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Friday, 23 August 2013


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Like the soldier.

Of this third batch only the janitor and the fisherman's wife appeal to my eyes.

From all of the semifinalists there are two absolute standouts for me - and they happen to be next to each other in your third batch: the men in the basket on the crane with the summer clouds behind them; and, the two men digging the trench with the jackhammer. The textures, action and natural poses make these special for me.

Personally didn't find this batch as strong as the last two, but still great shots.

Initially it was the crane shot - there was a "Wow" factor to it. I liked the tones and the contrast of the man/machine objects against the clouds.

But then the old mill shot grabbed me. Terrific textures and that hand just screams hard work! Not sure if this would have worked in B&W (my own bias as a photographer) as I think the flesh tones stand out against the muted colours of the background. So yes this is the one for me in this batch.

The shot of the woman on the beach with the fish is not just a powerful image in itself, but also manages to capture a whole chain of labor, from the fishermen to the market. There's a whole National Geographic article in this one picture!

The other one that stands out here is the guys working on the street. The pot belly of the one, and the beefiness of the other, show that they bear down heavily when they work, and consume mightily when they don't.

On a technical - I think I like group 3 overall better: less saturation & contrast. Has me more connected with content and less distracted by style.

But a general note: it's really interesting to see the wide range of interpretations of the theme and the wide timeframe covered. I also like the descriptions - some thoughtful words that really add strength to some nice imagery.

I like the Indians and fish photo, and it has a very informative caption.

My thanks and congratulations to all the contestants! I've really enjoyed these photos. When I look at them, I see both great skill and strong purpose.

Good luck to the judges. So may fine choices, too few blue ribbons...

FWIW, my two favorites are "Painters on a Crane" and "Fisherman at Sunrise". Guess that speaks volumes about my preferred style, huh? (laughing)

Once again, thanks to everyone involved!

That honor guard reminds me of this:
Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks sketch.

While the accompanying text mentions dedication and honor, this picture shows to me that life can be more absurd than (comedy) fiction.

All 3 batches contain excellent photos. I'd award the bronze medal to the image of the scrap cutter in the Italian steel mill - you can sense the power and heat generated by the activity; the silver to the turkey man surrounded by his charges in striking black and white with leading lines directing our gaze to his face full of concentration on his task, a really fine and deceptively simple composition; and gold, in literally a close photo-finish, to the Indian fishwife in a richly coloured and carefully composed frame effectively showing several stages of the work involved in the fish food chain. The 3 medallists all held my attention for longer, clearly featured people working and struck me as especially fine photos.

And a commendation to the delightful wry humour in the caption to the Portugese market vendor showing "how his ancient merchandise is still functional by taking a nap in one of his chairs".

Excellent photos all. Do I spot a print sale opportunity opening up?

First of all my gratitude for holding this contest and making such fantastic photographs available to the rest of us who are just taking it all in. But with all due respect to the judge(judges?)... I would find it impossible to pick out one "best" photograph... or even a top three. These are all remarkable in their own right! Thanks again for hosting this.

I really like the honor guard, but the crane and the semi are also really good.

Nice to see so many good images with o many different points of view about this theme. Very well made, my congrats to everybody.

hi Mike,
You must be pleased with the variety of images you got. A lot of them are quite thought provoking, with some interesting interpretations of the brief.
My favourites in no particular order;

"So much of our commerce..." nicely abstract.
"I am not a professional photographer..." another good abstract.
"Taken in the original bankers Life Building...." great tones and patterns.
"I am French...." love the sparks and the intriguing alienish feel to it.
"Turkey Man....." Reminds me of a Peter Sellers film for some reason ;-)
"My two year old son...." Very different H&S culture compared to the UK.

I think the captions really help bring out the stories behind the images and it's refreshing not having the camera data.
best wishes

Wow, there's a batch 3?! You seemed to leave the best for last... this is the hardest to choose from.

Again, in order that they are presented:

- Hamburg crane painters. Good eye and capture
- Sao Paulo street cleaner. Probably the most truth telling photo of all the ones posted
- Fisherman's wife. Great composition

As for the best out of those three, that is very hard, each is excellent in their own right... I think I'd have to go in order of how they are listed above, with the ones below, very, very close behind the one above it

One from each batch....The Funeral Boys, Hamburg Crane and Turkey Man. Also like Vincent Manna.....J

Well, now that my Amish pic has not been chosen (for some strange reason!), I can be more objective about the others.

