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2017 AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards: The reality pendulum swings – but in what direction? (Part 1 of 2: Category Changes)

2017 Australian Institute of Professional Photography
Australian Professional Photography Awards

Entries open: 10 July 2017
Entries Close: 10 August 2017
Judging event dates: 25-27 August 2017
Venue: Melbourne Olympic Park Function Centre

Mapping the changes to APPA categories

The 2016 AIPP APPA Photographer of the Year winning images caused quite a stir in Australian photographic circles, being as they were much closer to highly processed photo-art than photographs.  In response, the APPA Award Team undertook a review of the rules, which take effect this year. I am thrilled that it seems many of the rule changes for the 2017 APPAs will encourage Australian professional photographers to give greater consideration to the realities they capture through their lenses, and less consideration to how to composite images in digital darkrooms.

Following on from my extensive examination of the 2016 rules to understand the role they played in the 2016 APPA Photographer of the Year outcome, I am now in the process of comparing the rules of 2016 to those of 2017.  But before we can discuss the rule changes, we must first grapple with the category changes.

The category changes were highlighted by APPA Chair and Awards Team Manager Tony Hewitt’s video address earlier this year.  As he explains:

“Commercial category has now been split into two main areas: commissioned and non-commissioned, and Advertising and Fashion, which were standalone categories last year will now be part of the Commercial category.

The Documentary category will now include Birth and Sport, previously categories of their own. But they will be judged separately as well, as sub-categories, again, this allows us to make sure that the right judges are in front of those images

Illustrative category will be judged in two areas. The Illustrative category now includes what used to be called Alternative Process, but is now referred to as Analog and Historical process. It’ll be judged as a separate sub-category to make sure the right judges are in front of it, but will form part of the Illustrative major category.

In addition the Landscape, the Portrait and the Wedding categories will be judged in two section: Open and Single Capture – more details in the rules themselves but have a look at that if you, if that is one of the categories you’re interested in.”[1]

(The full transcript of the relevant parts of this video presentation appear below.)

I found the category changes somewhat confusing to follow, especially in terms of which categories had been merged and which had become sub-categories. Ultimately I decided to map them out visually, and having done so, thought perhaps you might be interested in seeing how the category changes from 2016 to 2017 panned out:

Map of AIPP APPA Category Changes from 2016 to 2017 [2]

In my next post I will be looking at the effect these category changes and associated rule changes may have on the profile of photoart vs photographs in these photography awards. As a preview, I can say that many of the changes are very positive.  There are a few stings in the tail though.  Tune in for Part 2 of this exploration. You might be surprised.

 

Transcript (excerpt) from Tony Hewitt’s video:

“A message from Tony Hewitt
APPA Chair and Awards Team Manager”

Changes to the 2017 AIPP APPA Rules [3]

(Transcript commences from video timestamp 05:30)

Our final awards rules will be made available shortly. I’d like to take this moment to thank all the CAGs [4] for their invaluable input, and the individual members as well.

All of these groups put together ideas, suggestions – they had their own discussions – and it’s through that input that we were able to produce the best set of rules at this time that we can for all the entrants.

I’d like to assure everyone that everything was listened to. It’s important that you understand that while we consider all ideas, not everything is going to be taken on board and implemented straight away. But it is all evaluated and we believe that the final rules are reflective of this review process.

We also acknowledge that not everybody is going to agree with every single rule that’s in place. But again I’d like to assure you all that all of these decisions have been made with what we believe are the best interests of all at this time.

Of course we’ll continue to work on improving where we can the awards process, to ensure that it offers the opportunity for all entrants to challenge themselves, for excellence to be recognised, and to showcase the high standards of professional photography both from within Australia and overseas.

Some of the changes that have been brought about for 2017 include but aren’t limited to:

Album – we’ve now moved that into a digital category, if you like, so entries will be digital, not physical albums.

In the Book area as well there are changes to the entry process and actually who can enter their / the book for an award if you like.

