The portfolio judges had a conversation this year (and I will have to check to see if the photography judges did the same) about travel photography and some related ideas. The consensus was this:
The work isn’t better just because the student is well travelled.
This one intrigued me, I think because I have such a strong leaning toward equity. To varying degrees, the high schools where I have taught have served both wealthy and poor neighborhoods, and I have always been sympathetic to those students who have less. In photography classes, I have watched these students try to hide their envy at a classmates brand-new, top-of-the-line digital SLR, and I know the words “not fair” go through their minds when their wealthier counterparts come back from a holiday with dozens of fresh images from travel abroad.
Exotic, does not equal quality.
It is satisfying, then, to hear the judges comment directly to the idea that while the subject may clearly be exotic and intriguing, the subject alone does not make for an outstanding artwork. Excellent photographs (like the one above) can be taken in our own communities.
Similar comments were made when the artist clearly had specialized equipment (such as scuba gear and underwater photo equipment). It always came down to the artist behind the equipment. Did they show us something in an original way? Did they communicate something to the viewer that reveals something about themselves? And did they do it well?