Judging an International Photographic Salon... The Al Thani Award for Photography 2013 (Part 1)
As a non club attending, non competition entering, pretty isolated photographer, I have always been sceptical of the motives of competition organisers, and the reasoning behind the sometimes high entry fees that belied the final reward and subsequent ‘exposure ‘ in sometimes dubious publications that could barely make the kitchen, far less the coffee table.
I had entered a couple of competitions like this in the past seven years with varying success but felt that they were loaded in favour of profit rather than reputation.
I did not enter any others due to this, but recently favoured the ‘take a view’ landscape photographer of the year as I felt that the balance was right, and the competition highlighted and represented the genre well.
However, having recently been invited and been involved as an international Salon Judge on the Al Thani Award for Photography, I now realise that there are some competitions that should not be missed or avoided, and who’s prizes and exposure far outstrips anything I have seen locally, or indeed, internationally.
It all Started in May 2013 with an email from Ulrike Hinterobermaier, the wife of the Salon organiser, Dr Chris Hinterobermaier… a quirky, inviting and dedicated couple who organise a large majority of the European and International salons through the Trierenberg Super Circuit in Austria.
Now, I get several emails a week to my website and various social media sites with invites, offers to make me millions by representing my images in various galleries, requests for critique, and some wonderful feedback, but on the whole many that are instantly dismissed on the grounds that ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is’… so I ignored it...
However, Chris and Ulrike are nothing if not tenacious, and a second email sparked my interest, thinking that the usual ‘weird’ emails generally give up after one.
I did a bit of emailing around past judges along with web searches, and determined that it was not some international organ harvesting gang, or a Nigerian money laundering service, as Chris had asked for nothing but my time and expertise in judging photographs… so I agreed with trepidation and excited anticipation.
I next find myself arriving in Linz, Austria on a grey morning in November to meet up… at the airport, with two of my fellow judges, Gabriel J O’Shaughnessy (Ireland) and Christophe Kiciak (France), both previous salon award winners and superb photographers…
We arrived in downtown Linz and met the remainder of the judging group Derek Galon (Canada), Ario Wibisoni (Indonesia) and Dr Joao Taborda (Portugal) as well as Dr Chris Hinterobermaier, his wife Ulrike and Abdulrahman Fajhroo from Al Thani Awards in Qatar, and other members of the organising committee. After a ‘getting to know you’ dinner and a couple of beers afterwards in the hotel bar with the other judges, it was early to bed as the judging started at 8.30 sharp on the Saturday morning…
This is where Dr Chris , Ulrike and the entourage come into there own with the immaculate timing that seems to be built into Austrians. We were marshalled, instructed, commanded and organised within an inch of our life to ensure we understood the rules, the timing, and the expectations of day one.
All of the judging was to be videoed and the all judging was done in the presence of an observer from the Al Thani Competition committee, to ensure fair play was observed.
The rest of the day was a blur of several thousand prints and very quickly we got into the rhythm… due, in small part to the realisation that the judges in the room between them within their time in photography, had seen every genre, composition, technical flaw that had ever been made, and amazingly, the best, most original, and stunning photographs started to be shortlisted.
One thing that amazed me was the level of consensus between the judges, and we almost all agreed or disagreed to all the shortlisted images, with few exceptions.
In the afternoon the three judges that had been looking at the tens of thousands of images then switched to viewing the digital images on a large HD screen, with the same shortlisting criteria, yes/no and the images shortlisted dependant on the amount of either.
We finished after an exhausting but ultimately pleasurable day looking at some stunning photography at 5pm precisely.
Day two saw the two judging groups come together and viewing the shortlisted images narrowed down even more and viewed dependant on the categories… an organisational nightmare akin to herding cats, taken in its stride by the charismatic Chris and his very experienced team.
This culminated with the final images being displayed and projected in front of the judges for final adjudication by vote, under the ever present but unobtrusive watchful eyes of the organisers and the observers.
This was a tense few hours and as the stakes were high with $30.000US prizemoney plus a Leica M6 camera for the grand prize, there was furious debate, several journeys to the window light with prints and not a little changing of minds as various defences and discussions sparked up over the top images in each category and the ultimate prizes.
One thing that sticks out from this part of the two days was the isolated bubble that seemed to be created by the six judges, almost protective of their opinions, but working as one to ensure that the decision was right… whether it was conscious or not, we were, at that point, alone in a huddle of experience and photographic ability, dependant on each others expertise in many different genres and technical know how, but working as one.
Below is a video (Thanks to Alfred) of the judging stage of the competition, taken by the organisers to ensure fair play, and a great example of the organisation that goes into this competition and the task in front of the judges…
If you are thinking of entering the competition, you can get an application form from the link below, with the substantial prize money, $30.000 USD, medal acclaim and the ultimate awards week in Qatar, this is not a competition to be missed... I know, now that I am not judging it, I will be entering this year... The TRIERENBERG SUPER CIRCUIT closes on the 14th March 2014
Watch out for part 2 of this blog where I detail the winners and the fantastic prize for the invited winners in Qatar!!
Coming soon.... Part 2... And the Winner is!!... The winners and Award Ceremony in beautiful Qatar...