Commercial category has now been split into two main areas: commissioned and non-commissioned, and Advertising and Fashion, which were standalone categories last year will now be part of the Commercial category.

The Documentary category will now include Birth and Sport, previously categories of their own. But they will be judged separately as well, as sub-categories, again, this allows us to make sure that the right judges are in front of those images

Illustrative category will be judged in two areas. The Illustrative category now includes what used to be called Alternative Process, but is now referred to as Analog and Historical process. It’ll be judged as a separate sub-category to make sure the right judges are in front of it, but will form part of the Illustrative major category.

In addition the Landscape, the Portrait and the Wedding categories will be judged in two section: Open and Single Capture – more details in the rules themselves but have a look at that if you, if that is one of the categories you’re interested in.

The Newborn category received a lot of feedback from CAGs, and we’ve taken on board as much of that as we can, listened to everything, and we’ve made some changes that we think best reflect the Newborn genre, particularly based on the input we received from that Newborn category. And I want to take this moment to thank that CAG in particular, because they probably were the most vocal in terms of some of the feedback they provided. Really appreciate it.

We’ve tightened up a couple of the definitions, for instance, the commissioned – what is a commissioned image, or what is a commissioned work, and we’ve defined commissioned work to be the product of a commercial agreement undertaken if you like between a photographer and the client. Volunteer work is not considered commissioned even though a professional agreement may have been entered into.

We’ve also looked at the definition of immediate family, and for the purposes of the awards, immediate family includes yourself, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings and pets. Not that siblings and pets should be put together, although if you’re a parent you probably feel like that’s possibly relevant.

As an entrant you now must acknowledge the other creative influences, or input into your entry: the printer, the re-toucher, and any other creative input needs to be inputted into the form itself, and you’ll see that when you go to enter online.

Image caption guidelines have been added to assist some of the categories, including some categories that now have the opportunity to provide descriptions that weren’t there in the past.

So there you have it – that’s a little bit of an insight as to what the awards team has been doing over the last six months.

Tony Hewitt reflects and concludes (Timestamp 9:20) [5]

You know, as I think back over my experiences over 25 years I realise just how much it has contributed to me being the photographer that I am today.

And like the other members of the awards team, I’ve had the privilege of being a judge, an entrant, and now a member of a passionate group of people that are striving to make your awards the best they can be. We want to make sure that you have an opportunity to share your photography with other photographers, to stretch yourself and test yourself against the best, and to strive for excellence.

I’m proud to be the Awards Team Manager for the AIPP, and I look forward to providing you with an experience that allows you to become the best photographer you can. Good luck for 2017, and I hope to see you around at one of the awards.

 

References
——————
[1] A message from Tony Hewitt APPA Chair and Awards Team Manager https://vimeo.com/200337227 Accessed 31/3/17.
[2] Thumbnail images shown are derived from the APPA category banners and are copyright the photographers and AIPP APPA.  Used in accordance with ‘fair dealing’ provisions of Australian copyrights.
[3,5] My headings, not in transcript.
[4] CAGs stands for ‘Category Advocate Groups.’

 

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Number 3 on the Google hit parade

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that one of my most popular posts, Taking a mega byte out of the megapixel mystery, has been receiving many more views recently, mostly referred from Google Search.  I tried searching Google for the main themes of the post – megapixels and megabytes – and discovered to my surprise that out of 114,000 results for that search, I was result #3!

googleresults

#3 result in Google results for search of megabyte and megapixel 24 January 2017

I am so happy to be viewed by the online community as providing an offering of merit for people who want to understand how megabytes and megapixels work in photography!

