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Category Archives: Fauxtography

Must include an actual animal: AIPP’s APPA (Second of 2 parts)

Lisa Saad – The 2016 AIPP Australian Professional Photographer of the Year

lisasaad_collage

Lisa Saad’s stunning images are the heart of a controversy about ‘real’ photography recently addressed by Rocco Ancora and Peter Eastway.[1]

APPA category rules as a reflection of real world professional photography

In discussing the role of illustration and reality in the Australian Professional Photographers Awards, current APPA Chairman Rocco Ancora emphasised to past APPA Chairman Peter Eastway that the requirements for photograph entries to be ‘real’ or illustrative varied between the categories, and that the categories were meant to reflect different types of professional photography common in the real world. 

Based on this assertion, the types and the rules associated with the 18 APPA awards might be considered to provide a multi-faceted looking glass, reflecting the state of professional photography today.  To that end I analysed all 18 categories against the various elements of manipulation allowed or not allowed in the categories. 

19 measures in the rules that can be said to impact upon the nature of images

I was quite surprised to find so many different measures that came into play across the categories; my list of 19 measures is as follows:

  • explanatory caption required/not required
  • single capture required/not required
  • combining elements from different image captures allowed/not allowed
  • explicit statement “It has to be real!”
  • proof files may be requested/ will not be requested
  • 100% photographic in origin required/not required
  • non-photographic elements allowed/not allowed
  • staging allowed/not allowed
  • adjustments allowed/not allowed
  • dodging/burning allowed/not allowed
  • cropping allowed/not allowed
  • retouching allowed/not allowed
  • cloning allowed/not allowed
  • erasing allowed/not allowed
  • textures/texture layers allowed/not allowed
  • borders allowed/not allowed
  • backgrounds allowed/not allowed
  • converting to b&w allowed/not allowed
  • 3D allowed/not allowed

I gave these measures different scores depending on how much I felt that they impacted on the illustrative vs representative nature of the final image.

APPA category profile on the reality / art continnuum

These 19 possible measures for 18 different categories required 342 separate assessments, and I was left with a lot of data (Excel file provided below) and some question as to how to see into it.  At length it occurred to me that, much like wines have flavour profiles, each category had its own representation/art profile.  I settled on presenting the category profiles in a similar fashion, with measures and intents substituting for flavours and aromas.

In the graphs presented in the gallery below, each of the 19 representative vs illustrative measures have been converted so that they express the illustrative freedom allowed in each of the 18 categories.  This means that a category with a reality/art profile covering a small area and closely adhering to the center of the graph is one where the role of representational photography is more greatly valued.  By contrast, where the area of a profile is large and approaches the outer edges of the graph, the illustrative values of photographs in this category are more highly prized.

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Reality / Illustrative ‘profile’ of each category of the APPAs

As you can see there are some reality/art profiles that are common to more than one category.  The profiles for Advertising, Commercial, Album and Photography Book are identical, and Landscape varies from them in only one aspect (must be 100% photographic in origin rather than simply substantially photographic in origin). Another profile is repeated across the Newborn, Family and Pet/Animal categories.  Portrait and Illustrative share the same profile. The remaining 8 categories have unique profiles, usually stricter. [4]

category_freedom

How free are photographers to ‘play’ with photos in the 2016 AIPP APPA categories?

The chart above shows the different levels of freedom to ‘tinker’ with original images based on their total score in my assessment data.  It makes it clear that post-processing is a highly desirable addition in most of the categories.  At the same time, there is a smaller subset in which post-processing is unwelcome. 

Explicit permissions that I find particularly notable are that ‘head swaps’ are permitted for the newborns and family categories. Also, the rules for the Landscape category state that “Photographs must depict the natural or human/urban environment, but may be interpretative (in other words, they need not be literal images of a scene) [2]. This means that APPA winners could be photos of a newborn with swapped heads, or landscape photos of places that don’t exist. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry that it seemed necessary to comment in the Pet/Animal category rules that the photograph “must include an actual animal.”[3]

However, to be honest, I’m rather proud that Australia’s Professional Photography Awards are tackling this problem, even if it isn’t obvious, and even if there is a need for more rigour in the methodology. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s have a look at the way the current and previous APPA Chairpersons and organisers have corralled different types of professional photography.

aipp_appa_category_types_current_assessment_sabrina-caldwell

Current state of ‘photojournalism’ vs ‘open’ nature of APPA categories

In a landscape such as this, the overall winner for the year will more often than not come from the pool of highly post-processed images just by dint of proportions: there are almost double the number of illustrative categories. Lisa Saad’s win is consistent with this strategy.

