I was quite willing to just go away, to not be heard from again. And to chalk it up to it was just something else I was no good at (as I have been told all throughout growing up, and into my adulthood).
But I do have to clear something up. For one thing, I am not thin skinned. If I was (for example) I would have dropped out of high school, instead of graduating on the honor roll. I would never have gotten married or been a mother. I never would have started my dance company which grew and thrived for 6 years, in spite of certain people who actively tried to sabotage me, until a medical problem cropped up. (An accident I had in my 20s caused a disc to calcify and collapsed in my back, making it impossible to dance or even teach dance again.)
I have zero problem with constructive criticism (ie, re-frame with cropping, or burning/dodging). And I know that judging is subjective. BUT I do, however, don’t react well to abject ridicule and humiliation. On to the show:
Exhibcompetition: aka why I have packed my cameras away…not sure for how long.
One photo I submitted was a candid photo of an infant, taken on the sly in a dark room, while the mother was talking to him. He smiled and I got the photo. How was I to know I was supposed to, in an auditorium setting, go over to the parents and ask them to strip their baby to the skin, in a cold room, for me to photograph him? Oh well, it was a nice portrait, and the parents were thrilled to get it.
After submitting different bird photos over the past 2 years to different competitions/exhibitions, I took away comments and criticism, and improved. One of the major things I was told “Bird perching, nothing to distract, clear skies”. I read up on it, and looked at examples from other pro Wildlife photographers, especially one who had visited our camera club a few times that specialized in birds. After weeks of stalking, and acclimating a family of birds to my presence in the garden, and many flubbed photos, I got one that was exactly as it should be. And bonus was the diagonally bisected sky (clouds on upper section, clear bright blue sky on the bottom).
I submitted it in an OPEN category.
What I expected was an honest critique of the technique, composition, exposure, sharpness, etc.
Even if it bombed, I expected to walk away with useful information.
What I didn’t expect was to have it eviscerated because the judge, who had graciously stepped in at the last moment when the one scheduled fell ill, didn’t like the subject. That it was the product of a lazy photographer, that didn’t challenge his/herself. That he personally didn’t like these sort of bird photos. That it was what he derisively called a “bird on a stick”. (Actually, it was a bird at the very top of a palm frond getting ready to launch itself into the air, but I digress.) That it was one of his ‘pet peeves’, that he mentioned in his blog (who knew his blog was required reading), that these photos were on his “hit list”, and it would be automatically marked down, regardless of the quality of the image itself.
I left wishing to all that I held dear that I had submitted anonymously, as he led the room in a chorus of ridicule and laughter, and all would know who was the ‘lazy unchallenged’ photographer.
And when I got home, packed up most of my gear (still have a few things out because I didn’t want to empty the closet getting the boxes out.)
And I wasn’t the ONLY one, but I can only speak for myself. As someone said, there are critiques and then there are critiques. I don’t expect anything I submit to win/place/show. I expect to come away with information to improve my photography skills. I didn’t expect to be treated with kid gloves.
But what I did expect was professionalism, respect, a critique of the above mentioned composition, exposure, clarity, sharpness. Not to have it ripped to to shreds because the judge didn’t personally like the subject. Especially from a photographer I had respected.