I keep seeing red now. I’ve spotted rosy cheeks in the cold, splashes of red in the
landscape and a hair bow turned to just the right angle in the sun. It was a treat to judge
entries around a theme that emphasizes color in photography. The simplest rules can
sometimes make the best competitions.
Red is a psychologically powerful color, often used as a symbol of intense emotion or
action. This made for an eclectic mix of entries. I approached my selection as if I were
editing any body of work around a specific theme, by asking questions: Does the image
have a point of view? Is it inventive? Does it have some personal resonance? Does it tell
me something about the person or people in it? Is it dynamic? Does it raise questions or
pique my curiosity? Does it make me feel uncomfortable and stop me in my tracks? Does
it have interesting composition and hold my interest as my eye moved through it.
In many of the thousand entries, I was struck by the variety of well-composed,
graphically striking images that led to something deeper. I was drawn to photos that
instead of just casual inclusion of something red, hinted at the theme by alluding to a
memory, a political happening or a cultural practice. Others exposed grandeur in
architecture, displayed honest portraiture, or explored abstract expression.
Traditional and alternative processes worked well in the color-theme competition. Wendy
Small's photograms, David Rivas’ infrared and cross-processed C-prints and Sergio
Dennis' “Lava monster,” shot on Kodachrome all stood out. In Kathy Beal's, "Red Rose,"
the idea of the rose is transformed into a layered, flattened object, almost like a sculpture
But more straightforward acknowledgements of red worked well, too. Ken Lee's,
"Morning Devotions" depicts Tibetan Buddhist nuns praying in their red robes under a
bright umbrella of red hues illuminated by natural light. The vibrancy of red in the Soviet
flags in Evi Lemberger's image calls attention to the gathering. In Reid Callanan's
Polaroid, “Grape Leaves,” there's a familiar nostalgia associated with summer ending and
fall beginning, as the leaves collect in uncovered pools.
What all of the 50 chosen images share is an ability to stand on their own as an
expression of a unique voice. Together, they changed the way I see, which is, after all,
what we ask of photography.