Despite this emphasis on interpretative/illustrative photography, the categories as they currently stand demonstrate a lot of sincere and experienced thinking across the realm of professional photographic process.

Yet, one thing really struck me as I looked at the rules: the two sub-categories for Wedding. I think this is an important variation of perspective in the APPAs.  For the Wedding category, though there can be only one overall category winner, AIPP has made a distinction between representative and illustrative Wedding professional photography. For me, this is a hint as to a sensible way to distinguish between representative photography and photo art. 

Representative photography can co-exist in harmony with illustrative photographic art

There are categories which will almost always be illustrative photographic art (advertising and commercial), and ones which will almost always be representative photographs (documentary and science), but there are many categories in which both approaches are valid for different purposes.  Perhaps a good way to conceptualise the solution to the controversy around photography as science (representation of the real world) vs art (evocative of the emotion and ideals of a moment in time), is to look at the awards as a set of categories aligned with photoart, photojournalism or both.  Something like this perhaps:

aipp_appa_category_types_proposed_assessment_sabrina-caldwell

What about making room for both types of photography in more categories?

In addition to being more balanced and providing new opportunities and greater clarity for participants and the general public as to the nature of competition submissions and winners, it rationalises the no-doubt difficult to maintain sets of disparate rules.  In this methodology, illustrative categories could be all assigned to the one ‘open’ profile, and representational categories could all be assigned to one ‘photojournalistic’  category, with both types available to the categories where both types make sense.  The representative / illustrative profiles could thus be rationalised to only a few, which would remove confusion and doubt.  Any remaining exceptions that truly represented a distinct difference could then be included.

What do you think?

Now, you may have a different point of view on the reality/art aspects I defined based on the various APPA category rules provided, or perhaps you feel that the measures I assigned are too fine-grained or not fine-grained enough.  Or you may disagree with my assessments.  Or you may feel the categories are just fine as they are, thank you. Or you may be one of the people who wonders how we retain our sense of photography as representative of the real world, when post-processing is seriously softening the idea of reality in photography.  However you feel, your opinion is valid and valued.  Please let me know what you think, because this is very much an open question and the more we can discuss it, the closer we can come to thoroughly describing the landscape of photo credibility within the larger framework of photography as a versatile science and artform that serves many purposes in society.

Thank you Anthony Brown for bringing the Rocco Ancora / Peter Eastway interview to my attention.  It has been an enlightening journey to consider their words and the rules of the categories and how all this rich information sits within the framework of my research.  Much obliged.

Assessment data (comments welcome) appa_2016_category_illustrative_freedom_assessments_sabrina_caldwell

References
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[1] These images are thumbnail illustrations of Lisa Saad’s much larger images available at the APPA website located at  http://www.aippappa.com. They are used in keeping with ‘fair use’ provisions of copyright for research. Request for permission to use larger versions of the images is pending.
[2] http://www.aippappa.com/appa-2016/landscape-2016 Accessed 23/12/2016
[3] http://www.aippappa.com/appa-2016/pet-animal-2016 Accessed 23/12/2016
[4] http://www.aippappa.com/appa-2016/science-wildlife-wild-places-2016 Accessed 23/12/2016.  Note that the Science sub category requirements, particularly the astrophotography sub-clause are not represented at present in the worksheet or graphs pending working out the complicated nuances of these rules.
 

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2016 Photo Competitions: Reality rules!

Here we are a year later. 2016 has arrived on our doorstep, and the photo competitions of last year have in the main been renewed.

Less_image_editing_quoteHappily, it seems competitions are placing even more value on real photographs. Most of the pre-eminent photography competitions have been firmly grappling with the issue of photo manipulation, with World Press a particularly notable advocate this year of reality in photography.

Overall, in 2016 we can expect less image editing by major photographic competition entrants, and more transparency in that editing when it does happen. Contextual elements too have been targeted, with misleading captions, copyright infringement and false representations of staged photos as naturally occurring all under more scrutiny.  Some of these changes took place mid-year, and not all photo competitions (Canon, National Geographic) have yet to publicly confirm 2016 competitions and their rules. I will update this post as news comes to hand.

First and foremost, hats off to World Press.

World Press Photography Competition 

Estimated schedule: assume entries for 2016 due in December as they were in 2015
WPCodeofEthics

Fig 1 World Press Code of Ethics

After the debacle of having to disqualify a crafty winner in their 2015 photo competition (World Press Photo Award Withdrawn), I was interested to see if World Press was going to make any changes to its competition terms and conditions for this year. I am very pleased indeed to see that they have taken this issue seriously. World Press conducted a global consultation within the press community not just to adjust rules relating to manipulation, but to create a Photo Contest  Code of Ethics (Fig. 1).

