In light of a lot of discussion on social media about the Australian Institute of Professional Photography and the highly competitive Award system, I thought I would share some of my views.
The Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) is the premier membership body for professional image makers in Australia. There are a series of steps a professional photographer is required to take in order to become accredited with the AIPP and it is relatively rigorous. This accreditation is designed to "give the consumer confidence that your professional photographer is a proven, experienced, technically capable, professional practitioner who complies with all legal business requirements and a Code of Professional Practice". To be part of the AIPP, one must also be committed to continuing their professional development. More about the accreditation can be found at www.aipp.com.au. Of course, not every professional photographer chooses to apply to the AIPP for a variety of reasons.
Each year, the AIPP holds both State wide and National Professional Photography Awards. The National Awards (APPA) were held a couple of weeks ago in Melbourne (end August 2016). The National Awards are open to those photographers who have been seeded through previous Award results at the State level or have in some way proven their skill to the AIPP.. Professional photographers spend a lot of time and energy deciding which of their four best images to enter and into which category (ies). At the National Level, there are 18 different categories that are judged. While all of the image content must be photographic, some of these categories allow for digital manipulation, whereas others accept only minor treatment. Having spent a good deal of this past year on work that I was entering into an International exhibition, I decided to enter the Landscape category with four of my Exhibition images. Winning a Gold with Distinction for my elephant "Connect" image was a huge thrill. A Silver with Distinction and two Silvers completed my portfolio. I was pleased with my results. While the AIPP and the Award System may not be perfect, entering these awards has been the single biggest contributor to my professional and creative development in the past few years.
Lisa Saad took out the Australian Professional Photographer of the Year Title with her portfolio of four images that were entered into the Advertising category. This category allows for significant manipulation, and her final results were brilliant. However, this announcement triggered a great deal of debate on social media and the media in general. Spearheaded by Ken Duncan, one of Australia's most well-known (old school) landscape photographers, the debate considered "What is the line between Photography and Illustration?" Lisa's images were very illustrative in nature.
As a past recipient of one of Ken Duncan's generous awards, 2nd Place in the Real Australia Landscape Awards in 2015, I appreciate the concerns voiced by Ken Duncan. At the same time, I feel it is a mistake to assume that if a photographer chooses to hone their post production skills, then they are a lesser photographer. They are using the tools available today to better tell their story. It is photography, even if it isn't the way everyone chooses to do it. Photography has been evolving since its inception and will continue to evolve. I do not believe there is one right way in photography, or in life for that matter. Good photographers are story tellers. They choose certain lenses to better accentuate certain elements in an image or they may add a photographic texture to enhance a dull sky. It is still photography, it is still story telling. It is still image creation. Doing it well is the challenge. There is a reason that certain images stay in our minds.
I also believe that most professional photographers who are skilled at post production (more often done on a computer than in a darkroom today) also have the ability to produce a very high standard of image straight from the camera (or nearly...there is no such thing when shooting in RAW...all data needs some sort of processing to become an image). I love capturing amazing landscapes when the light is just right, or the sky when it is full of ominous clouds..and there are many opportunities to award these types of images...the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize, the Real Australia Landscape Awards, the Bureau of Meteorology competition, One Eyeland Landscape Competition, International Epson Panoramic Awards, etc). But I would be disappointed if this was the extent of my photography, given the tools available today. I would not want to be strictly limited to the technical knowledge and capability of a camera. To my mind, this would be a very narrow view of the field of photography. I enjoy pushing my own creativity. All of the images that I submitted into APPA this year required many hours of post production. And I loved this process...something I consider an important part of my photography today. And then again, when I see beautiful clouds looming, I grab my camera to capture the moment...