NVAL 2016 International Juried Photography Show Winners Gallery

JUROR STATEMENT  •  Jack Fulton Professor Emeritus, San Francisco Art Institute

21st Century State of the Art: Trying to Incite Insight
        In this 21st century the World Wide Web would not be what it is without photography as a prime medium of communication. One might go so far to say it has become a verbal medium as one might view and comment on a site like Snapchat.
        Apple, the world’s largest company, with its iPhone & Pad, created such a simple imaging tool, which along with the WWW has made ‘the photograph’ the world’s most ubiquitous visual experience. The medium, in which let us include video, is presently changing destinies, traditions and political realms in countries throughout the world.
        With this onset of non-verbal communication are ‘hits’ or ‘likes’ from web sites that not only garner attention but influence others to emulate successes with the result being tens of thousands of look-alike photographs. Such constant input ultimately creates prevailing themes and ways of doing things to or with the photographic image. In recent years apps, add-on programs for Photoshop/Lightroom software, have provided yet more image enhancement and manipulation. Companies now provide quality printing such as the supercilious named Giclee print, the dye sublimation print, prints mounted on aluminum and a host of presentations of a multitude of papers, canvas, silk etc. The majority of these tools and methodologies are intended to elevate the image to the point where it can be called Art.
         Therefore, with these advantages, the majority of which provide the user with a very good quality photographic presentation, it is increasingly difficult to say that one image is ‘better’ than the other. Accompanying this multiplication of digital imagery is a renewed interest in the medium’s historical processes, once called alternative. These too have been aided by digital techniques but it is a pleasure to see cyanotypes, Pl/Pd, gum bichromate, carbon, bromoil et alia techniques practiced today in light of the preponderant digital ink print.
         Due to this ease of excellence, which has been observed in judging other photographic contests, composition related to content is of key importance as is context, metaphor and even simile, all tools of the writer. The idea is to peruse each image in order to find the author, the one who has seen the ordinary and turned that into the exceptional . . . or, perhaps better put, has proffered to the viewer insight into what is being thought by the photographer about what they are observing. A simpler way is to say the photographer has made an image, not taken it.
        Plagiarizing, emulating and success with either of those tactics does not create an outstanding work, one that holds emotional content . . . and while the term lyrical comes to mind that is but one of the human expressions available to pursue. Ultimately it is about expression . . . the chiaroscuro of a non-color photograph; how, in the viewing one’s perspective rises to see a poetic description; what sort of a dialogue has been created by the author with the viewer; and, in the context of our time does the dialogue speak in the visual language of our time to provide meaning in our lives. What the goal is is to be a person of content living in an age of style.
This 2016 NVAL Photography Exhibit shows approximately 16% of the entries. For you reading this, it took me a minimum of a week going forth and back over the entries to whittle down the applications to its present form. Throughout was an eye for composition, content and context and the final jurying buoyed by print quality. It is my hope those viewing this fine set of photographs will not only enjoy the works but take inspiration from the author’s vision. We all have something to learn.
It is a daunting task to dig deeply into the psyche and choose an overall first place, two seconds, three thirds and ten honorable mentions.   Are my picks astute and relevant or are all of the photographs of an equivalent value and quality?  Each of these images exemplify the artist’s thought processes, political values, nostalgic tendencies, and exuberant concrete understandings all manifested in really quite fitting photographic prints. I found the quality overall to be excellent and the shape, size and choice of color or chiaroscuro to be finely honed.
There are phenomena to consider, as Roland Barthes, in his book “Camera Lucida” (one could interpret that loosely as: a box of light . . . quite romantic in the description of a camera) describes two terms all photographs hold: the studium and the punctum. One can loosely infer the whole photograph itself is the studium, or studio, representing the raison d’etre (reason for being) of the photographer’s vision. And the punctum being the reason, the needle’s prick that pops the balloon. When you peruse each of the chosen photographs these two points of reasoning ought to allow you to interpret the intent of the image maker’s thought.