All our own work

An earnest debate amongst Australian professional photographers is currently ensuing online regarding the legitimacy of using second and third party professionals to prepare entries for photography awards.

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Story Bridge + Bird; © Ian Poole, Brisbane, 1995.

In this instance specifically, whether professional retouchers should be able to work on an awards entry and whether the resulting modified photograph still remains within the original photographer’s integrity of ownership.

The debate resonates on many levels.

Firstly, the Australian professional institute has encouraged its members to enter the awards with a view to improving professional standards across the broad range of the industry.  Comparing current entries with those of 30+ years ago, this has been achieved well beyond the imagination of the two or three Australian photography industry founding fathers’ fondest thoughts, wishes or hopes.

Secondly, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of first time professional photographers practising their craft without any degree of formal training.

And thirdly, many of these new industry members are trying their hand at entering professional awards for the first time using photographic images that were commercially sound enough for sale to clients – but then fail to attract high assessments from the panel of judges.  The antipodean professional awards of New Zealand and Australia present some of the highest standards in photography, as evidenced by the success of some of their participants on a world stage, so where does the disconnect occur, and why?

That third point is the basis on which many photographers are now questioning their own poor results and looking for answers in places other than deep introspection. Some are rooting suspicion from their discovery that some entered photographs have received post-production treatment that might not all have been the work of the entrant.  A lack of formal training in photography means that some fundamental knowledge of the history of the art is absent, missing in action, from their perspective.  This colours their judgment, hiding the real issue.

Right from the earliest days of photography there was a dependence on skilled third party assistance for the photographer to be able to produce saleable portrait images.  From the late 19th century through the early 20th century the production methods were similar, albeit the materials used varied.  The photographer (usually a male) exposed sensitised material and worked with the clients in The Gallery and behind the scenes vast numbers of staff (mostly female) worked on the production of the finished product.  Some photos of these areas in very large studios indicate an almost Dickensian workhouse nature. In a very real sense however, both sides of the production process were equally harrowing as work places.

The widespread use of colour materials in the mid-twentieth century brought about a dramatic change to the business model.  A host of colour processing laboratories created a revolution where photographers concentrated on finding clients and taking photographs while relying on their finished print production being entirely done by laboratories.  The resulting images were really only packaged back at the studio for delivery to clients.

This reliance on laboratories by domestic photographers was echoed in the commercial world.  The difference being, that instead of processing negatives these laboratories worked with transparency film and offered additional skills for sale.  Compositing two or more transparencies into one, adding text to a transparency, blending several images to create one finished result – something that any half trained photography student could do today in minutes with Photoshop – had to be sent to an expert or experts (often in another city) for completion.

My personal experience of having seen most of the Australian professional awards judged was that this manner of production was always perfectly acceptable.  Whilst the viewer often marvelled at the technical skill required to achieve some of the effects, nevertheless it was the brilliance of the concept, or the execution of the original exposure, that was being assessed and attributed to the entrant.  Today, the common practice of having one’s award entries printed and finished by a master printer is not only accepted, but tacitly encouraged. Judges don’t expect entrants to be master printers, so why should they expect the same photographers to be master retouchers?

Ian-Poole-Brisbane-Photographer

Tokyo Opera House; © Ian Poole, 2012.

The disappointment some new entrants to the awards system face is the discovery that their ‘successful’ commercial output does not rate highly in a peer review competitive situation.  Money from clients (albeit the most important yardstick for a commercial enterprise) while essential, is also on a par with lavish praise from one’s own mother.  The success of the trans-Tasman competitions is that the quality bar has been raised to a very high level.  Something to be applauded, not dragged down to a lesser level by adding the criterion that if the image was adequate enough to sell, it is therefore good enough to be applauded and awarded by a jury of our peers.

Content, intent, story-telling, description, emotion, memory, originality, technique and many other signifiers are the harbingers of an award winning photograph.  Judges tend to wait and hope, looking for photographs that bring a special message and trusting that they will be able to recognise these images when revealed in the dance of assessment in those quiet rooms.

