Monday, February 18, 2008

The judges

(Mugshots taken from

And now, a description of le judges (that's French for the judges).

Ruth Fremson, the NYT representative who won a Pulitzer prize for her coverage of the Clinton impeachment, was kind enough to give my friend and me critiques on our portfolios. She spent 40 minutes with the two of us talking about how we can become better image-makers.

She was fairly kind with her criticism, and we probably could have benefited from someone who was a little more of hard-ass, but unfortunately we didn't have time.

Key take away: Don't be afraid of your subject. Establish a relationship and then work the situation. Ruth was a big fan of closeness and intimacy.

Brad Mangin, of was the hard-ass we should have been looking for. He was more straightforward than the women; didn't want any of the emotional, namby-pamby, tear-jerker photos.

Some memorable quotes from Brad:

"It has to be goddamn good. It better be Bigfoot on fire wearing red shoes." And of course, referring to the rigor of selection, "At this point, we have to be bastards."

Brad's not a sentimental fellow.

Wen Huang represented the Bejing branch of the Xinhua News Agency, one of China's top news organizations.

She definitely has a very different style. Toward the end of the second day, tensions seemed to be increasing between the rest of the judges and her. Aided by occasional, well-placed barbs from Brad, Wen was on a short leash by the end of the very long second day.

Wen took the opposite approach of Ruth. She didn't really seem to favor simplicity and liked to see distance between the photographer and the subjects. There doesn't seem to be much intimacy in her culture.

Jeannie Adams-Smith was the fourth judge. She is an associate professor of photojournalism at Western Kentucky University, and kept mostly to herself. She weighed in occasionally on especially interesting photographs, but didn't stand out much in the way of an obvious inclination toward one form or another. She seemed able to see most debates from both sides. However, she apparently was a devoted mother, so it made sense that she did lean a bit toward more emotional images.

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