Silver blur

The assignment topic in my local photo club's monthly contest this month was "blur." The club web site had a rather long and specific description of what blur is (as if we don't already know) which concluded with, "whatever the photographer wants to do to create areas that are not in focus in the composition." That limitation ruffled my feathers a bit. When I first joined the club, the assignments were one- or two-word topics and that's all. The photographer had complete creative license to interpret the topic however he or she wanted. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility — it was up to the photographer to research the meaning(s) of any terms he wasn't familiar with and depict them in a way that was creative but obvious enough for the judges to recognize.

The club got an influx of new members 2-3 years ago and many of them were relatively new to photography. They were eager to experiment and learn. As perhaps a byproduct of the digital-age instant gratification mindset, they also wanted to jump right in and participate in the program without taking the time to learn the nuances of our system. I can't say I blame them; I did the same thing when I first joined. However, I didn't ring the alarm bells and call the system flawed when the judges didn't "get" my approaches. I just tried harder. It ended up making me a better photographer.

At the behest of a vocal minority, the powers that be decided to attach rather specific and limiting narrative descriptions to the topics so the newer members would have a better feel for what the judges would look for. Their intentions were good, but the result was that the range of creativity in the entries dropped considerably and the entries became mostly rote and predictable. I've seen a wider creative range in the last few months but I still think the narratives are too limiting. Besides, the people who complained the loudest don't even participate anymore. So, I decided to make a point. My interpretation of "whatever the photographer wants to do to create areas that are not in focus in the composition" was to turn in a photo that was entirely sharp and in focus. I got a Silver award for my entry. It shouldn't be too difficult to see where the element of "blur" comes in, and thankfully the judges didn't adhere strictly limit themselves and the photographers rigidly to the published description.


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