 

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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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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
———
[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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Transcript of “Ancora and Eastway chat” on the role of illustration in photography: AIPP’s APPA (First 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]

The winner of this year’s Australian Institute of Professional Photographers (AIPP) Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA) created a lot of controversy. Many said that Lisa Saad’s winning Advertising portfolio was not photographic, but illustrative. To respond to this, Rocco Ancora and Peter Eastway (current and past chairmen) posted an interview-style video on APPA TV.  I have transcribed the interview because what was said was very interesting and it is easier to absorb the details when you can read it.  In a future post I will weigh in on my perspectives on what is being said, but first, I would be very interested to hear what you think.

Transcript of “Ancora and Eastway chat” (September 9 2016) in which the past and present Chairmen of the AIPP APPA discuss the response to the illustrative images of the 2016 winner Lisa Saad.

peter_eastway_and_rocco_ancora

Peter Eastway on left, past AIPP APPA Chairman and Rocco Ancora on right, current Chairman [2]

Peter: Well here we are live at APPA TV.  I’m Peter Eastway, I’m a past AIPP APPA chairman, and I’m with the current AIPP APPA chairman, Rocco Ancora.

Rocco: Hello

Peter:  Good day Rocco.

Rocco: Good day Peter.

Peter: There’s been a little bit of consternation on Facebook and in social media about the term illustration and how it applies to photography. We’re worried that maybe illustration is taking over photography and photography is dead and buried. Lisa Saad’s amazing portfolio of advertising shots, they’ve sort of really got things going and I just wanted to know what you felt about the observation that the awards have been lost to illustration.

Rocco: Well, two things, consternation, what does that mean? (laughter) Just kidding. Let’s go back into illustrations. Now a photograph is an illustration, isn’t it?

Peter: Sure, I agree with that.

Rocco: But the awards are made up of many different categories Peter, some allow, you know, the illustrative element to be included in the final image, and some don’t. So when you’re talking about high jacking the awards can you be a little bit more specific.

Peter: Well how many categories do we actually have?

Rocco: We have 18.

Peter: And some of those categories are…

Rocco: Some of those categories are Sport where no visual manipulation is allowed, you’ve got Documentary where no visual manipulation is allowed, you’ve got Wedding, where some visual manipulation is allowed. You’ve got Advertising where the whole thing is about visual manipulation.

Peter: Let’s talk a little bit about advertising, I mean, we are professional photography awards, so it’s not just photography, it’s professional photography – how we do stuff for our clients.  So what do we do, what is the real world of advertising like? I mean, isn’t it true that if I’m going to shoot a car the chances are it’s just going to be a backdrop and the car itself is done by computer graphics?

Rocco: Absolutely.

Peter: What about the backgrounds that we are dropping in?

Rocco: Well this is part of what advertising photography is about. So when you look at the categories at APPA, they reflect what happens in the genre in the real life world.

Peter: So you do wedding and portrait photography …

Rocco: Yes.

Peter: …but if you are doing portraits for weddings, there’s an awful lot of retouching going on. I mean are those faces real faces?

Rocco: It’s called vanity, Peter.

Peter: And is there a little bit of illustration happening to those faces over and above the photography.

Rocco: Absolutely I mean with wedding photography or portrait photography you are creating a product for your client, ultimately speaking. Now clients expect to look the best that they possibly can.

Peter:  Can you do anything for me? …  Anyway, okay, let’s go back.

Rocco: Let’s not go there, I’m not a magician (laughter) let’s take it from there.  So what we are talking about here is having a reflective, I guess, the institute reflects what happens in the real life world.  So in weddings, I retouch my brides because that’s what they expect. We want them to look the best they possibly can. Portraiture is no different.  Advertising is no different to the fact that we are using different elements to create or sell the product, to sell the idea if you like.

Peter:  So I guess there’s some sort of a line isn’t there where we look at a photograph and we say, that’s pure photography, the photographer has just gone click and then we come to the other side where we’ve created something with composites, where we might have taken lots of different elements and put it together, and we might have done a little bit of brushwork to join it, and I suppose we’ve the beginning and the end and somewhere in the middle there’s a line where one is photography and one is illustration. Could you tell me exactly where that line is?