Long may that expectation reign.


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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p148, issue 57 :: August, 2016.

Portfolio Published in f11

It was with some pleasure when I read the current issue of f11 :: for photographers and aficionados.    With a substantial number of contemporary photographs to view it was a joy to see them presented with such care by Creative Director Tim Steele.

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The process of arriving at this point was both interesting and laborious.  My initial idea of submitting a grab bag of images from a checkered commercial career was ruthlessly rejected  (fortunately) by the editorial board.   I was forced to regroup and reassess the work to be presented and be also constrained by the publishing needs of a journal that is produced eleven times a year.

I am in good company with Stephen Robinson’s delightful memories of vintage New Zealand architecture, the NZIPP Iris Award winners and of course the essay by Tony Bridge and equipment review by Gary Baildon.   I am almost embarrassed to mention a column by yours truly amping up the debate about whether photography award entries should (or should not) be the sole work of the entrant.

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……and one of the photos that didn’t make the cut –

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New Otani; © Ian Poole, 2015.

The Way to Art is through Craft

The way to art is through craft; not around craft – Ansel Adams

I was reminded of this cryptic comment whilst attending the recent Iris Awards held in Wellington New Zealand by the NZ Institute of Professional Photography.

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Piper and Posers; © Ian Poole, 2016 (IRIS Silver Award)

With over 1,200 photographs judged in various categories over three days by local and overseas photographers, this was an event of resounding success.  Some great images were viewed, discussed and awarded.  With this access to vast riches of both imagery and photographic knowledge, all gathered together in a couple of small rooms, it was an opportunity to absorb creativity beyond compare.

It was not the fact that there was an audience – it was the composition of that audience that surprised me.

The judging of the wedding and portrait categories were unsurprisingly a case of a full house at every session.  Hardly to be marveled at when the photographic industry is largely constructed on the business of domestic image making.  My surprise was that these people disappeared from the rooms when other apparently unrelated categories were being considered.

This is the age where few domestic photographers maintain a formal studio, preferring to work from a home environment, with resulting wedding and portrait images being taken in informal outdoor surroundings.  For example the family group in a park setting, or the wedding couple being dwarfed by a large factory wall.   These good uses of the natural and urban landscape are part and parcel of the 21st century portrait or wedding photographic experience.

So, I wondered, where were all the wedding and portrait photographers when the Landscape Category was being judged?

Ian-Poole-Brisbane-Photographer

Hong Kong; © Ian Poole, 2016 (IRIS Silver Award)

Where did they go? There were many entrants in the room but nowhere near the number of practitioners in evidence when the domestic genres were being assessed.  Many a time I have observed the plaintive cries of wedding photographers on social media agonising over an upcoming wet weekend and seeking fresh ideas and secret locations to use while documenting their brides and grooms.  It occurred to me,  wouldn’t observing the locations chosen by landscape workers be potentially useful for placing your bridal couples within their context?  Or a factory, or some city hall steps, or a strange dark and moody alleyway?  These are all locations where I have seen portraits produced for bridal couples working under a photographer’s direction.

A further cause for concern for me was the surprising comment by some audience members during the judging of the Documentary Category that men were assessing birth photographs!  This ironic observation would have had the potential for humour in times other than the politically correct ones we live in today, but the strength of such comments was a little daunting.  The category quite reasonably embraces the idea of the camera as a means of recording (documenting) the human endeavour.

A broad ethos at best.

The criticism was two pronged.  Firstly that male judges had no understanding of the birth process and that they were unaware of the degree of difficulty involved in this area of photography.  This seemed a somewhat sexist approach.

However, putting that aside, my first response would be that the judges (male and female) were briefed to find the best photographs showing a documentation of the human condition.  Note the requirement to arrive at a winning photograph.  All the judges came from different areas of the industry but carried with them skills and abilities to assess and arrive at a conclusion.  Some were skilled practitioners in documentary photography, and all possessed that necessary ability to assess, analyse and score a photograph within the constraints of a well-documented and rigorously maintained process.

