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|| News Item: Posted 2005-04-30

It's Not Just A Black & White Matter: Should contest entries be prepared differently?
By David Cantor, Toledo Blade

(Editor's Note: The practice of changing photographs from color to black & white to entering contests is debated often during and after judging. Questions arise as to whether the photographer's "vision" was in black and white or is it a case of manipulating the judges sensibilities, thinking they will view the entry as "more serious" because it is in black & white. Or is it just simply a matter that photographers want to get around bad color in an image and making it black & white solves that problem? Sports Shooter asked for two opinions on the matter.)

I think people should not let digital advancements somehow negate the rest of the history of the actual photographic process as it relates to aesthetic choices.

At the turn of the twentieth century thanks to those nice Lumiere brothers and the advent of their autochrome process, photographers could choose between color and black and white. Fast forward to the introduction of Kodachrome (please "don't take mine away!") in the mid 1930's and that choice was now in the hands of any advanced amateur as well as professionals. Add color negative into the mix a few years later and the family album now has pages that shift from monochrome to color prints snugged into those little photo corners.

Once publishers realized that color ads can generate more revenue and television went color, it was accepted in the media. Remember when your newspaper started handing out EktaPress instead of that stalwart Tri- X?

Let's realize that many newspapers have fewer ROP color holes, which means that when you run a photo story, the lead section front photo is in color but the rest of the images run inside as monochrome.

In some instances, the story submission for a contest may have a more consistent appeal when all the images are submitted in the same form as it relates to color or the lack thereof.

Of course this leads us to asking whether or not contests should stipulate in the rules that the images must be submitted as printed. This would solve the entire dilemma, would it not? Now that I have lured you into a level of near sleep, let's get to the real question. Should contest entries be prepared in a different format than they were they were first conceived or presented?

First off, how will the viewer/judge know this? So if a photographer feels his or her work will affect the viewer more strongly in black and white than color, is he or she somehow being untruthful or unfaithful to the viewers/judges?

How is this any different than a photographer deciding to eschew the digi-rig and pursue a story with his or her battered Leicas and some black and white film? After all we all want our work to get its due notice, whether from our daily readers or contest judges

We always advise younger photographers on ways to tweak portfolios so that they will get picked over others by attracting attention with eye-catching techniques. Well, aren't contests also an extension of this same type of self-promotion?

So if you think your entry may get a better reception form the viewers / judges by making it monochrome, then have at it. Until contests hinge entry submissions on the color format in which the images were originally published I'm in my "whatever the photographer thinks best" mode. And if a judges think that the monochrome switch is an artifice that detracts from the image they are entitled to DQ said image.

Since digital cameras do allow monochrome capture anyway and some contests do allow non-published images I don't see why this really should be an issue. Again the real matter is whether or not an image's presentation interferes with the viewer's/judge's understanding and appreciation of its contents.

(David Cantor is a picture editor at the Toledo Blade. This is his first contribution to the Sports Shooter Newsletter.)

Related Links:
Cantor's member gallery

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