A highlight for Aviation Week staff who work on this annual Photo Contest issue is the judging, a day when people with varying backgrounds in aviation and photography convene to perform the difficult task of deciding which are the year’s best aerospace and aviation photos.

Although the panel has evolved over the years, it has also been remarkably consistent. The judges discuss and debate the merits of hundreds of photos, but always in an atmosphere of respect and collegiality.

And none was more respected than Roberta “Bobbi” Baker Burrows, who served as a judge of the Aviation Week Photo Contest from its inception in 1992 until 2014. Burrows was the self-taught photography editor of Life magazine and its book series. She died on Jan. 10 at 73 of corticobasical degeneration, a rare brain disease.

“As director of photography for Life magazine’s storied book series, Bobbi Baker Burrows was a joy to work with because her enthusiasm and love for photojournalism was infectious,” says former Aviation Week & Space Technology Editor-in-Chief Anthony L. Velocci, Jr. “Aviation Week was privileged to count her among its judges for the annual photo issue.”

Burrows joined Life in 1966 as an assistant photography editor. She regaled fellow judges with stories of partying with astronauts during the space race of the 1960s, sometimes on the eve of a launch. “She was full of stories about the many famous people with whom she had engaged, thanks to her unique position at Life, but she would only share them if someone expressed a genuine interest,” Velocci recalls.

After Life ceased weekly publication, she became director of photography for its book series and selected some of the most iconic images of newsmakers and events. Her insights about Aviation Week Photo Contest entries were always important as the judges made their selections.

“She always found the good in a photo,” says Robert P. McAuley, who recruited Burrows as a judge when he was art director of Aviation Week & Space Technology. She often held back on voting, relishing the chance to be the tiebreaker. “She had a lot of clout. You’d never know it. She was such a down-to-earth person.”

He recalled her leading the other judges out to get hot dogs from her favorite street vendor.

“She had a very discerning eye for a photograph, as you would expect,” says Velocci. “But she wouldn’t get hung up on minute technical merits of a photograph. In judging shots for Aviation Week, she also took into account the mood and feeling that a photo conveyed, and I liked that about her.” c