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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
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[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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Photographic Competitions in 2015: Keeping it real

Real or Photoshopped?

Real or Photoshopped?

I have been writing of my concern that the aura of authenticity that photographs have traditionally enjoyed is undergoing serious threat from Photoshopping and socially encouraged photoplay such as Instagram filtering. Thankfully, the problems inherent in heavily edited, even fictitious images have been attracting public attention and discourse (for example the controversy of Gaza Burial, the World Press Photo of the Year 2013). With the growing recognition of these issues, beneficial changes are beginning to appear. One such change is that the window of opportunity for photograph manipulators to submit altered images to photo competitions as ‘real’ photos is closing. It seems that in 2015, photography competitions expect photo entries to contain less fiction and more reality.

Today Canon announced they are running a competition this year, the Canon Light Awards, in which each month photographers are invited to submit one photograph to match the month’s brief, with prize money for winners. Their competition rules insist on the entries being actual photographs, not manipulated images. Specifically, they respond to the question “Will my entry be valid if I use photo editing software (like Photoshop)?” with the following statement:

“Yes, basic editing such as cropping and colour adjustment is permitted. However, entries must be true photographs and not composites or digital manipulations. Keep in mind to confirm you are a winner, you may need to send through the original file …” [1]

World Press, the premier international photography competition for professional photographers, introduced rules in the World Press Photo Competition after the genuineness of the 2013 winning photograph, Gaza Burial, was questioned. [2]

“Participants are now required to provide file(s) as recorded by the camera for all images that proceed to the final stages of the contest. These file(s) will be requested and studied confidentially during the judging period (1-11 February 2015). A failure to provide these files before 11 February 2015 will lead to the elimination of the entry.” [3]

National Geographic is very specific about what types of photo editing is allowed.  Before detailing what is allowed using techniques like burning and dodging, compositing, captioning and overall ethics, they expound their philosophy on manipulating photographs:

“Our biggest ask is that the photos stay true to your personal vision and to what you saw. Please avoid heavy-handed processing. We want to see the world through your eyes, not through the excessive use of editing tools. If the photograph is manipulated, please describe your process in the caption.” [4]

There are many more examples. The International Loupe Awards rules state of their photojournalism competition that “Winning images in this category deemed to be composited images will be stripped of their category placing, prize money and or prizes.” [5] The International Pano Awards is less convincing, but still notes 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.” [6] And the Smithsonian says of their photographic competition that “we do not accept digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered photos, except for those entered in the Altered Images category … 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.” [7]

I welcome these photo credibility-related terms and conditions in photographic competitions.  Even more, I welcome the thinking that seems to be building that gives weight to the connection between the aesthetics and meaning of photographs and the real world they purport to interpret on our behalf.

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PHOTOGRAPHS:

Kitten head photograph by Sabrina Caldwell;  other than re-sizing for webuse, has not been altered in any way.

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References
[1] Canon Light Awards Frequently Asked Questions http://lightawards.canon.com.au/faq
[2] For an interesting and very thorough explication of the issues raised, I recommend http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-05/16/photo-faking-controversy.
[3] World Press https://submit.worldpressphoto.org/
[4] National Geographic http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photo-guidelines/
[5] International Loupe Awards http://www.internationalapertureawards.com/rulesOpen.php
[6] International Pano Awards http://www.thepanoawards.com/rules.php
[7] Smithsonian http://www.smithsonianmag.com/photocontest/rules/
All websites listed [1-7] accessed 1 January 2015
 

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