Sunday, June 7, 2009

PDN - White-Washed Photo Contest? Hardly

Is Photo District News guilty of "passive raciscm" in their latest photo annual? In a word, no. What started (here) as race-baiting, evolved into money-grubbing race-baiting here, with a well honed charge that PDN's photo contest is passively racist because their jury is all white.

I have been critical of PDN's past photo contests (No Confidence Vote for the PDN/NGS Contest, (1/28/08), but this charge is just outright asinine.

There are three premises that these charges suppose:

1) By having a jury that looks all white, these individuals will select or be pre-disposed to selecting white photographers, white subjects, or issues predominantly of interest to whites.

2) They should have been actively racist in saying "hey we need a _____ guy or a ______ woman here to round out the color spectrum for our judges."

3) That, independant of race, judge(s) "of color" were asked to judge not for the color of their skin but their stature in the industry, and could not do it, for whatever reason.

(Continued after the Jump)

Premises 1 and 2 are actively racist, as compared to the initial charge which suggests passive racism, and premise 3 results from the lack of actual knowledge of the inner goings-on of the contest, and is an assumption by critics.

The judges didn't have a headshot (or likely even a name) associated with each entry during the judging. Judges don't say "hey, all our entries are about the good in the world as represented by white people, we need some black and asian plight to offset that good so our contests' winning entries appears balanced."

Unfortunately, this charge deserved to stay on the backpage of the Weekly World News, and instead, was brought into, for lack of a better way to put it, the mainstream blogosphere by A Photo Editor (here), so I felt it necessary to put forth a response as well. A silly $1k offer, is the best money the critic will never have to spend, in order to get this type of charge out of the backwater where it should have stayed.

An era has arrived when people are largely judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. Does racism remain? You bet. Whites can be racist, just as well as blacks, asians, hispanics, and so on. We will never eradicate all racism. Bush's trusted Secretarys of State? African American, alonside other races in other cabinet posts. Obama's trusted VP and cabinet officials too cross a spectrum of race, and in both administrations, race was not a factor.

PDN is neither actively nor passively racist. Further, neither are the judges.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

hey Harrington, who asked for your opinion on this ? shut up

Anonymous said...

Is this your correct thinking: because Rob Haggart blogs about a subject, you "felt it necessary to put forth a response as well" ?

John Harrington said...

And let the comments from the peanut gallery begin. Try weighing in with a thoughtful comment, and maybe, just maybe, do so without anonymity.

-- John

Anonymous said...

the 2nd comment is thoughtful but the 1st is rude

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being a voice of reason in the wasteland that is "political correctness".

Anonymous said...

Fantastic just blew PDN out of the photosphere..along with shabby Haggart and his groupies...go for it John !!!

Anonymous said...

the John the Great groupies continue to drink the cool-aide

Anonymous said...

Yo dude...way out of your league here...big time...better stick to checking on what is in the background of the Tonight Show. They moved to 10 PM so you can watch it.

Michael said...

First, it is his blog and he can comment on anything he would like to - don't read it if you don't like it.

Second, this is a real issue in today's world. Political correctness certainly has it's place in the world - and I would think that this post in conjunction with the news about Supreme Court Nom. Judge Sotomayor makes it particularly relevant.

Third, while I can understand the need to make sure that a diverse population is represented in all forms of organizations, both governmental and other, we need to scrutinize the ideas and thoughts behind this trend so that we do it in a manner that is both justifiable and fair. (More thought and investigation prior to the Iraq War could have gone a long way. More thought on this subject certainly can't hurt the cause if it reasonable and just.) Diversity, at the expense of other, more qualified applicants, can lead to unintended consequences. One example - I don't think bad photographers are fairly represented in the "diverse" panel. Does that require that they hire me, or someone with my limited talents, to be a on the panel regardless of my abilities?

Fourth, please have the courage of your convictions. At the very least, provide a first name. If Mr. Harrington is way out of his league, or the groupies are full of kool-aid, have the guts to put your name to it.

Michael Donohue, AIA

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could pull out the judges fingernails and then hang them after finding them guilty before their actions.

Anonymous said...

My god, you people must have a lot of time on your hands.

First, a pointless column about a non-issue... simply to broadcast an opinion that this non-issue is a non-issue (thus, making it more of an issue).

Then, that's followed by a bunch of people arguing about who great or how stupid the blogger talking about the non-issue being a non-issue is.

This is not photo "news", and does not in any way represent a "Photo News Network."

In the REAL news business, this would be received with little more than a snide "must have been a slow news day" comment.

As another reader wrote recently, if you don't have anything of value to say, the very least you can do is to shut up!

Ian Aleksander Adams said...

I think he's missing the original point, that the selection of the judges is statistically quite odd considering the country and city that the publication originates in, as well as the diversity of the industry at large. Considering that PDN itself wrote about this issue as early as 9 years ago, you'd expect to see more diversity over time instead of less.