The degree of difficulty argument is not new in the awards system.

The wedding photographer working in the pouring rain, the newborn photographer with the wailing baby, the architectural photographer without a cloud in the sky, the commercial photographer with a rubbish skip in front of a building at 5am, the medical photographer with surgeons and anaesthetists in front of their view –  these and many other obstacles are part and parcel of a professional photographer’s daily life.  To imagine that judges are unaware or unable to acknowledge these challenges is misguided and a sad slight on the skills and experience of the judges who worked tirelessly to ensure that high standards ensued.

Fortunately with some long hours, some diligent consideration, some robust discussion and eventual collegiate agreement, the 2016 NZIPP Iris Awards were a resounding success – congratulations to the Institute and their many workers on a job well done.

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Nagano; © Ian Poole, 2016 (IRIS Silver Award)


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This essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOS, p146, issue 56 :: July, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Raising the Bar

Whilst judging at the New Zealand professional photography awards (featured in the September issue of f11 Magazine), offering comments to potential entrants in the forthcoming Australian photography awards and doing portfolio reviews at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale – I’ve noticed a common thread.  Our professional development programs might require concerted effort but they absolutely reward diligence and persistence.

In an industry that frequently complains about competition, low prices and difficulty in finding clientele, thoughts to which I don’t necessarily subscribe, it is amazing how much assistance is made willingly and freely available to the truly dedicated, interested and inquiring photographer.

As one of many photographers gathered in Queenstown to find the New Zealand Photographer of the Year, it was a delight to be given such a privileged opportunity to assess fine quality work up close and personally.  The peer review system used requires photographs to be not only assessed by practitioners, but compared against similar genres of images.  The eclectic selection of rotating judges means that a photograph is given as broad an interpretation as is possible, and ensures that a variety of opinions are canvassed.  This entailed gathering a wide selection of photographers capable of judging from both sides of the Tasman Sea, and from many different photographic areas.  The education for both the entrant and the observer, comes from the very candid comments offered on most prints while ensuring that the creator of the work remains anonymous. A lifetime of experience is contained behind the opinions given, and a great deal of information is given freely.  All that remains is interpretation on the part of the viewers and watchers, regardless of whether they have any skin in the game in that session, or on that day.

This was also the case in the print critique evening I attended.  It was an opportunity for photographers considering entering the Australian awards equivalent program.  Photographers were invited to show works-in-progress to a collection of experienced judges with the intention of receiving an indication as to whether the image had real award potential.  Many images were shown, and some astute observations were made, in front of a large crowd.  This process then becomes educative with the comments being made for all to hear and note.

If all this sounds like a university tutorial – you are correct! Knowledge is freely available at these events if you are prepared to see and listen.  The result?  Organisers, judges and participants are steadily inching the bar higher on every such occasion.  It’s a collaborative effort.

The upcoming Australian Photographer of the Year Awards follow a similar style to those just experienced in New Zealand. There is no doubt that a similar vibe will exist in Melbourne this year. Value can be gained with the entrant receiving a ‘peer review’ assessment of their photographic submission, and an observer can gain from looking at, and listening to, experienced value judgments given by some of Australasia’s best photographers.

A different style of education was delivered at Ballarat.  The concept of portfolio review is less well known in the southern hemisphere, but it is a staple at photo festivals in Europe and America.  In fact the Ballarat winner’s prize is a trip to Houston, USA to attend the 2016 Foto Fest Biennale to show their portfolio to a potential panel of over 150 reviewers.

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Kerry Pryor; © Ian Poole, Ballarat, 2015.

The review process involves a financial fee and bidding to spend limited available time with a small number of reviewers.  This has huge rewards for the organised photographer who has done their homework and identified people who may have skills relevant to their photography, and connections to aid their future direction.  The variety of reviewers available stretched from gallery owners to academics, from photographic agents to practicing photographic artists. These were people who were giving their time and skills freely and readily.