I like the janitor pic very much, as I'm a sucker for Paul Strand-like images (albeit square format). Strong subject and composition.

But I think you saved the best for last; the fisherwoman hits on many levels, including use of color, form and overall story by including both genders in their respective roles. Well done.

Wow, I guess batch #2 is still the strongest group. Seems like this latest batch has more "monochrome makes it artsy" and inexplicable snapshots. Really, only two images stand out for me here: the Hamburg painters and the fisherwoman, since a lovely shot of a boy diving for an off-frame hat (thanks to the description!) doesn't seem like "people working" to me.

So much marvelous work here.

So far, the cop/old lady in the second batch and the Roma diggers in this batch jump out at me as especially superb. This probably says more about me than about the work, though, and I expect opinions to be pretty widely spread out as everyone reveals their own prejudices!

In this age of a trillion pictures it's *hard* to actually sift out a really good collection of excellent work from people we don't already know. This is a really nice experiment in how one might accomplish that -- start with a small pre-selected population, a short time frame, and a limited theme, so the initial set is manageable, and then edit like a demon? It's working brilliantly.

It's a bit like a traditional gallery's process of filtering, but applicable to massive scale. I'd love to see this continue, and I'd love to see photo editors and gallerists begin to recognize this (ToP specifically, but possibly the idea could be replicated?) as a source of new artists. I think it could really work.

Thanks for this, Mike.

Another fine batch. The diver shot is striking but I'm left wanting another sentence or two of information. I lean towards the minimalist truck, the men with jack hammer, and the men in the crane.

I hate to go into DPR mode but the pic of the soldier begs for vertical straightening. Ignoring the back story, the minister pic does nothing for me.

I vote for the Hamburg crane picture and the picture of the Brazilian street cleaner. My number 1 pick is still the linemen, however. To me that picture best captures the theme, even those the men aren't actually working in the picture!

For me, the fisherman's wife is clearly the best of this group, and the wheel and hand after that.

Overall, as good as the fisherman's wife is, I think I still like the turkey man best.

You got a lot of good photos.

Some nice photos, but none compare to the best of the previous two batches IMO.

I like the scrap cutting scene in batch 1, the turkey farmer in batch 2, and the crane painters in batch 3. Each one is about work, is a view of things most of us don't see, and has good composition and texture. All three express a strong sense of place at a moment in time.

I suspect they would make splendid prints.


Love the crane and cloud shot.

Three batches and no one works in an office?

The woman with the fish - my favorite out of all three batches.

Fishers and Turkeyman - both very well done!!!

It occurs to me that the work here is potentially strong enough to consider assembling a book. Could this be a source of material for ToP Publishing GmbH?

The soldier pic is amusing, but it's one of those shots that freezes an instant of what is performed as a perfect ballet, and makes it look ridiculous. I'm not sure I like that done in conjunction with this particular subject matter.

I like the Christian Science janitor. The two hands, gripping the railing and his broom; and something about the set of his mouth I guess.

The landscape photo with half a truck in it doesn't say anything about work to me. (The caption says the artist doesn't understand the Internet, though. The tool that has raised human interaction to a whole new level, where grade-school kids routinely have friends in foreign countries, makes us alone? Pull the other one!)

The dirty hand on the shiny metal wheel is a good example of its type. This is one that I actually like a bit better in color than the traditional black and white, especially since it's a limited color palette.

The terminally ill minister is a nice example of how words can enhance a picture. Even if people guessed what was going on, it would just be a theory, whereas if we're told, it's more serious.

The Sao Paulo street shot has the problems inherent to street shots (and endemic to modern street shots) raised to a high power. We have both a passerby intruding on the left, and a motorcyclist confusing the outlines of the main subject. Just doesn't work for me.

The Easter European diggers is a great example of a different kind of text interaction. It doesn't completely change the picture, but the fact that this was something that fascinated the photographer's two-year-old son brings another viewpoint to the table. And it's a good picture on its own.

The woman transferring fish is interesting because I wouldn't have thought of it as a "work" photo if it hadn't been presented in that context, yet it clearly is. It feels like it comes from another tradition, somehow. Also it feels like it's terribly unfortunate that the fish are cropped at the bottom left.

The basket of painters floating in the clouds is great!