Rocco: (laughs) There’s a line here and there’s a line there, and then it shifts – it’s constant shifting sands.  When you talk about pure photography, what is pure photography?

Peter: Well, obviously what I do must be impure photography because I muck about with my photos.  I guess when we talk about pure photography, people looking at what comes out of the camera – there’s no further work is required. But I can’t think of doing that in the last twenty years, to be honest ever since digital came in, or never!  We always used to do more in the darkroom, we always used to do – even when it came to processing trannies you know you would push or pull, warm up the first developer a little bit, get a little bit more colour, a little bit more contrast … so that line is a real challenge. What do we do with the awards, though? Do we have one line or are there different lines?

Rocco: There are totally different lines, this is why the categories come into play. You have categories where it is about the authenticity of the original capture like Documentary, Sport, you know you can’t, you can’t alter the truth because this is what gets published in the magazines and newspapers; and once again the categories are reflecting what’s happening in the real world. But then you do have categories like Illustrative, where it is about the creative process being pushed to the nth degree using Photoshop – so there’s different lines. We don’t try to put everyone in a box, we try to evolve with the image making process.  And it has evolved over the years, you would agree, with the introduction of digital and now this constant evolvement of what photography is.

Peter: So I guess the danger for the AIPP in some ways is when we have a PPY[3] winner and it is representative of one genre of photography. It has to be because it is a category that wins it in many ways. That we get seen as only being interested in that type of photography But if people had come along to the awards a couple weekends ago, what would they have seen on the walls, I mean we put all our silver and golds up, I mean what’s your take on what we’re presenting at the moment?

Rocco: They would have seen first and foremost the best in Australian photography, or the best in Australian image making.  Because on the walls there was sport photographers, illustrative photographers, there was some incredible landscapes, probably not any of yours, but, um incredible landscapes.

Peter: I didn’t do too badly this time, I mean, a bit better.

Rocco: Did you beat Tony Hewitt?

Peter: I did beat Tony Hewitt, do you know, oh, and I love that. Anyway we’ll get back to the point you’re talking about.

Rocco:  So excellence in each of the genres is what we hang on the wall. So APPA is about celebrating that, it’s about celebrating every genre for what it is. Whether it’s um perceived as being the pure photography genre, or whether it’s perceived as being you know the more creative, not that, not that you can not be creative in single capture, but where you start to pull in other elements and start to play around with brushes in Photoshop to be able to create something that is not really there.

Peter: So as the APPA chairman I guess that is your challenge, to set up awards that are basically going to be representative of all the different genres of photography. And I have got to say that I think you’ve been doing a great job with that with all those different categories.  I just hope that in this way we’ve helped people to understand that while Lisa’s amazing portfolio was winner this year, it hasn’t always been the case. We look at the past winners, the different genres that we’ve had and it shows that what we really are is representative of all photographers.

Rocco: Absolutely, when we look back at last year’s winner, John Ansell, he won it with 4 tintypes. Now remarkably the 4 tintypes were entered into the Illustrative I believe. So he went with a very traditional process in a very modern genre, and it paid dividends because they were amazing images.  The year before that we had a Wedding portfolio. Obviously there was Photoshop involved…

Peter: James Simmons, yep.

Rocco: …in producing those [indistinguishable] beautiful monochrome images but they were real photographs if you like; they were perceived as being real photographs. Even before that we had colourful landscapes by Tony Hewitt.

Peter: So is Tony, ‘cause those landscapes didn’t necessarily look real, I mean when you looked out of the plane at the landscape below it wasn’t that colourful, so we’ve actually, I guess Tony has moved the slider a little bit. Is that the same as illustration? Is that now no longer straight photography? How far can we go? We’ve, we’ve got this line again haven’t we?

