Abstract – 18-Aug-2011

A good roll-up of members attended the competition on Thursday night 18th August. The set subject matter was “Abstract”, and many members submitted set-subject entries. Judge for the evening was David Smith, an experienced and successful landscape photographer with many photographic awards and honours under his belt.

It would be fair to say the subject matter created some interpretation problems for both entrant members and the judge. How should “abstract” be judged? If it’s an abstract, well, it’s an abstract, so it’s then possible to claim that any image that successfully fell into the category would be worth 10 points as it has succeeded in being an abstraction.

Here’s some definitions:

“Separated from matter, practice or particular examples; not concrete; ideal, not practical; abstruse; .. the ideal or theoretical way of regarding things.” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 5th Edition 1966)

“1. conceived apart from matter and from special cases 2. theoretical; not applied 3. of or pertaining to abstract art.. etc.”
(The Maquarie Concise Dictioonary 2nd Edition 1995)


“Abstract Art: a 20th century concept of art which rejects the function of art as portraying perceived reality; non-representational art.” (The Maquarie Concise Dictionary 2nd Edition 1995)

Our own definition was:
“Art which is either totally non-representational or which turns forms seen in reality into patterns which are viewed as independent forms with no reference to the original source.” (Blackwood Photographic Club 2011 Programme, 1st and only Edition 2010) 🙂 

So, with expectations the judge is to award more points to images he/she interprets as “better” abstracts than others (otherwise no point to having a competition), some “normal” photograph elements could then apply to differentiate between images falling within the interpretation. Impact was certainly one of the elements used, presentation (print matt boards and digital projection borders) was another, and also composition. The result? Well, you can’t please everyone and David conducted his judging in accordance with his interpretation. This may not have pleased everyone, but in the final analysis judging was conducted expeditiously and members like myself were grateful for this. Judging which drags on creates boredom and David certainly kept the pace rolling.

I feel that, if the club includes “Abstract” as a future set subject (and why not!), we should ensure the judge is well-instructed about the subject matter when first engaged to judge. As always, I feel any subject which puts members (and judges) outside their “comfort zone” is conducive to expanding our knowledge of photography as a fine art.

Ray Goulter

The Abstract competition digital high scorers are on the Digital Entries page – along with a collection of Editor’s Choices. Two of my favourites prints from the night are featured here.

Chris 🙄


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