The diver picture is nice, but the fact that he's diving for money (from the text) doesn't seem to enter the photo for me.

old mill shot (hand on steel wheel)

There's at least one in each batch that I really like (funeral home guys, turkey man & road workers) - can't understand why my photo of a vet up to her elbows in a dog's chest didn't make it through though ;-)

Some I'm a little baffled by as they either didn't show any people or didn't show people actually working and as the theme was "people working" I'd have thought that having those two elements in the picture would be essential - but what do I know!

Oh, Mike - is there any chance that you'd consider posting some of your favourites? It'd be interesting to see the selection of two different judges.

Anyway - congratulation to all the semifinalists, in the words of young Mr Grace "You've all done very well!".

The black and white photo of the two guys jackhammering the street in Prague is a powerful picture. It reminds me of some of Salgado's pictures in Workers. The two figures working the stone of the streets look as though hammered out of stone themselves, in the manner of heroic Soviet worker sculpture. The curves of the curb, the pneumatic air hose, and the bodies of the figures are all talking to each other. The guy on the left seems a little superfluous—I think that if he were cropped out it would be an even stronger picture, but I dig it just the way it is.

My top 3 are, in order of preference:

1. People-working-BT-7 (woman and fishermen on beach, Orissa)
2. Wheel & Hand TOP (hand on polished adjustment wheel)
3. 116_1698_APlast (cutting scrap in Italian steel mill)

It's interesting to think about what are the common elements that make these very different pictures resonate for me. Strong, dynamic compositions for sure. Color that adds energy, but isn't oversaturated. Each picture brings me into the world of the subject (even if only briefly and superficially), and invites me to think about another person's life experience.

Well done, all around! The TOP community got some MAD skills! Thanks, Mike, for the contest -- great fun!

My favorites are the funeral parlor men, the turkey man and Vincent Manna rehearsing. I think I like Vincent Manna the most, and would probably like it even more in b&w.

On another note, the signs in the funeral parlor parking lot make me think that a `signs' contest might be interesting.

All in all a very fine selection. I don't like some (maybe too strong), personal taste, but overall, all 3 batches are great. Tough, judging! I have not pointed to any favorites for the simple reason that there are too many.

Painters on a crane is my favorite of the third batch. Seemingly boring subject gets transformed into a stunning image in the hands of the photographer. The enormity of the crane and the cloud is staggering.


Out of the three batches, my favorites are:
* Turkey Man
* Funeral Home
* Painters on a Crane

I would love to see these three pictures printed, framed, and displayed side-by-side on a wall together, perhaps Turkey Man in the middle.

Besides the three, I also liked
* Vincent Manna
* Janitor at Christian Science Building

The judges have chosen a variety of styles and genres based on a shared theme, which made this competition particularly enjoyable.

Many thanks to the contestants for putting themselves out there. Many thanks to the sponsor and the judge for holding this competition.

Now, I wish if I could see other submissions to this contest.

Well, it's still a B&W image that calls me from this final set: the two workmen in the Czech Republic. Simple, evocative. The pot belly of the man on the left; the seemingly absurdly small head on the muscular bulk of the man on the right. The janitor from 1968 comes second.

The fisherwoman? Super in almost every detail. But it niggles me that the end of the net is lost from the frame. Still, I'd be delighted to have taken one half as good.

This last batch I like a little less. (Again two photos where I can not immediately see the theme.) The fishing lady in Orissa, India is my favorite. Love the colors!

The dirty hand on the adjusting wheel perfectly embodies "work", no distracting background, just the hand and the work.

After further review, I would bump the Fisherman's Wife to the second spot, very, very, closely behind the Hamburg Crane Painters, here in the third batch... and only because, the Crane Painters appears to be more of a quick to see, and try and capture shot before it was gone and missed... whilst the Fisherman's Wife, possibly the few extra moments as she transferred the fish to the bowl, to set up the wonderful composition that the Photographer attained in the image. So, just those extra little points given to the Hamburg Photographer, to make him/her just barely edge the Fisherman's Wife Photographer.

And, shamefully, not like it matters, the post-contest fact of learning that any old photo could have been submitted and used in this contest, I thought if any previously taken photos of mine I could have submitted... and in the end, concluded that it wouldn't have mattered if I had known anyway that it was not an "impromptu" assignment of - here's the theme, go out and try to photograph it this saturday, kind of contest, but old work could have ben used... as I, myself, wouldn't even have voted any of what I would of had to possibly submit, into the final round.

So, congratulations to those who made it this far, and to those who should make it into the final round - good job and work!

