you can see a selection of last year's entries here and that adjudication here.


Vivion Mulcahy said...

An excellent report on a good exhibition.
As a private entrant to a previous year’s exhibition, I deplore the exclusion of private entrants this year. I thought that the objective was to stimulate interest and participation in photography,
Do I have an axe to grind in this context? Of course I do!

Póló said...

Thank you Vivion.

It is a good exhibition and we should probably be thankful for small mercies.

I agree that the dropping of the recently introduced category for individual non-club entries is a retrograde step. I have to declare an interest myself, having entered it on both recent occasions. I know that there were very few entries but I had been trying to publicise it through direct personal contact and had purchased a web domain with the express purpose of giving it wider publicity this year. Anything new like that takes time to catch on, and contrary to some views, there is not a lot of extra work in it and it has the potential to bring in more business in the long run.

Unfortunately this year, the whole competition has been telescoped into a single month-long exhibition. I don't know if this is due to premises availability or to it not having been possible to devote work time to six individual exhibitions, which certainly involves extra work over and above a single exhibition.

This Michael Edwards Photo Competition has been unique in its involvement with multiple clubs, its staging of a series of month-long exhibition heats, and, most recently for extending the competition to individual entries.

It is a shame to see it shrink and I would associate myself with your deploration and hope that sense will prevail next year.