Specifically, they noted in their consultation brief that:

“This review process is paying particular attention to the question of manipulation, and includes the drafting of a code of ethics for the contest, as well as clear guidelines and visual examples to inform contest entrants what is and is not acceptable.” [1]

They have done an admirable job in developing a well-considered Code.  There are many welcome stances against mis-representative photographs including resistance to staged scenes, avoidance of misleading content, caption and context, and insistence on transparency in image processing. In effect the Code gives practical direction for competitors to keep it real:

“Entrants to the World Press Photo contest must ensure their pictures provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene they witnessed so the audience is not misled.” [2]

World Press, I am delighted!

Canon Photography Light Awards

Estimated schedule: to be confirmed but in 2015 they were themed monthly competitions rolling up into an annual judging event

As at 28 December 2015 Canon’s 2016 Light Awards competition had not been confirmed for 2016.  However, at some point in 2015 Canon made the image manipulation rules for their Light Awards even more explicit, thus removing any ambiguity about their desire for entrants to submit unmanipulated photographs:

“Entries must be true photographs and not composites or digital manipulations. Basic editing such as cropping and basic colour adjustment is permitted. Selective colour adjustment is not permitted. Other than cropping, removal of pixels is not permitted.”[3]

By ruling out selective colour changes and pixel removal, Canon has effectively ruled out most of the more harmful types of image manipulation. So another well done!

Epson International Pano [PhotoART] Awards

Estimated schedule: entries for 2016 open in April

As you can see, I have not given the Pano Awards the distinction of being photography awards but instead have named them as photoART awards.

This is because after a close examination of the rules, and a very detailed critique of the 2015 winning image, Max Rive’s The Ice Prison, I do not feel that this competition can be said to be judging photographs, but is rather a contest of photographically-based photoART submissions.

This is because the Pano awards actually encourage photo-manipulation, and reward images that have significant elements of photo-manipulation. As I noted in my critique, their statement about manipulation for 2015 says only that manipulation may lessen the photographer’s chances:

“Images may be from single capture or stitching software, film or digital capture, but must be 100% photographic in origin. Manipulation is allowed but excessive manipulation may be scored down by judges.” [4]

National Geographic Photography Awards

Estimated schedule: to be confirmed but in 2015 entries were accepted between 1 September and 16 November

Like the Canon Light Awards, as at 31 December 2015 National Geographic’s photography awards for 2016 had not been confirmed.  However, at some point in 2015 National Geographic made the image manipulation rules for their Light Awards even more clear, tightening their definition of acceptable manipulations, with compositing having been removed from their definition of what is acceptable:

“Only minor burning, dodging and/or color correction is acceptable, as is minor cropping. High dynamic range images (HDR) and stitched panoramas are acceptable. Any changes to the original photograph not itemized here or in the NGS Your Shot Photo Guidelines are unacceptable and will render the photograph ineligible for a prize.”[5]

Additionally, they have made stated that misleading captioning or statements of originality will not be tolerated.

“The caption must be complete and accurate, sufficient to convey the circumstances in which the photograph was taken. Disguising or misrepresenting the origin of your content is cause for disqualification.”[5]

Smithsonian Photography Awards

Estimated schedule: to be confirmed but in 2015 entries were accepted from March to November
The Smithsonian competition has not yet released 2016 rules, however, the current rules clearly rule out manipulated photographs:
“Cropped photos are eligible in all categories. We do not accept digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered photos, except for those entered in the Altered Images category. Minor adjustments, including spotting, dodging and burning, sharpening, contrast and slight color adjustment or the digital equivalents, are acceptable for all categories. If the judges determine that a photographer has altered his or her photo, they reserve the right to move the photo to Altered Images or to disqualify it.”[6]

In summary…

These enhanced photo credibility-related terms and conditions in photographic competitions are welcome news.And as ever, I welcome the growing importance being placed on the relationship between the aesthetics and meaning of photographs and the real world they purport to interpret on our behalf.

Postscript: If you believe there is a competition I should include in my investigations into photo competition credibility rules, please don’t hesitate to let me know in a comment to this post.

 

References
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[1] World Press Photo gathering feedback for 2016 Photo Contest. http://www.worldpressphoto.org/news/2015-08-13/world-press-photo-gathering-feedback-2016-photo-contest
[2] World Press Code of Ethics. http://www.worldpressphoto.org/activities/photo-contest/code-of-ethics
[3] Canon Light Awards Terms and Conditions http://lightawards.canon.com.au/terms/19
[4] International Pano Awards http://www.thepanoawards.com/rules.php
[5] National Geographic Photography Contest Rules. http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/contest-2015/rules
[6] Smithsonian http://www.smithsonianmag.com/photocontest/rules/
All websites listed [1-6] above accessed 28-31 December 2015
 

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The case of the cold Holstein and the BMW

If you Google the short phrase ‘cow on car’ you are sure to see this image:

cowhood01

Is it real?  I put the question to 80 participants as part of an eye gaze experiment in which I and some colleagues used infra-red light eye tracking to see what people looked at when they saw this and other images.  At the same time, we asked if they thought the image was manipulated, and if so, how.

