Crossing Over to the Dark Side

By Ellen Bedrosian

During the summer, I participated in training given by the NJFCC to become a judge.  Although not quite as bad as Anakin Skywalker crossing over to the dark side and becoming Darth Vader, my main reason for becoming a judge was simple: I felt that the current pool of judges generally scored creative images low. It seemed to me that creative vision took a backseat to adhering to strict technical considerations. Heaven forbid a maker submitted an image with one spot the judge deemed too hot. And forget images with selective focus or an intentional blur. Many judges just don’t, or can’t, appreciate an image that isn’t a tack-sharp bird, landscape or flower.

During the training, one of the first pieces of advice the experienced judges teaching the class stressed was to first say something nice about the image. Everyone submits images that they think will get a 9, they told us, so try to be positive. That explained two often confounding behaviors that judges exhibit during competitions:

  1. Saying a bunch of nice things about an image and then scoring it a 6.
  2. Waiting so long to say anything at all!

The second item would often try my patience when I used to run digital competitions. I’d wait and wait and wait, with my finger poised over the keyboard for the judge to score the image. Come on, I used to think, this isn’t brain surgery. Little did I know.

As part of our training, each potential judge practiced critiquing and scoring about 10 images. When it was my turn, one particularly bad image appeared on the screen. I remember sitting there speechless, which for those who know me, doesn’t happen often. I struggled to find something good to say about the image, and finally turned to our two mentors and said, “This is hard!” The entire class laughed in commiseration.

So far, the only judging I’ve done is for PSA or NJFCC competitions at Teaneck with two other judges where all I had to do was score the image without giving a critique. I’m grateful for that experience because it gave me some actual judging practice.

I do hope that I get a chance to judge a club competition where I’ll have to justify my score. I can only hope that I don’t sit there tongue-tied for too long looking for something good to say about a bad image, that I give creative endeavors the recognition I feel that they’ve been lacking, and that I don’t get my tires slashed in the parking lot.


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