From where I sat the bar was raised a couple of times over the past few weeks with the NZ winner, and subsequently the announcement of the Guy Vinciguerra Fellowship at Ballarat.

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© Tracey Robinson (Gold Award + Distinction)

Congratulations to Tracey Robinson in NZ and Kerry Pryor in Melbourne, and to all those who experienced success, in all forms, great or small.

The process of a personal commitment to professional development and a mantra of ‘never stop learning’ certainly requires effort, enthusiasm and dedication from its seekers, and it absolutely bears fruit for those who stick with it, read the signs and follow the road markers.

The process works


Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.44.19 amThis essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp158, issue 47, September 2015.

The times they are a’changin’

Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam

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Julia Margaret Cameron by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, 1870.  The first in a long line of women photographers.

Bob Dylan may have released this legendary anthem in 1963, but in the world of professional photography this sentiment has never been more appropriate.

No, I am not referring to digital replacing analogue photography.  That battle has been fought, and almost all of us have moved on to the digital process of creating photographs. In this war, everyone was a winner.

I’ve already observed, commented here and reflected on the manner in which professional photography is performed.  The days of a photographic studio in the Main Street of every town and large suburb have gone; to be replaced by photographers working out of homes, or perhaps their car, at the beck and call of clients via their ubiquitous mobile phones.  For many, gone forever are the studio, the receptionist and the sales area.  No comfy sofas, no coffee machine…

This change of process and facility will also be driven by a revolution in the dynamics of the profession.  As an example, we are now seeing a dramatic re-balancing of the gender mix amongst photographic practitioners.  What has been a distinctly male domain for the first three quarters of photographic history has now moved positively towards a real gender equity in the profession, a long overdue and welcome development.

New entrants with new vision, and new ideas, influence established categories such as child portraiture, and create entirely new ones, such as the upsurge of new born or ‘birth photography’ businesses.  This segment has been pioneered by a mainly female group of practitioners and has been firmly evidenced by the dramatic increase of women in the membership ranks of our professional institutes.  Many of these people possessing academic skills other than photography, looking for job satisfaction that can be combined with raising a family and woven into a lifestyle choice.  Admirable and desirable traits, ones we can all learn from.

The challenge for both the photography industry and our professional bodies is how to maintain craft skills as opposed to simple recording skills.  Many of these new entrants to the industry are formally educated – but not necessarily in photography.  Clear progress that goes a long way to lift broad education standards in an industry that sometimes lacked them in many areas.

The methods and techniques used by our institutes to interact with their membership is now, more than ever, of vital importance if these bodies are to establish, and maintain control of, professional standards.  And our creative industry simply has to differentiate itself from sophisticated amateur users with access to relatively inexpensive methods of recording images.  Our professionalism must now align inseparably with our creativity to define exactly what we do, and precisely where we add tangible value.

It may well be said that the black magic skills of old time analogue photographers has been swept away by the digital tsunami, but if we fail to harness the opportunities that present themselves alongside the new faces in our membership, we will also be swept away.

The well founded desire of new entrant photographers to embrace a work/life balance while being an integral part of our industry is an opportunity that should not be lost by clinging to an outdated ideal based on a previous business model.

Changing business hours, changing business locations, changing and improving interaction with family members, changing methods of interacting with clients – these should all be connected to producing better, and more creative, photographs.

Maybe Dylan was ahead of the game!

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 11.19.46 AMThis essay first appeared in f11 Magazine :: for PHOTOGRAPHERS and AFICIONADOSp144, issue 44, June 2015.

Portrait Reflections in Cuba

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Che Guevara and Fidel Castro; © Alberto Korda, 1961.

Recently as I was sitting contemplating the steamy atmosphere that is Latin American Cuba, I was struck by the visual importance of two of their cherished and beloved heroes,  Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

Photographs of both men litter the environment relentlessly to reinforce popular support for what is, in essence, a dictatorship.  This monograph will not canvas the back story of the loss of copyright for the poor photographer of the iconic Guevara image that prompted my reflection, but therein lies a story for another day.