What do you think?

Of our experiment participants, 23 were unsure. Of the remaining 57, 11 said that the photo was unmanipulated and 46 said it was manipulated. That means that the participants were divided in opinion 34 to 46, or almost half and half (42.5% to 57.5% to be exact).

Often logic (both good and bad) was employed; several participants posited that the cow had gotten up there because it was a cold day and the car had probably been recently driven as it is not covered in snow, so the hood would have been warm. One participant of Russian origin said that a cow wouldn’t usually do something like that, but in Russia “we can train them to do it.” Many participants said that the car would have been dented if the cow climbed up there, and one participant with a farming background said “I know how much a cow weighs, and that car couldn’t stand up to it.”

The farmer was right of course; the answer is that the image is manipulated, a composite of a BMW Series 3 in a snowy field or plaza near some housing, combined with an image of a perfectly normally situated Holstein [1] milking cow (below).

Interestingly, there is a second manipulation in the image that most people missed, but that, conversely, a few people used as their main justification for deciding the image was manipulated. Can you see it?

If you can, then congratulations, you’ve spotted what most people didn’t. The second manipulation is difficult to see via something I like to call the ‘hiding effect.’ The hiding effect results from a major manipulation being so eye-catching that the manipulation with a smaller profile goes unnoticed. In this case, it is the blurred out license plate. Despite its obviousness once you notice it, the cow resting on the hood distracts your attention, and indeed in our experiment the blurred license plate only received about 3% of the total attention paid to the image.

Original image of the cow lying contentedly in a green paddock.

Original image of the cow lying contentedly in a green paddock.

The photo above is the original photo of the cow on the BMW.[2]  It was uploaded to a Russian photo sharing website named Kazansoft.  (I made enquiries to Kazansoft about the photographer and location and I hope to be able to update this post with that information should I hear back.)

The BMW image must have been taken no earlier than 2003, because this E46 version of the Series 3  was manufactured between 2003 and 2005 according to my sources in the Bimmerfest BMW community (who also commented that this BMW has some modifications, for example it may have all wheel drive and someone has added some turn signal black outs and angel eyes as well.) [3]

The Holstein image was presumably uploaded to Kazansoft some time prior to November 2013 (possibly on cdn.acidcow.com on 29 January 2013 [4]), because on 18 November 2013 the Surrey Police in England tweeted this entertaining and now relatively well known composite image of the Holstein cleverly spliced onto the hood of the BMW with a useful weather-related warning:

rpu_surryPolice_originaltweet

This image went modestly viral, and eventually became a high profile member of Internet fauxtography.

If the percentages hold true on a larger scale to our experiment results, then of the 13,706 retweeters of the post, about 5,800 of them don’t know that the image is manipulated even though many might be suspicious of it. I find that quite interesting.  What do you think?

Acknowledgements:
[1] Thanks to branguscowgirl, Nesikep, tja477t, regolith, and Son of Butch from the Breeds Board forum of Cattle Today for their knowledgeable advice and confirmation that the cattle breed is Holstein.
[2]Thanks to The Museum of Hoaxes for identifying the source of the original photo.
[3] Thanks to tim330i,  sixpot_simon, and Zeichen311 of the Bimmerfest BMW forum for identifying the BMW and providing other interesting information about it.
[4] According to the image search site TinEye, the oldest internet ‘crawl’ of this image was on 29 January 2013 on cdn.acidcow.com at http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20130130/acid_picdump_67.jpg


Images:
Kazansoft image used by permission of the copyright statement in Russian associated with the image – “Все разрешения: ” above the button for 1024 x 768 which Google Translate translates as ” All permits : ” at http://desktop.kazansoft.ru/wallpaper/2248.html Consulted 22 September 2015
Other images are in the public domain
References:
RPU-Surrey Police. https://twitter.com/SurreyRoadCops/status/402506502109663232/photo/1 Consulted 23 September 2015
The Museum of Hoaxes. http://hoaxes.org/weblog/comments/cow_on_hood_of_car Consulted 22 September 2015
Cattle Breed query to Cattle Today Breeds Board: http://www.cattletoday.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=100510#p1281713 Consulted 26 September 2015
BMW series/model query to Bimmerfest BMW forum: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/showthread.php?t=872525 Consulted 26 September 2015
 

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