"I especially liked your objections to photo contests on epistemological grounds. How about objections to photo contests on moral grounds?"
I should say that I also object to artistic competition on pragmatic grounds. That is to say, if it were possible to "know which was best," which would involve some jury or person with the ability to quantify the value of art, and if this art entity was able to pronounce absolute judgement - what would the results of such a competition be?
Suppose that one of the contestants was a young artist, just starting out, and the all-knowing art judging God relegated the young artist to 100th place. What might the young artist do in response to this overwhelming verdict. Some might give up completely. Some might strive to figure out what the rules were that enabled the winner to win. And a few might just continue on the way they were going.
But those who would continue on the way they had been going would have done so without the contest, and those that would alter to try to "win" would have been harmed by the contest.
Now, as for the winner? What reaction would one have to such an oracle?
Again, there are only three possible paths. And the true artist would continue, unpeturbed by the glory. Others might try to repeat themselves.
According to this logic, the best result that could be had would be to give the prize to those who could benefit most by the award - and this would take a psychological exam as well as an artistic appraisal. In short, you would need to find someone who's confidence needed boosting, but who would also not be influenced by the art entity. Tough work indeed.
I write this, sure that it won't be long before there is a television show called: America's Greatest Artist. There will be live painting; audience participation; and a great deal of money for the winner. The jury will be made up of beautiful or at least entertaining artists, and the winner will have an exhibit at a major museum.