With the recent loss of my own Mother I was further struck by the lack of a visual library of images of, or including, her.  In my defence, she was a difficult subject, coming from that practical depression generation who regarded photography as something to be undertaken only within the social confines of an ‘important’ occasion.  A wedding, a christening, a significant birthday – something requiring dressing up and presenting one’s self in best light was the only time suitable for photography.  My dear departed Mum expressed her commonly held opinion for over thirty years that I was only indulging myself with a photographic hobby.

Christian Vogt_Ian Poole

Poole @ Ayres Rock; © Christian Vogt, c1988.

Over my photographic lifetime I have been fortunate to have been the subject of many portraits by some of the world’s better photographers.

On occasions I sought the image, at other times it was offered; and I responded enthusiastically.   I saw the process as part of my visual learning curve to discover how different artists perceived my less than attractive profile and to observe the techniques they used to record that difficult subject.

Sometimes passionately discussing the photographic process, at other times just sitting back and watching technique, style or lighting – it was all part of that process of learning.

But a more important procedure was taking place.  On a micro level one photographic practitioner was being documented through his career – sometimes holding a camera – at other times just the person.

As practitioners within a visual industry we are often guilty of failing to record our own with the diligence that we should.

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Ian Poole; © Heide Smith, Brisbane, 1985.

There have been exceptions, including the efforts of Australia’s Peter Adams and Heide Smith.  Adam’s monumental documentation of world photographers has received some, but not enough exposure.  Smith has selectively recorded many key players in the Australian photography industry.

The New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography has finalised a comprehensive documentation of surviving members of that country’s armed forces from World War II.  Perhaps they should apply some of the same diligence, patience and care to documenting their own contemporaries as image makers?

Given that these great projects have taken place, I am arguing that it should also be taking place at a grass roots level.  As photographic practitioners we are all important.  Only history will tell if we are to be elevated to the stratospheric level of Che Guevara…

Maybe it is a case of documenting our opposition in small towns or communities; recording members of our photographic club; creating portraits of our institute’s office bearers; making powerful images of our competition winners; or recording those who practice in the same style or genre as ourself.  The reason for taking the photograph is unimportant, beyond the simple, very human value of one photographer recording another.

The important part of this process is what happens after the immediate usage.  Local or regional museums are constantly seeking portraits of inhabitants; most state, provincial or national galleries collect portraits and as photographers we should be promoting photography as a portrait medium on an artistic par with paintings or sculpture.

The challenge is ours, first to execute against and then to promote as a body of work to the art community.

As I sit in the hectic, chaotic, humid environment that is Cuba, bombarded on one side by World Cup images and commentary, and under the charismatic gaze of Che himself, I am moved to mourn the paucity of passion in our personal image creation.

Cuban Man

Cuban Man, Trinadad; © Ian Poole, 2014.

This article first appeared in f11 – issue 35, August 2014.

A Quick Visit to New Zealand

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Enroute to Palmy; © Ian Poole, 2014.

At the kind invitation of the NZIPP Honours Council, I have just returned from a lightning visit to New Zealand.  Five days, four cities and four presentations later I am home in BrisVagas getting my breath back.  The AIPP Awards Team were generous enough to allow me to show the high scoring (85+) images from the 2013 APP Awards held in Melbourne.  My presentations talked about the importance of visual literacy in judging images and the manner in which the photographs entered into both the New Zealand and Australian Awards are viewed and assessed by judges.

Arriving into a rain soaked Christchurch late at night (and 30 minutes late at that), I was met by the patient Ann Worthy-Stephenson and her husband Tim.  Tim had been a student in my 2013 workshop held under the auspices of the Wanaka Autumn Art School hosted and arranged by the legendary Robyn van Reenan.  The School celebrated 25 years of quality operation this year – congratulations.  The hospitality of Cantabrians was further demonstrated when flood waters blocked access to the chosen venue and local commercial photographer Richard Linton opened up his Studio, at very short notice for the event.

