Finally, there it is: Masters of Photography on Sky. A challenge performed as a series. After much more than a decade of ever repeating singing challenges and cooking shows, finaly somebody took care of what really everybody with a mobile phone nowaday does every day: making pictures.

Episode 1 to 8 are available on Sky Go and I believe they are searching for contestants for season 2. Season 1was produced in winter 2015 and is vailable on Sky since late summer 2016. I only watch it now because I just started to have Sky.

I was really thrilled to see this challenge. And I enjoy watching the 45 min long episodes, although I believe the execution of the concept misses some critical points. Let me explain.

The concept of Masters of Photography

12 photographers have been chosen to compete over a series of I believe six or eight challenges. They are partly professionals, partly amateurs. One of them is eliminated each week, each episode.

The price: a generous 150.000 Euros plus

The series is sponsored by Leica and the contestants have to use Leica equipment.

The photographers

The photographers in season 1 are:

The jury

The show is being presented by Isabella Rossini, remaining very much in the background. Professional photographers are builing up the jury according to the sky website:

  • Caroline Hunter (editor)
  • Darcy Padilla
  • Oliviero Toscani (advertising)

But in fact there are other jury members appearing in the show:

  • Simon Frederick (who should better work on his website, Flash Player technique, rather than critizising others in the harsh and uninspiring way he does)
  • Rut Blees Luxemburg (german photographer, despite having studied in UK and living in London still has a very strong accent), and
  • Olivieri Toscani, a fashion and advertising photographer.
  • Plus one changing guest jury member, prominent photographers like Alex Webb in Episode 1 (Rome)

I am currently watching the second episode (Berlin by night) and I am getting annoyed again. The jury is, in my opinion, so arrogant. So unmotivating as a teacher. Rude, harsh, no emotional intelligence. Really bad. Really hard to see their critique. Because it´s not an educating critique in a sense like „you should have gone closer to the subject“ or „I am missing leading lines“ or „too much contrast / not enough contrast“ but rather „This is bad. This is why you are sitting here (as contestant) and me being the jury“. Really. Watch it. Around minute 26 in episode 2, the critique by the guest jury photographer Bruce Gilden. So arrogant, unbelievable.

Season 1, taken in winter 2015 to spring 2016

Episode 1: Rome

The challenge: around 8 am in the morning, the photographers have six hours to shoot „The beauty of Rome. Rome and arts, then and now“. They were brought to a certain point in central Rome and had to stay within a marked area. After the six hours, they had some time to evaluate and post process their photos and present one single photo to the jury.

Although it was a sunny day, probably no cloud at all, I liked many of the photos most of the contestants created. Not optimal light and just six hours. Take that into account. The result was, in my opinion, very good, with some excellent results.

Quote from Episode 2: „Despite the help of Alex Webb, most failed to impress the judges. With a few exceptions.“ Very harsh. I believe that given the short time, suboptimal light (no blue or golden hour) and the unprecise

In episode 1, Simon Frederick said smoething like „You contestants seem to want to impress myself, the jury. Don´t do that. Follow your assignment.“. Man, do you think you are so super brilliant superior god like that the photographers tried to read your preferences and impress you? No, really, you are just way too self-confident.

Episode 2: Berlin (by night)

Contestants were brought to Warschauer Strasse S-Bahn at 10pm on a Monday evening and had again six hours to get some shots on Berlin by night. The mentor in this episode is Bruce Gilden. But hey, what has Bruce Gilden to do with Berlin? Never heard of him, never saw any great Berlin photos from Bruce Gilden. They should have chosen Oliver Rath, who was still very much alive when the series was recorded. What a pity.

So again a very challenging assignment. This time the photographers were to show three pictures as a story. The results are, in some parts, still very impressive.

One more piece where I say to myself: „What???“ Before the verdict of the jury, there is a communication from the production. German photographer Sebastian mistakenly took his own memory card. The jury will decide on this breach of rules. Whooooh, how bad. How comes that? Hey guys, really, this is not something that gives Sebastian any kind of a milimeter of advantage. Give them large enough cards of 128 GB so they can shoot raw for six hours. Don´t make drama because of production or equipment. Wow.

Would he be terminated from the contest? The decision was announced in episode 3 – and had to realize that the production kicked him out. Wow. What a decision. What is the objective of the season, of Masters of Photography? Creating artificial drama by blowing things up? Or educating and showing the beauty of photography? Bad decision of the producers, in my opinion.

My personal summary

My summary: A great format that is hurt badly by the jury. I am watching it for the sake of the results of the contestants, and the challenges aka assignments. I wished they had put out at least one of the jury members, preferably all of them, under the same challenge to show what they could produce in six hours. I bet you would not see (much) better photos.

Also very sadly, the contestants have not been presented on the website of Sky. At least I could not find it. Instead, I had to find it here:

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