It's easy to point to our president and his cabinet and say racism is over, and to entirely ignore the idea of "passive racism," which is totally different than the active and aware ideas spoken about above, but in the end you're betraying your point by addressing the issue at all - it's obviously not a non-issue. It's true that the contest is silly, but calling Stan's heartfelt, if dramatic, protests race-baiting is extremely condescending (at best.)

He's a dedicated educator and has given much to the photographic community through Expiration Notice and other projects, and has been talking about these issues for some time - at least come at it with some sense of the complexity of issues dealt with here instead of dismissing it with no real consideration.

Ian Aleksander Adams said...

Just to be reiterate, in the interests of being absolutely clear:

No one is accusing the judges themselves of being racist, passive, active, secretly, openly, or otherwise.

The issue is primarily the selection of the judging committee themselves. Since that entire point seems mostly glossed over in the post above, I felt it needed to be said again.

It is possible, yes, that judges of color were asked but could not work on the issue. However, it would be pretty simple for PDN to say something about it, so I wonder why they haven't.

Honestly, though, they're PDN so they might just not care. This entire argument seems mostly academic and probably won't impact their newsstand sales.

Rich Green said...

Unfortunately racism, bigotry and prejudice have existed for the entirety of the human existence and will continue. It's not an American invention. Regarding PDN, sometimes juries are going to be all white, or all black or all (pick something). And they're going to choose a winner that looks like them. That's life.

Rob Beckerman said...

Anonymous #1 + Anonymous # 2, (ie, the cowards)

John started this blog WAY before Haggart started his and John and I both knew who was behind "A Photo Editor" before he unmasked himself.

This is John's blog, if you don't like it, then don't read it. Pretty frickin simple.

John has an audience. He wrote a widely respected book. What have you done other than run your loose-lips and make snarky comments?

I think has gone off course at times. His ship. His career. His reputation.

At least he stands behind what he says.

I do not believe that PDN was deliberate in choosing a jury that was comprised of all-white people. I don't think it matters a whit because the judging is blind.


Sascha Rheker said...

Why didn't anybody see the obvoius discrimination:

No blind people in that jury!!! And very few blind people in the photo industry at all!

Political Correctness to me often appears not as a way to help fight racism but as a way of accusing others to present one self as righteous with minimal efforts and risks. Or even as some kind of deception. As if racism was ended by simply marking the seperated drinking fountains as "White" and "Afro-American" instead of "Black"?

It's a kind of a vicious circle that makes it easy to accuse someone of racism.

Especially if they are not racists!!!

If you are a racist then you judge people from their colur, race, nationality, religion...and so on. (What makes it easier to have an alib

If you are not, all these things are irrelevant to you.

Consequently, if you don't care if the people you choose are black, jewish, catholic, gay, female, young, old or what ever. You will not ask them. But as a result you may end up with only whites, blacks, jews or with one of them missing at all.

Brandon D. said...

@ Ian Aleksander Adams -

Thanks for reiterating the point. I'm of ethnic heritage myself (i.e., non-white), and I don't think this should be as big of a deal as people are making it. Until PDN releases its process and criteria for selecting judges, accusations are nothing more than speculation.

Many times, the people that get selected are favored because they're close, trusted friends or colleagues. And if most of those friends or colleagues happen to be of a certain race, then there's nothing you can really do about it.

As I said, I'm ethnic myself. And I also run a computer business where all of the people who work for me happen to be white. Does that automatically make me racist or racially biased towards whites? Not necessarily. The people I have chosen to work for me could just as easily have been all black, or all asian, or all hispanic, or etc. I chose my team because I think I know them pretty well, I trust them, I think they can get the job done, and because they happened to be available at the time. Race was not even a consideration at all, as I'd be willing to hire from any racial background.

If an all white panel PDN panel automatically implies racism, then what are we to conclude about basketball teams who happened to be all black? Are whites not good enough to play on basketball teams who happen to be all black?

Unfortunately, I don't think America will ever get over racism until we stop trying to force diversity and political correctness. I say, don't even consider race and just let the chips fall where they may. A truly non-racist nation is a nation where race is neither a favorable or an unfavorable consideration, not a nation where diversity is forced and faked (e.g., affirmative action).

Anonymous said...

Lynn Goldsmith won because she is friends with PDN editor in chief, Holly...not because she is good. That should be the debate here, not who's racist or not.

AdvRdr said...

Sam Stewart is 1/2 Asian.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable Crap. Waaay too much time on everyone's hands. OMG. The web, and print media are so full of horrible photographers with expensive websites and blogs who are now "new wave", "edgy", "too cool". Jesus Christ what sh*t this whole field has turned to. And, now this. Racism. Wow.
Over the top.

Egy Azziera said...

PDN has not responded to the accusations of passive racism, so it is hard to say whether it is an oversight on their part, or something more sinister. It appears more to be a symptom of the culture.

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