Fort Worth 2013 Open Jury Review

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Fort Worth 2013 Open Jury Review

by Don Mabry

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We hear a lot of discussions about photo quality and the jury process and it all hit me yesterday what we're talking about. I sat through the first day of the Fort Worth open jury and it was quite an experience. It was the first one I've ever attended and I was surprised in some areas. I understand the jury's only job on this first day was to decide "yes, no or maybe" so, there seemed to be very little going on. No dialogue or conversation of any sort. They went through the photos very quickly with no conversation of any kind. The second time they looked at them, a very short artist statement was read while the photos were being viewed. They had a few more than 1300 applications and that's around 6500 photos they had to look at. To say they hurried through them would be a gross understatement. As an example, there were 214 jewelers with five photos each and the only thing the jurors will ever know about them is how good their photos were.

I now understand why it is necessary to have photos that blow their socks off. The person with nice, yet average, photos doesn't stand a chance. They don't have time to study artistic quality so, the photos with the greatest initial "pop" are they ones that catch the jurors attention. It doesn't seem quite fair because a lot of outstanding artist are being left by the wayside simply because their photos aren't eye-popping.

I suppose the bottom line is if your photos don't snap, crackle and pop, you're not going to get in. Simple as that. The jurors won't even notice the artist whose photos do not fit this category. You could be the best artist on Earth and you're going to be quickly overlooked and cast aside. I now have a much better idea of why it is so difficult to get into some of the better shows. I have felt like I have some pretty decent photos but, "pretty decent" doesn't even come close to what one needs. The ideal is to have photos that sort of slap a juror in the face as soon as they pop up on the screen. Anything less than that is simply going to mix you in the pot with about 1000 other people and then it becomes difficult to stand out from the rest.

Also, the entire process can get pretty boring if you're a spectator only interested in one or two categories. To me, one of the best things about it was that it offers up some good ideas for booth set-up.

For those who have never had the experience, I highly recommend attending a jury session for one of the big shows. I think it will give you a whole new perspective on your photos and whether or not you need to make some changes. Larry Berman has been "preaching" this for a long time and I've now had the opportunity to see why he stresses the importance of this. It can't be overstated. Considering all the hard work we do and the expense we incur, there just doesn't seem to be a viable excuse not to spend a few extra bucks and give ourselves the best chance possible by having outstanding photos. Otherwise, we don't even get our foot in the door. And, the cost is minimal when compared with the other monies we expend in trying to get into the best shows. Without great photos, we're trying to run the Kentucky Derby with a plow-horse.

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What Connie Mettler says about your images and the juries
I've run juries, chosen juries and been on juries and each one is different. A show that gets 1500 applications is going to run its jury differently than one that gets 300 and will probably have different jurors. And don't even begin to think that there are more than 4 or 5 shows in the country that will have 1500 applications. Most shows will be below 500.

The jury's job is to put together the highest quality possible. Interesting work that is photographed to show off its best assets is necessary. You can do all the tricks with the photography and follow all the tips on this site but if your work isn't special (way beyond "pretty) don't expect to be at the top shows. It is about the content, not the photography, but don't shortchange your fine work with inadequate imagery. Tell the story with your slides -- consistency in materials and style tells the story. I've seen fine individual pieces in presentations, but each image is a little bit of this and the next a little bit of something else. Sure you can do all kinds of things in your medium, but if your images don't relate to your personal style, you won't stand as good a chance.

a different version of this article also appeared on a blog at Art Fair Insiders

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