For me, watching POYi judging was a very rewarding experience. The category that I decided to write my reflection on was the Feature Picture Story section on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016.
There were 49 stories initially and the judges were able to narrow this down to 5 award-winning feature stories. As an editor myself, I was amazed at how quickly the judges were able to call something in or out. At the beginning, they didn't have to see the whole story to know whether they liked it or not. This seemed very intimidating to me as someone who always likes to put a little more thought into my editing techniques.
After the first round was over the judges had been able to narrow it down to only 29 stories. After watching many POY and CPOY rounds, this did not seem that strange to me. It feels like I am constantly hearing the "out" voice called rather than "in." What I found abnormal about this round was the fact that it only took the judges one more round to be left with only 5 stories. After they realized how little they had left, the spent the majority of the round pulling things back in or deciding to keep them out.
Once they had the count back up to 14 stories the judges began to discuss why they chose the ones they did. One judge said something I found to be kind of funny. As someone who always has trouble finding a way to voice my opinion when asked why Ken Geiger liked the story "Iran coming out of the shadows," his response was "I just like it." I remember thinking how relatable that was and how even an experienced photographer and editor often has trouble communicating a decision.
At one point the judges were talking about a story called "Orthodox Community" and Jane Evelyn Atwood described it as "too LIFE Magazine." I remember thinking this comment was kind of funny, especially since we had just finished discussing the picture story format as told by LIFE. It made me think about our class discussion on how, just because you know the rules, doesn't mean you have to follow them. And this is a perfect real world example of that very scenario, sometimes it ends up ruining your story if you stick to the formula, not ever story is the same and they shouldn't be treated as such.
Once I had seen all the contenders and the judges' opinions on them, I was a little disappointed with some of the stories they chose as well as the order they ranked them. There was one story that made it to the end but was dropped before it could even get an award of excellence. That was the story about sexually abused women veterans. I though that story had very powerful images and had way more qualifications to be awarded than some of the other stories they chose. At first I hadn't been a fan of the story on women veterans but as the judging went on I began to see the impact it had and believed it was one of the better ones.
For example, for some reason all of the judges were obsessed with this one story called "Secret life of mothers." I was very disappointed in this story and did not see a narrative feature arch like I did with some of the other stories. It held up as an essay but I still was not very fond of it. It did not seem like the photographer spent as much time on it as they could have and did not maintain the same level of impact as some of the others. But for some reason, it received second place.
"Easiest freaking round all session!" - Rick Shaw