Number one rule of being a judge in a reality TV show (or any judge, for that matter): Do NOT, no matter what, let your emotions cloud your judgment.
I broke it.
Point in case, the eviction of Ivan. It turned out to be an emotional beating I wasn't prepared for.
The contestants were challenged with shooting a children's clothing campaign. On presentation of the campaigns, it was clear that Dean's team (himself, Piper, and Ivan) had the worst images. Their photographs were more children's nightmare than child's clothing campaign, Ivan's shot (featuring a headless child!) being the most macabre.
This, followed by his episode-one disaster (a "boob shot" of Marissa Miller, again headless,) was a strong enough case to eliminate Ivan.
Now, what you don't know is that the producers tell us nothing of the contestant's background before the show, so as not to affect our professional opinion. Until this time....
The contestants reenter the (baking hot) elimination room, we prepare to evict, when Russell decides to share his knowledge/burden about Ivan.
"He's a Serbian refugee ... he taught himself English so he could become a fashion photographer ... if he leaves the show he will be deported back to Croatia, to ... (pause) ... live in a trailer."
What? No. NO!
Now, what you don't see is that with cameras still rolling, Italo and I frantically scribble notes between each other.
"We can't do this!"
We ask to cut filming and send the anxious contestants back out of the elimination room. Executive Producer (and reality-TV guru — responsible for America's Next Top Model) Ken Mok comes in from the gallery to see what the drama is. Whilst precious production dollars go down the drain, and the contestants anxiously wait outside, we debate.
I try to convince the others (and myself) that Ivan is not a terrible photographer. He has talent! It's a futile effort, and clear to all that it's out of pity. Judgment muddles with professional opinion.
He's not a fashion photographer and he has to leave the competition.
The contestants reenter.
We evict Ivan.
Through Russell's earpiece I hear close up on Zanna, as the tears roll ... so do the cameras.
The studio is dead. No "woohoo-ing" — that's a wrap tonight. Italo zooms out, the cast sheds tears, (they obviously know his tale), and even the burly cameraman has a lip tremble.
Russell and I go to a bar and glug wine. Pointless. There's no lifting us. I lie in bed concocting a (chardonnay-fueled) plan to get another contestant disqualified and bring Ivan back. Silly. But it made me feel vaguely better.
In retrospect, it was the right decision. Fashion photography is a highly competitive business (there are more photographers in NYC than cab drivers), and he isn't up to the task ... yet, still, I'm no Simon Cowell, and shattering dreams does not come without a guilty pain.
Ivan, I'm sorry. But you will make a great still-life photographer. And believe me, there are far less egos in that world to contend with!