I got my Audubon magazine, which features this issue the photo contest winners. The aesthetic is gaudy and virtuosic. After all, to win a contest an ordinary photo of an ordinary bird will not do. A high speed exposure that captures an unusual movement, or some other unusual or stunning view. It is not my aesthetic at all, but I am thinking that you couldn't have a contest without rewarding pictures of extraordinary technical proficiency that are also striking to the eye. This is the only aesthetic that any contest of this type could possibly have.
Compare to the aesthetics of JJ Audubon himself. I think there's been a resurgence of interest in the craft of representation in illustration before photography (like Lear's serious book of parrots), but it's definitely distinct from what was considered art-art at the time.
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