B&W Fokker © Ian Poole, 2014.

B&W Fokker; © Ian Poole, 2014.

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Poole has an Even-handed Approach in Wellington; supplied.

Utilising the vast network of internal air services criss-crossing NZ, I was met by Jason Naylor at Wellington Airport and delivered a presentation to an enthusiastic group later in the afternoon.  Ester Bunning and I discussed various aspects of the functioning of the Honours Council and it was good to chat with experienced Panel Chair Terry Hann.

Flying in a plane where every seat had a window, I was met and hosted in Palmerston North by Gerald Wilson in a generous and affable manner.  The presentation was well received with some strong support from experienced NZ Judges Tony Carter and Richard Wood.

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Poole in Auckland; © Gino Demeer, 2014.

Another quick plane flight had me at Auckland Airport where local NZIPP identity Gino Demeer was on hand to transport me into the city.  Our presentation space was at the new Auckland campus for UCOL and I was welcomed by current NZ Photographer of the Year and lecturer Kaye Davis.  A robust discussion ensued with some good questions and debate about creativity and the judging process.  Awards printing guru Sean Dick (and his delightful wife Sue) ensured that my last night in NZ was amicable and enjoyable. (nice hi-fi gear Sean……)

More comments to be made about the Awards systems of both countries.  Keep an eye out for that.

Judge or be Judged

f11 May

this article – p130

Having just completed a round of presentations to photographers on the process of preparing images for submission to various professional institutes’ annual print awards, I was struck by the need for the judges to have done their own homework as well.

Both the Australian (AIPP) and the New Zealand (NZIPP) Institutes have been organising and conducting professional photography awards at a high level of excellence, for in excess of thirty years.  Indeed it may well be said that both these awards are an aim point on how such events should be conducted.  Whist a lot has been written and discussed about how one should prepare images for entry to these awards, little discussion has been had regarding the conduct of judges – other than the “I wuz robbed – the judges did not understand my work” type of rant immediately following the publication of results.

Disclaimer – I have been a Judge at the AIPP Awards for in excess of twenty-five years and at the NZIPP Awards for eight years.  Further, as a product of a post-graduate visual arts degree as a mature age student, I also have some understanding of the background to both art and photography.  And the two do overlap, even in the area of domestic and commercial photography.

Whilst many judges would argue that an extensive broad knowledge of their particular genre of expertise (wedding, portrait or commercial for example) is all that is required to fulfill the role of judge.  I would beg to differ.  Bringing a wider frame of reference to the judging table also brings with it, a wider and more intuitive set of observations.  These are the observations that enable an experienced judge to read and interpret a ‘sophisticated’ image.  Such skills do not come easily, nor do they come by commercial practice alone.  A working knowledge of a broad range of photographic genres is useful; as is an understanding of the work of photographic practitioners from abroad; and let us not forget the visual influences and references from the more traditional modes of fine art.  Fine art gives us the basis on which portraiture is constructed, as well as the nuances that are woven into many areas of contemporary photography.   

These Awards use a similar process of five judges working as a panel to assess work, item by item.  It is the construction of the panel that is the secret to a truly fair assessment.  Judges bring with them to the judging table the sum total of their industry expertise as well as their ‘found’ knowledge achieved through research.  This can be by way of technical awareness of process, a deep knowledge of historic styles, an extensive study of broad art practice or a familiarity with overseas trends and styles.  It is the combination of practitioners bringing these skills to bear that brings together the best of judging panels. Their ability to share their skills across the panel is the sum total of valuable knowledge.

Of course possessing this knowledge is the first step to using it in the role of a judge. 

The Awards under review utilise a debating style of assessment where, after Judges have entered a score via a keypad, they may choose to challenge the averaged amount; either in a negative or a positive manner.  It is at this point that the judge’s ability to succinctly mount an argument is crucial to the process.