My favorites:
--old mill
They all speak to me clearly of work.

Congratulations to all semifinalists...

While I've seen all pictures and read all comments, two photos stand out from all three batches.

For me it is:
1. Turkey Man (bravo!)
2. Crane On The Clouds (awesome!)

Welder's hand is the strongest image [for me].

Congrats to all the semi finalists and there are some great shots here. I have a few favourites but am also a little disappointed that so few women are portrayed. What I would really like is to see the pictures that the Judge picked but Mike disqualified because they did not have captions. Maybe they didn't need captions? It would be great to see them. I am very curious about these as I think some photographs do not need a description.

[Hi Ann, It was just that 25-100 written words about the picture was part of the contest requirements. They were only disqualified for not conforming to the requirements, not because they took the wrong kind of picture. --Mike]

"I am French and the photo I joined here has been taken in 2003. That is a scrap cutting operation in a steel mill in Italy (I am working in the steel mill industry)."

"On a recent tour of the harbor in Hamburg I saw these guys on their way to touch up the paint on a crane. It was a day with a great combination of warm weather and majestic clouds."

"My two-year-old son was fascinated by these good gentlemen—and their colleague and especially their digger—and watched them for hours, daily, until they stopped for the evening (as late as 9:30 p.m.). The guys replaced a water main. They don't use safety equipment; I don't know why, but it seems so be a European phenomenon. I think they were from Usti nad Labem, a town from the north of the Czech Republic and one with high unemployment and a high Roma (gypsy) population. I took this photo in Prague from a 5th floor balcony. It took six days for a crew of 15 to dig a trench, replace the pipe and re-seal the road."

In this batch,

1) Crane Painters
2) Woman with fish

Turkey farmer is still #1 for me over all.

My vote is for the Indian fishers. Great composition and colors. And the story is important... a few people with a boat and nets can bring some fish to market without the waste of industrial level operations.
This is a photograph I would be very happy taking.

Number three from this batch works for me.

Turkeyman and funeral parlour are my two picks -- and the award goes to funeral parlour . The subject, framing and lighting are good.

My personal six finalists (in order of appearance):

Walk this way
Turkey man
Vincent Manna
Trench diggers

Thanks for letting us all take part in this Mike.

I also highly respect the choices made by your mystery judge. Interestingly the audience seems to find a great picture in each of the sets with not a lot in agreement.
I do not think I would be able to make a selection which appeals to such a broad set of tastes.

So many good photos in this group. I really like the shot of the men with the jackhammer. The curve of the cobble stones is mirrored by the curves of the hose, the operator's back and the supervisor's stomach.

The hand on the control wheel of the old mill is a great composition and has wonderful tonality.

I also like the guys being lifted by the crane with the wonderful clouds and the strong diagonal of the crane along with the arm of the man pointing.

And the woman with the fish and the fishermen in the background tell a story of hard work and cooperation.

Virtually all the semifinalists from all 3 batches are wonderful pictures in terms of composition, feeling, voice and technique (with the exception of two with ghastly colour manipulations), but the ones that really speak to me are those that make me really feel work being done: the police officers in 'Walk this way' and 'Guarding baseball field'; 'Turkey man'; 'Actor pacing'; and especially 'Sao Paulo street cleaner'!


Some quite nice photos in all the sets, so congratulations to everyone.

Since it is a contest, I'm only going to state the photo that stood out the most for me, and that was the two trench diggers in Prague. That is the one that would get my vote.

Having said that, there is one other photo that I like more, as a photograph, but for me, personally, the connection to work wasn't obvious (& still not so much so even after reading the caption), and since Mike stressed that point several times, I kinda self disqualified it (but I should also note, this is my own 'can't quiet make my head make the conection' problem that I bring to the table, not anyone else's).

Okay, so much for the very short comment - I should also add, there is a third photo that I really like conceptually, that I think is much stronger in terms of 'idea' than the rest, but I don't really like the photo so much itself.

"Boy Diving For Money..."

I don't think this image exemplifies the theme of the contest and as such would not recommend it as a 'winner', but simply as a colour photograph I'm convinced it's magnificent.

The action is captured perfectly, the design of the image is both complex and very clean. Everything is aligned perfectly, from the diver's feet to the position of the left arm. The lighting on the diver is dramatic but suits the situation, while that on the various overlapping building segments is perfect. The colour palette is fairly wide, but doesn't confuse the strength of the image. I mean really, could you have picked better swim trunks? I don't think so.

