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The Spike Victoria University College Review 1944

Documents or Phoney Photos? — Discussion of Photographic Competition

page 27

Documents or Phoney Photos?
Discussion of Photographic Competition.

It is Perhaps lair to state that I, the judge of this competition, never won in a similar contest nor did my principles allow me to enter one run by any photographic club or society.

From the results of some competitions, I feared that success included all the nasty little ingenuities of retouching, all the insistence on the virtues of 'composition' (spare my days), and the weighing up of meaningless technicalities. Reluctantly I was convinced that competition winners and the judges had a remarkable facility for escaping reality.

My own dogma is that a camera should be used, not to escape from the realities of life, but to examine them, critically if necessary, even banally ii banality is honesty. Accordingly the rules I drew up for the Spike competition made it clear to competitors that technical excellence, composition, skill, would be virtues less prized than an honest documentary approach. Our traditional guide book illustrations, the floral grandeur of our former Christmas numbers, the inflated value given to scenery which is never evaluated in terms of the men or wild life who live on it; these, unfortunately, have their places. But it is time that photographers realised that the only compensation in not being artists with line, oil paint or water colour, etching, engraving or lithograph should lie in their ability to use the mechanical limitations of photography faithfully to record the way of life of the common man, Mum, Dad and the kids, Brother Bert and Sister Flossie, and to include their background, whether it is Devonport or Petone, Taranaki farmland or Otago frosts, to give a flavour that is peculiarly New Zealand.

Judged by these standards most of the competitors fell down the back stairs with a lot of grease on their pants. A few recovered sufficiently to walk home without bruises, and two competitors even landed bokays. First I placed A. R. Anderson whose 'Radiologist' shows a New Zealander overseas doing a job in a hospital. This photograph is lively, relates a man (himself of interesting personality) to his work, and gives drama to routine without any false note. Anderson's other entry, 'Ruins, Baalback,' was interesting, but too tailor-made to be convincing. Second place goes to G. C. Heron whose 'study' is a clean example of a documentary shot and achieves a sincerity that is better than studio work. Heron's other work is good, and his Maori slants, 'Action Song,' and 'My Mother Bids Me . . .,' are worth third and fourth places respectively. Of the other competitors only V. O'Kane, Cross Roads,' comes within co-ee of a cheer; it is as authentic as the crop of weeds on the roadside.

John Pascoe