Further to having a database of photographic and art based references at one’s finger tips, it is now essential that the judge has the ability to defend their opinion and position by vocal debate, rather than visual knowledge.  The ‘I like what I see’ statement is not only irrelevant, but useless in this style of assessment.  A knowledge of debating technique is called for, as is an understanding of contemporary visual language, in order to eloquently describe, explain or defend a given assessment.  It is at this point that many judges fall by the wayside; not having spent any time, in an educative way, learning more than the use of f-stops or weighing up the pros and cons of purchasing Nikon over Canon. 

Most experienced photographers are capable of placing a qualitative number against an exhibited print – but far fewer skilled photographers can convincingly defend their assessment of an image when placed in the position of judge in front of their peers. 

They need also do this, ever mindful of an audience of highly involved, subjective, emotionally invested and, dare I say it, keenly judgemental viewers at the back of the room, even though their silence is a given during the deliberations.

This is where the judge is judged.

This text was first published in the f11 Magazine, May 2013

Photography (or a crisp dry white wine)

Camp Hill

Poole, the Star Sprinter

As I work my way through the process of preparing for a series of presentations and an extended workshop in New Zealand, I am reviewing some old images of your mature blogger and the relevance of photography in my life.

Should I use photographs that illustrate my current (blurred, inaccurate, biased, rosy) view of how I once looked, acted or performed?  Or do I strike a note that is more in keeping with my appearance, performance and actions today?  I could stick with the truismphotography does not lie” – but that becomes harder and harder, with content aware actions (and more) in Photoshop.

IDP @ Mt Cootha w Mamiya

Poole + Mamiya 23 (and Lunasix)

With some presentations to members of the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP) and students at UCOL about preparing and entering awards, I am trying to illustrate what attracts the eyes of judges in the fleeting moments that they get to assess and score a photographic image.  For the participants of the Wanaka Autumn Arts School 2013, I have five days to discuss and elaborate on the topic of Making the Right Photography, not the Perfect Photograph.  In all cases I want to show a little of where my life in photography has led me, and as much as I can, utilise images as a way of showing that pathway.  Hence the quandary about what stories photographs can show – was I ever the star athlete?  ……. or just the dour nerdish wannabe photographer who was keen to take night time shots on a borrowed camera and then rush back to the Studio darkroom (unbeknownst to its owner) and process the images as though the facilities were mine?   Much more of the latter than the former!

For the Wanaka presentation, I have time to expand a set of ideas and thoughts predicated on the as yet unknown skills and interests of the participants.  Whilst I am unrecognised as a landscape photographer, I am keen to show that my visits to New Zealand have sparked in me a desire to document vistas that are quite foreign to my Queensland upbringing.   Bearing in mind that I am in the territory of the great Gilbert van Reenan, Andris Apse, Mike Landford, John Doogan and Jackie Ranken, I am more than a little self-conscious of taking coals to Newcastle!  The fact that John is leading one of the workshops at Wanaka is even more daunting – fortunately he is concentrating on Landscapes and I will just give a brief four minute audio visual on landscapes.  Although sometimes the visitor has the advantage of seeing the commonplace through different eyes.   That will be a constant thread in my presentation and self-defence.

One of the things becoming apparent as I trawl through the archives is the constant connection with cameras and photography.  Not really to be wondered at, but a self satisfying endorsement that whilst my life is not financially rich, it is rich in the fact that I have followed a dream that has been a constant since the mid 1960s.   The cameras, the hair styles and the fashions (that is a handsome denim jacket…) may change – but the photography is still vitally important.

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So, if any of you have an opportunity to speak to me in Tauranga, Wellington, Palmerston North, Queenstown or Wanaka – please do so.  Photography is what I am about, and photography is what I can happily talk about.  That discussion, offered with a crisp dry white wine (New Zealand naturally) would take me to a better place!

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To hell with it – maybe I should just go with the fantasy!