Adjudication is when entries in a competition are scored on their merits pertaining to what the competition is about. When it comes to entertainment and art, merit can become very subjective. That is, no two people may have the same perception or taste and will produce two different opinions. So how do we ever get a winner in such a competition? Thankfully we have ways of determining common consensus to create a baseline from which subjectivity deviates.
Can anybody be an adjudicator? In theory, yes. However in practice you would not be popular without knowing what common consensus was. So an audience, participants or not, are going to want to see adjudicators who know their stuff.
The first thing an adjudicator needs to know is what they are adjudicating! When it comes to a picture competition for instance, what is a picture! Ok a definition could be a picture is a rendered visual document of a recorded image. This image may be recorded in the mind, or electronically through technology. So theoretically we are adjudicating on both the image and the rendering process to produce the picture! In painting, that would include materials and the visual fidelity in the rendering process, such as brush work and detail. In photography that would include the technical skills of exposure, focus, depth-of-field and sharpness. In addition, with prints it would also take into consideration the quality of the paper or material the picture is rendered to! Now if it was an image competition as opposed to a picture competition, then adjudication would solely be on the image within the picture, regardless of the material it is rendered on. However, I dear say that in photography such things as exposure, depth-of-field, focus and sharpness do modify the image of reality during the recoding process and in doing so become part of the recorded image and part of image adjudication.
You rarely see image competitions. Even picture competitions are rare. What you are more likely to see are fine art competitions for drawing, painting, photography and digital graphic arts.
Photography is the transient art form that fits between hand rendered art such as painting and digital graphic arts. Conventional photography creates pictures close to reality in rendered detail, while digital photography loses the constraints of reality to track the path of either painted rendering or digital graphics art. So a photography competition needs to be divided into traditional and altered reality for adjudication to have an even keel. If altered too severely the results fall into painted prints or graphic art. Thus we need to be quite precise in our definition for competitions. One such definition for altered reality photography is that some part of the image has to show evidence that it is from photography—prints can be rendered from hand painted originals, photography or computer generated digital graphics art. Advances in digital photography now make it quite difficult to distinguish between prints of hand painted originals and creative photographic processes.
So when it comes to adjudication of fine art, are we adjudicating the complete works, or just the picture? In other words, would a crappy frame, mount, border, matt or material influence an adjudicators scoring! I rather suspect it would, but would the reverse hold true?
Projected images are less complex here, although any boarders here are a product of digital graphics and become part of the image before it is rendered as a picture, so do they also influence an adjudicators scoring?
The question to ask about prints is whether adjudication is on the complete artwork, or just the picture?
Researched and written by Gavin Lardner