Rocco: At the end of the day we’ve got to think about it this way: when we capture an image it’s about visual communication and what we’re trying to convey as an artist to the viewer. Now Tony captured it, he perceived to be to be a totally different thing and he, he I guess he, he showed us what he felt. And that’s important because that’s part that’s a huge  part of the creative process. So we saw things things that not necessarily looked like landscapes but they were landscapes but they really took you to a different place and that why he did so well with the images that he did and it was groundbreaking really because we hadn’t really seen anything like that before.  So he took landscape photography with a little bit of Photoshop cause there’s not a lot of Photoshop in what he’d done except the perception of colour, and colour plays a huge part in the emotive communication side of things.

Peter: So when we bring that back to Lisa’s portfolio this year, those 4 really strong, and they are all very graphic in nature, they’re all captured with photographic elements, there’s a real style, a real look.  I think that what the judges were responding to was the imagination. And isn’t that what we as professional photographers have to take to the public? If we’re not going to take something that’s a little bit more than a straight capture these days, it’s very hard to compete with those 1.6 billion photos that are taken every day on Instagram.

Rocco: Absolutely, and I think as an advertising photographer you have to take people to a place they’ve never been before because that’s what sells the product. So Lisa did an incredible job with that. But taking it a little bit further than that, when you look at the PPY protocol to judge, you’ve been in that room many times, you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve got 11 judges, you’ve got 18 portfolios.  When you analyse each submission, it’s not about the amount of Photoshop that’s used – you know it’s beyond that.

Peter: It’s all about the image, isn’t it?

Rocco: It’s about the image, it’s about the level of creativity. It’s about whether an image moves you or not regardless of whether Photoshop was used, it’s irrelevant.

Peter: So is this photography?

Rocco: What is photography, Peter?

Peter: I think it is photography, isn’t it?  I mean, if we go back in history people often bring up Ansel Adams as being  the grandfather of photography, and I think that sometimes they forget that Ansel was pushing technology as far as he could. A friend of mine, twenty, thirty years ago, just before Ansel died, when he was a young fellow, and we were youngsters, he asked Ansel Adams what would you be doing in the future and Ansel said to him, there’s this new thing called electronic imaging that’s coming, he said geez I’d like to get involved with that. When we honour what came before, when we honour the tradition, sometimes we forget that the people we honour were trailblazers.  And so I see Lisa Saad as being a little bit of a trailblazer. She’s got a little bit of flack over her award and I, I think she can stand up to it. But I’d just like to congratulate her because she’s pushing us along, We mightn’t have to agree with what she’s done, but she’s certainly pushing our profession along, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Rocco: Absolutely Peter, and this is what the award system and this is what the institute is all about.  It’s about encompassing all aspects of photography, and it’s about evolving with the image making process and I think we are doing that quite, quite well.

Peter: Rocco, audience, thank you very much.

— end of transcript —

Your thoughts?

So that’s what leaders of the Australian Institute for Professional Photographers Australian Professional Photography Awards think, and they make some very interesting points.  How do you feel about it?

References
———
[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] Screen capture of the interview on taken 16 December 2016 from https://www.facebook.com/AIPPOfficial/videos/. As with the Lisa Saad images, this image is used in keeping with ‘fair use’ provisions of copyright for research.
[3] PPY stands for Professional Photographer of the Year
 

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Push the button, Max! : On publishing new photographic evidence of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Read in Spanish 

Big American Wild West news about
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid!

For the past year I have been involved in a very secretive mission with my brother, Brian Mida Bleecker.  We have been investigating, researching and authenticating a photograph from the late 1800s of what we suspected, then proved, was an unknown photo of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. That secret mission has now come to fruition in a new Kindle eBook called Butch & Sundance: The New Evidence [1].

This past weekend, the book, with Brian’s investigations and re-imaginings and my 14 page academic paper was finally completed, integrated, and polished. So many months of hard work came down to a moment, in which, with a fantastical expression in which both trepidation and excitement played equal parts, my brother pushed the button to upload the book to Kindle.

brian_pushes_the_button

Brian ‘pushes the button’ on “Butch & Sundance: The New Evidence” [2]

The excitement is understandable of course, but why did he and I feel a sense of trepidation? Because like Professor Fate and his sidekick Max of The Great Race, who often pushed a diabolical button on their Hannibal Twin-8 race car to explosive effect, who knows what could happen next?

