2010 Awards: Top Honors to Brandon Robert Smith

Overview by Kimberly Parker, 2010 Judge and Director of the O. Winston Museum

A contest judging photographs: how hard can that be, right? We all see and interact with images every day. Media, video, our hobbies or professions give us imagery every second. We seek out images we like, we turn away from imagery that challenges us or creates conflict in us (usually). But like a teacher grading based on subjective quality, judging a large group of photographs can be so difficult. We wonder where each person was when they took the photograph. Sometimes the physical location is known, and sometimes the emotional location is also obvious. We wonder what the photographer was thinking, what they were feeling. Did he or she know this was the image of a lifetime or was it a snap that turned out really well? What were the outtakes like? But the act of experiencing these images and selecting the top ones allowed me to see into some very creative and striking minds and the journey to these places broadened my horizon.

My judging process was based on an emotional response to the image. I sought images that were different from the ordinary, matching the theme of the contest: Beyond the Locomotive. Images that drew me in with design elements or subject matter intrigued my brain and allowed me to play throughout the scene. Those that combined the human element with the industrial setting called out and yet some of the strongest are those where we feel the peace and tranquility of a tree falling in the forest. Does the train make a sound if no one is there to hear it pass? I found my interests drawn to the photos that had more to the story. I wanted to know why and what and how and who.

There are some amazing photographers out there, capturing their part of railroad history and pushing their own vision. Combined, we form a document of this time and place. Let it last through the lens.