It's the kind of image I might expect to see at a celebration of colour photography at MOMA, the kind of image, you'd glance at and nod, yes, I can see why they included it, then come back later and stare at it for a while - simply enjoying it.

I really like that it manages to be so strong, without having to flog the usual well worn subjects of poverty, dirt, age or foreign culture.

I will be interested to see if the photographer has other images this strong. If he doesn't, he or she will.


My favorites:
Batch 3:
Men Painting a Crane
Men with Jackhammer
Batch 2:
Turkey Man

Thank you for this most impressive contest.

I have really enjoyed the semi-finalist pictures you've presented and am happy that I don't have to judge them or even pick favorites from each batch.

When I saw the contest, I figured that photojournalists (who take pictures of such subjects professionally) would dominate the selections. From the captions at least some of them were by photojournalists, but I'm guessing that most were not.

When I saw the contest, I drew a blank on what I might submit. After seeing the entries I thought of a subject that's completely different from the photos shown here that would have pleased me but not have fared well against such fine work.

I appreciate the people who submitted photographs, our humble editor and the mystery judge who selected the semifinalists, and Mike again for demonstrating the power of captions.

The image of the Czech trench diggers reminds me of some of August Sander's work.

There are some fabulous images in the semi finals, well done everybody. Personally I love the turkey farmer (or whatever they are).

I have had a really good look at all of them now, and I am pretty impressed with the imagination and quality of a lot of the shots, even if many are a bit too "classical Nat Geo" for my tastes and some are a bit liberal with the interpretation.

But I loved Turkey Man and Vincent Manna rehearsing (last 2 in part 2). The first has a bit of everything and is perfectly framed, and the second has great atmosphere and narrative.

A lot of the others would run these two close if the framing had been a little more disciplined, but these are both top notch IMO. Which of course is highly subjective ;-)

[Hi Ann, It was just that 25-100 written words about the picture was part of the contest requirements. They were only disqualified for not conforming to the requirements, not because they took the wrong kind of picture. --Mike]

In your original post about the contest you said 25-125 words. Did you change the contest criteria midstream? Or was the above just a typo?

[Hi Randall, It was a "brain-O." Those seem to be increasing as of late. Writeups on the short side were the problem, not the long side. --Mike]

The old mill is my favourite here. Just as you would see it in an old metalwork shop; used, with worn paintwork but looked after.

Interesting set; there were many more semifinalists than I expected and the variation was quite large.

I like the guys going to paint the crane, the scale of things makes the picture interesting for me.

The diver is an interesting picture in its own right, but the connection to the topic is left a bit weak even after reading the text.

In the picture of the construction workers digging, I particularly like their poses and their body language (note that I would not see a scene like this in my part of Europe).

I found it interesting that the woman with the fish got so much praise; to me, the presentation is too cliched, nothing suprising, prototypical of non-western location with locals doing traditional work. Perhaps the visual imagery of today is too saturated with this type of photography?

Third batch, transportation network (the truck barely visible against a tilled land lining a vast hillside) is uniquely understated, and it grows on me. Thoughtful. Someone said that some photos produce "cognitive conflict", which are rarely liked by many people but their impact depends on the state of mind; this one fits the bill for me.

I'm just enjoying all the pictures in this competition. I suppose as in all things, there are people who take themselves very seriously, and those who don't take themselves seriously enough, as photographers.
Competitions are fun, and for me this great Topic just shows what it's like to be human.
Well done, Mike!

The shot ofthe teenager diving gets my vote just because its taken in my home city of Wellington. Nothing if not parochial :-).

I spent quite a bit of enjoyable time looking at all these semifinalists. There were only two that really did nothing for me. I enjoyed and felt I could learn things from every single other photo, though. Now, I'm energized to get out and shoot more, myself.

My favorites are:
Turkey Man (along with so many others and for similar reasons)
Three-year old painter (love the concentration on her face)
The welder (The colors drew me in, but then I kept looking to see more in the shot.)
Vincent Manna (location, action, situation, colors, textures, on and on)
Crane in the clouds (wow!)
Hand in the old mill (wonderful muted tones)

And also, Teenage diver (Although I have trouble with this fitting the theme, I love the picture.)

I can't narrow it down any more than that.

Thank you, Mike and all the photographers, for this wonderful showing of photographs. I can't wait to learn their names. I also would vote for doing something like this more often.

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