Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2023: Judges Round Table with Amateur Photographer Magazine

Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2023: Judges Round Table with Amateur Photographer Magazine

27th September 2023

Before the ceremony began on Thursday evening, British photography magazine, Amateur Photographer paid us a visit to host a roundtable discussion with this year’s judges Rankin, Mae Muller and Eric Johnson.

Led by AP Editor Nigel Atherton, the trio discussed everything from what gives an image that "wow" factor to what they were looking for as judges in this year’s entries. You can watch the full 40-minute discussion as well as key discussion points below.


Abbey Road Studios Music Photography Awards 2023: Judges Round Table - Full Interview


Round Table Discussion Points

Rankin began by speaking highly on the submission for this year's award: "The standard really improved. There were a few re-entries, but there was a lot of new work which was broader, there was more diversity within the categories as well."


What makes a picture stand out?

Mae: "I feel like what Rankin was saying how it makes me feel. I’m not a photographer so I don’t have that technical knowledge.

I love to see an emotion when a photographer captures a moment. The in-between moment, something that you don’t usually get to see. I like those in-between moments. Say as an artist when someone is photographing me that’s what I like.

There are a million pictures of me posing, but if there’s a picture of me that I didn’t even know was taken, that’s what I look for in a photo, especially of other artists."

Rankin: "For me, it’s always a gut thing, it’s an emotional reaction, initially. I’m then looking for something that makes me think something or leaves a trace or a memory and there were a couple of pictures that did that.

One of them is Chris Allmeid’s shot of Lil Uzi Vert. And there was also a Jay-Z / Kanye image by Clay Patrick McBride which I felt like I had seen before, there was something about that picture. Those two pictures were the ones I walked away and couldn’t forget and then probably in 10 years I’ll remember them."


Was is a common mistake for anyone entering this competition?

Eric: "I think anyone who's not true to it on that level is doing themselves a disservice. The whole idea of trying to necessarily create something, especially so referenced is not good. I feel like the biggest thing is not to follow a vibe, some people want me to recreate photos I’ve taken. That was Biggie, it was that time, that’s why it would happen. The biggest mistake is not to follow a vibe."

Rankin: "So often as a photographer you get asked to reference yourself, or even worse, reference other people. And it’s the worst commission you can get. The way I try to deal with it is by sidestepping them.

I would say trying to copy someone else for an award is a big no-no."


How do you create a style starting out?

Eric: "Maybe if I was a kid, I would say to really take advantage of your surroundings and friends. 'Cos potentially your friends are gonna give you something they would give no other photographer. So maybe if you start with that, that could be your hustle into the industry."

Rankin: "Taking photographs and working with people you already have a relationship with is important.

I would also say just studying photographers, photography has been around for a couple of hundred years now and it’s got a really great history.

I’m always surprised when kids don’t have that knowledge because you really need to understand how it’s worked for other people."


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