Up until now, there has been only one known photograph of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid together (the Fort Worth Five photo below) and one additional known photo of each man separately.

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Known photograph of the Wild Bunch. The Sundance Kid (Harry Alonzo Longabaugh) is seated at far left; Butch Cassidy (Robert Leroy Parker) is seated at far right. [3]

But guess what?  There’s a new, real, photo to add to that short list, and Brian discovered it, and I authenticated it!  Together, Brian and I have told the story of an amazing ‘new-old’ photograph.  It is old, because it is a cabinet card from the late 1800s. It is new, because after a year of investigation, we are presenting it to the world and rewriting an important corner of American Old West history.

As Brian says in the description that in these electronic days passes for a book’s dustcover jacket:

“…after almost eighty years, a new look at these famed desperados is presented by art collector and historian Brian Mida Bleecker. In “Butch and Sundance ~ The New Evidence” he brings to the table a totally unknown photo of both outlaws, posing together in a canvas tent near the mines of Southwest Colorado. His research also uncovers the forgotten saga of a pioneering photographic family, whose youngest son unknowingly captured a fleeting moment in Western History then went uncredited for well over a century. …”

It was uncanny that the project needed an experienced Wild West art historian and a digital image scientist, and there we were, just the two right people for the job. The bottom line is that this is big news for anyone who has ever been interested in the American Old West generally, and Butch & Sundance in particular. 

Of course we would like a lot of people to buy the book (in which you get a well-told and carefully researched tale, a re-envisioned story of the early days of Butch & Sundance, and a full academic paper), but if you visit Kindle you can still see the photo right now for free in the preview. If you do buy the book, it would be great if you could write a review and rate it because it may take an effort to cut through the Internet noise.

This has been a wonderful, fun, exciting journey so far.  At the moment we feel like we know something that very few other people do. However this exciting project unfolds, I’m glad we pushed the publication button!

References
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[1] Bleecker, Brian Mida. (2016) Butch & Sundance: The New Evidence. Pub Amazon Kindle eBook.
Bitly address is http://bit.ly/bleecker_butch_and_sundance
and  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/688131
[2] Photo by Sabrina Caldwell – photo taken with IPad Pro of computer screen during Skype call. Cropped to reduce screen reflections.
[3] Other members of theWild Bunch gang are News Carver (standing left at back), Kid Curry (standing back at right) and The Tall Texan (seated middle front).  Photograph in Public Domain per Wikimedia Commons; downloaded 9/11/2016 from
http://bit.ly/ft_worth_5
 

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Wildlife weekend: n=8

I photograph wildlife in and around Tuross Head practically every weekend.  There is a diverse and thriving ecosystem here, and it is a privilege to be able to turn my camera lens in so many enticing directions.

This weekend I noticed that I had captured quite a few different animals, including ones I had never seen here before, black sea hares. It has spurred me on to create an ongoing challenge for myself: how many different wild animals can I get (good) photographs of in a single weekend?  I’m calling my new goal ‘wildlife weekend,’ and I’m starting now with my first offering in this series with a gallery of 8 animals, taken 17-18 September, 2016.

Click on the photos to see them in greater detail.

 

From top left spiraling to center:

Seagull looking over its shoulder, resting on stratified layers of sand
built up while Coila Lake was open to the sea this winter

Beautiful small bronze lizard growing a new tail

Black sea hare, one of many dozen in a feeder creek to Coila Lake

School of baby salmon, about 40 shown here

Rabbit with a pompom tail about to disappear into the bracken

Glossy magpie eyeing me to see if I’m going to
interrupt his lunch of backyard worms and bugs (I’m not)

White crane on a roof – if you look carefully you’ll see how
its neck folds up into its body, and its graceful fine long skirt feathers

A sleepy red-belly black snake.

