All that being said, here are my thoughts:
For me, it's critical to read each artist statement before I look at the images. I'm sure the reverse is true for many jurors, but I want to have some idea about what I'm going to see and what the intent of the artist is before delving into imagery. I read every artist statement. Because there are so many entries to see, I have to read quickly, so the statements that get read in full are those that are limited to about 3 short paragraphs. I have to say that about 85% of these statements need major work. The language is often vague, process-oriented, filled with art-speak, and generally, not helpful to understanding what the work is about. I truly believe that I'd rather see something like, "I made these images simply because I felt compelled to do so." than most of what I'm having to read with these entries. If you are not a good writer, or struggle with writing about your work, try to write three paragraphs and answer the following questions:
Why do you photograph?
Why did you make this work?
How does this work relate to who you are as an artist?
If you can just answer these clearly, you'll be way ahead of what's out there.
The Viewing Process
These images, on both my laptop and desktop at my studio, are larger in size than what exists on many blogs or social media outlets. When the images load, I see the top of the image first and as it loads down I begin to see the rest. This is a small point, but I found it interesting how many times I noticed technical flaws in images because I was forced to see the tops, or edges of the image before the centers. If you have blown-out edges, or a lot of digital noise in the upper part of your image, that's what I saw first. Just a reminder to make sure you look at your files from corner to corner, not only where the focal point of your image may be.
Hierarchy of Ratings
There are four ratings that you can give to a body of work. Naturally, I save the lowest score for work that I cannot connect with in any way, and the highest score for work that I feel is publication-worthy. The trouble areas are in the middle. How I decide between these middle ratings depends on how I answer two questions, Do I feel this work is or should be still in development? and Have I seen enough that is at a high level of quality that I would want to see more? If I feel that the work should still be development, I go with the lower of the middle scores. If I feel that it could be complete, or close to completion and that I'd like to see more, then I give the higher of the middle scores. This can be tough at times, and where strong sequencing and editing really help.
So what am I evaluating when looking at these portfolios, specifically? This is the list and the order varies depending on the intent of the artist and my own interpretation of the work (keep in mind that the list is in no particular order):
Technical Ability (how well are the online images crafted - please no more purple skies)
Beauty (yes, this does matter to me)
I made some other notes on interesting things that I've seen.
1 One photographer submitted nine images instead of ten. I actually appreciated that. It said to me that this person was confident enough to realize that they didn't have ten strong images and that they would just put forth what they thought was worthy. If you don't have ten really strong images, but you have nine, maybe it's worth just submitting those? I don't know how other judges reacted to this, but I found it interesting.
2 A few photographers used one of their ten entries for images that weren't photographs in their portfolios. For example, one used an installation shot which I found very smart because the installation of the work was very important to how I interpreted the images. Another used a shot of an actual book which is how they saw their work being presented in it's final format. Seeing these were extremely informative in understanding how the artist would want the work presented.
3 With pricing, if you're not sure what to price your work at, you should do some research and try to go to more gallery shows where you can see what similar work is priced. I saw a range of prices, from $75 up to $4000. I have to say that if someone prices their work at $100 for a 16x20 print, it does make me wonder how much experience they have in showing and how active they are in the community, because you would know that for a relatively accomplished photographer, a 16x20 print would sell for much more than $100. Remember, all of what you apply with, from website addresses, to pricing, to writing, to image preparation, gives jurors clues as to your credibility as a working artist—best to use every opportunity to show that you working and connected to what is happening in this community.
4 A ll of us should read at least once, Bruce Fraser's Real World Book on Sharpening, my bible for sharpening images. There are so many files that I see online that could be made so much better if sharpened properly. I'm not going to use any of the images I saw with the submissions as an example, but below I have one of my own. The first is undersharpened which is what I'm seeing in most cases with the entries. The bottom one is sharpened to how I would want it viewed. Again, this is a personal preference, and maybe most felt that they wanted a softer look, but with so many like that, I started to question it.
© Lauren Henkin. All rights reserved.
© Lauren Henkin. All rights reserved.
My hope in writing this is that you might think as carefully about the presentation of your submissions that are viewed online as you do for galleries.