The Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) has celebrated its fifty year anniversary. Along with a hastily cobbled together book somewhat euphemistically titled A History of Professional Photography in Australia, was an equally hastily collected exhibition celebrating photographic images connected with the Institute. With a lengthy and worthy connection to the AIPP, Paul Curtis has managed to collate some of the history of the organisation, but it falls a long way short of being anything like its title. My disappointment was also echoed in first seeing the AIPP 50th Anniversary Exhibition at the 2013 APP Awards in Melbourne and on initially opening the packages containing the show on its arrival at Foto Frenzy in Brisbane.
~ disclaimer – I am the Gallery Director at Gallery Frenzy, and an AIPP Member since 1975
My disappointment with the collection was with the images that were missing. Where were the photographs from Val Foreman, Ian Hawthorne, Athol Shmith, Peter Foeden? And more contemporary names like Robert Piccoli, George Apostolidis, Richard Bennett, Brian Brandt, Mike Connell, Robert Imhoff, Doug Spowart, John Whitfield-King and Milton Wordley? To have an exhibition celebrating 50 years of the Institute and miss out on these names is unforgivable.
As a long time judge within the Institute’s Awards system, I found that I had judged over 50% of the images on display and was able to recall over 60%. Having spent hours and hours debating/discussing and anguishing over whether a highly awarded photograph deserved its score, it was interesting to spend time considering whether this selection still held their scores in the cold light of time and distance from original judging. For me, it was a case of 47 out of 50 still holding their Gold Award (90 points or more out of 100). Not a bad effort, and a strong reflection on the awards systems and their judges.
Fortunately some of my disappointment has faded as I have spent more time with the show. There are some old photographic friends hanging on the walls. To see one of Mercury Megaloudis’ 2007 Photographer of the Year dog portraits was a joy. As was seeing a digital re-print (I suspect) of Peter Eastway’s 1996 PPY portfolio taken in Namibia. Many of the images on display are the original photographs as judged – this also was a reward. Being able to review images some years after their original assessment gives weight to the process in place at the APPA judging. Seeing Graham Monro’s 1998 Editorial Category photograph reminds us that he had a life before becoming a wedding photographer! One of my all time favourite images – David Oliver’s Balmoral Mist – shows clearly that good photography is not about digital, nor contrived created images; just great craft and a fine eye.
Polish War Veteran by Andrew Campbell is proof positive that great lighting, posing, and sensitive attention to one’s subject will override passing fads and trends. Equally Robert Billington’s ethereal rendition of the Sydney Harbour Bridge brings a new interpretation to a photographic staple.
Leanne Darcy’s crafted photograph is probably as good an example of contemporary photographic interpretation as any contained in this exhibition. It is original in concept, skilled in its craft and striking in its presentation – all the elements that a gallery curator looks for.
This is the opportunity to put in writing a plea for the definitive exhibition of AIPP photography. We have many skills to be proud of in this country, and the Institute has been instrumental in elevating the name of Australian photography around the world. Let us commission a collection of quality photographs that truly represent the fifty years of our organisation. It will take an investment of time, energy, skill and resources, but it could end up being a worthy marker in the history of Australian photography.