 

Photographs: All photos by Sabrina Caldwell.  All photos except red-bellied black snake and magpie cropped to allow animals to be seen easier, all photos resized for web-use.  No other alterations.

 

 

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A honey sun

honeysun2

Total eclipse of the sun showing Baily’s Beads, solar flares and the sun’s corona (1860) by Warren de la Rue. [1]

This is an image I have been admiring for months now.  I admire it because in just the smallest amount of detail and delicious colour – a sphere of dark amber, sparkling at the edges, in a background field of honey gold – the photograph is serenely ablaze with a vast wealth of knowledge that spans many disciplines: science, invention, travel, astronomy, art, adventure, history, chemistry and photography. And to it we can now add printing, computer science, imaging, and social media. It is the very definition of succinct.

And this is its story.

Warren de la Rue and Father Secchi

Until the arrival of early afternoon, Wednesday of July 18th in 1860 was like any other weekday in Spain. As was the custom, the hot sun had driven Spaniards into their cool homes for siestas. But for Warren de la Rue, the midday sun was a ticking clock, counting down to the 2:36 pm endpoint to which his previous several days had been in aid of, when the Earth’s moon would slip across the face of the sun and obscure it in a rare total eclipse. He had traveled many miles from London to Rivabellosa near Miranda de Ebro in the North of Spain, complete with assistants and 2 tonnes of equipment: his newly designed photoheliograph camera, photographic lab with solutions and glass plates, drapes and lamps, [2] (and perhaps his comestibles[3]).

At the same time, Father Angelo Secchi, an Italian astronomer and Jesuit, was arranging his own telescope and camera to photograph the eclipse, 500 kilometers away in Desierto de las Palmas, a small town 2500 feet above sea level recommended by the the Spanish Anuario as a choice location for viewing. (Perhaps the prospect was further facilitated by the presence of a convent in the area offering accomodation and the mere 2 mile trek from the high road.) [2 p34]

“Above all, Father Secchi believed A caeli conspectu ad Deum via brevis ( Contemplation of the heavens is a short way to God. )” [6]

Secchi and de la Rue were in place to use the eclipse of 1860 to photographically capture the halo reported by observers of previous solar eclipses, and to solve a mystery: the nature and source of ‘Baily’s beads.’

Baily’s beads

“…a row of lucid points, like a string of bright beads.”

Baily’s beads were first noted by their namesake, British astronomer Francis Baily, during the 1836 annular solar eclipse. Baily was amazed to see tiny beads of light in the glowing outline of the sun behind the moon. These beads of light became known as Baily’s beads, and were the subject of intense speculation for the next quarter century. Although there were many observers of the next eclipse, reports were inconclusive, and in 1860 the perfect confluence of a total solar eclipse plus the photographic expertise to record what might be revealed allowed the true nature of Baily’s beads to be known.

The expeditions were illuminating.  Warren de la Rue captured stunning images with his heliograph camera including one of the total eclipse. The images captured proof of the beads Baily described, and together with Father Secchi’s images, confirmed Baily’s conjecture that the beads of light were caused by the sun’s light streaming through the irregularities of the moon’s edges, varied from complete roundness by mountains, valleys and craters. But the photographs didn’t show just the beads.They also showed the solar corona, a halo of sunlight around the darker moon that Baily had eloquenly described:

“…I was astounded by a tremendous burst of applause from the streets below, and at the same moment was electrified at the sight of one of the most brilliant and splendid phenomena that can well be imagined. For, at that instant the dark body of the moon was suddenly surrounded with a corona, or kind of bright glory, similar in shape and relative magnitude to that which painters draw round the heads of saints.” [4]

Solar flares burst into prominence

Secchi and de la Rue’s photographs showed us something else that had never before been recognised: strings and splashes of light matter streaming out from the sun’s surface. Through these photographs, only 156 short years ago, we first learned the sun sent out solar flares.  An important consequence of Secchi and de la Rue taking photographs so far apart from one another was that they could prove that the corona was a solar phenomenon and not a lunar one, because the features of the corona were identical despite the 500 kilometer separation of the two astronomers which would have meant differences in the images from the differing angles were the phenomenon to be lunar.

And now to the honey gold: lingering sulfides and age

You may know that the collodion photographs of the mid 19th century were achieved through the use of photo-sensitive qualities of silver, just as black & white film was in the 20th century. So how did this photograph, which must have been black with white flares when taken, become the golden-hued beauty it is today?

At first, I had thought someone had performed some global colour changes on photograph prior to printing it. But in recent months I have learned more about the chemistry of 19th century photography, and discovered it is more likely that the golden colour of the image is the result of a happy error.

solar_eclipse_warren

B&W version of total solar eclipse, (1860) Rivabellosa, Spain.  Photo: Warren de la Rue [6]

The culprit is probably excess sulphur remaining on the print after insufficient washing of the print.  Fixing baths for collodion images were made with hyposulphite.  If any of the hyposulfite remains on the print after washing, the sulphur can fade black and white images to shades of gold and brown. In many cases this would be a pity; in this case it has created a thing of beauty. [5]

Within this photograph, below its surface, powerful forces are at work: the attraction of electrons from one molecule within an emulsion to another over long stretches of historic time, the mystery of a boiling sun incessantly compressing hydrogen into helium to warm our planet throughout geologic time, and the torch of knowledge held out to us by de la Rue and Secchi, to carry forward towards the unknown future.

This photograph is the celestial embodiment of lovely words by modern poet-philosopher Anthony Liccione:

 

Her complexity is a glorious fire that consumes, while her simplicity goes unapproachable. But if one takes time to understand her, there is something beautiful to find, something simple to be loved.

 

honeysun_without_text

And so we come to the end of this brief consideration of an image that is a simplicity itself, but through the avenues of printing, computer science and social media speaks to us of science, invention, travel, astronomy, art, adventure, history, chemistry, and photography.       How poetic.

 

References

——————-

[1] This photograph is to be found in the book The Invention of Photography: The First Fifty Years (pp82-3), and is in the possession of the Royal Astronomical Society, London.  Public domain. Please note: I have been trying to work out the writing at the bottom; so far I have “2nd of totality shows the  ____ _____ after the ____, _____ had been ________. Not very enlightening.  If you know, please let me know!
[2] Charles Vignoles (1860). Observations to accompany the Map of the Shadow-path thrown by the Total Eclipse of the Sun on the 18th July, 1860, across the North-Eastern Part of Spain. London: Longman, Green, Longmans and Roberts.  p. 37
[2] There is a great photograph of Warren de la Rue and his team on Getty images.
[3] In 1860 there weren’t fast food restaurants on every corner: “…the traveller will do well to provide himself, before he leaves his hostelry in the morning, with some of the “provend” so much insisted upon by that experienced traveller in Spain; and the Englishman should take care not only to carry his tea, but his tea-pot and tea-kettle. Even at the best places people have to wait a terribly long time for their meals, unless ordered some hours beforehand.”[Vignoles p37]
[4] Littmann, Espenak and Wlcok (2008) Totality: Eclipses of the Sun. Oxford Press pp 71-2
[5] T. Frederick Hardwich (1861). A manual of photographic chemistry, including the practice of the collodion process. London: John Churchill, New Burlington Street.
[4] Used via copyright provisions of Encyclopedia Brittanica, https://www.britannica.com/media/full/153681/141531
[6] Giorgio Abetti. (1960)  Father Angelo Secchi: A Noble Pioneer in Astrophysics. Osservatorio di Arcetri. http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?1960ASPL….8..135A&defaultprint=YES&filetype=.pdf
 

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