Ken Duncan: ‘APPAs highjacked by manipulators’

Ken Duncan has stirred up a hornets nest on his Facebook page by criticising the AIPP’s direction with its Australian Professional Photography Awards, after the top prize was awarded to what he described as ‘photo illustrations’.

One of the winning images by Lisa Saad. Source: Supplied.

One of the winning images by Lisa Saad. Source: Supplied.

The famous landscape photographer has taken issue with the AIPP, Australia’s peak body representing photographers, for awarding the title of Australian Photographer of the Year to Melbourne commercial photographer, Lisa Saad, for a set of images that are heavily manipulated and don’t look like conventional photos.

Duncan, an honourary life member of the AIPP, began his Facebook observation by congratulating Saad but saying he was ‘concerned about the regulations and judging criteria of the (AIPP) Photo Awards after seeing the results from this year’s competition’.

‘With no disrespect to Lisa who is obviously a very talented person I just personally don’t get it. How these illustrations could be considered photographs, as lovely as judges may think they are. The word “photography” comes from the Greek words “photos”: light and “graphos”: drawing. So photography is “drawing with light”,’ he wrote.

‘This illustration and the others from the series have little to do with reflected light but more about creation by manipulating and creating pixels. I believe the AIPP have lost their way with the APPA awards as they seem to be hijacked by manipulators. Now I don’t have a problem with post-processing to a degree but when it gets to to point of having no connection to reality it then enters the world of illustration.’

Duncan suggests that if the awards continue to follow this trend unchallenged they should be renamed. ‘The initials obviously no longer stand for the Australian Professional Photography Awards so maybe they really need to call them what they have become the ‘Australian Professional Photoshop Awards.’

Ken Duncan has campaigned to differentiate between ‘photo realism’ and ‘photo illustration’ for some time. He launched the REAL Australian Landscape Awards last year with the aim to distinguish these two emerging genres of landscape photography.

Now that the AIPP has awarded Lisa Saad the top APPA, it appears he’s broadened the scope of his criticism beyond landscape photography.

Duncan’s opinion has divided his Facebook followers, many who are professional photographers and AIPP members. There’s over 170 comments debating the topic, along with name calling, personal digs, passionate rants, and everything else you expect in an online comments section.
fullscreen-capture-8092016-23333-pm‘All this talk about REAL photography is utter and absolute rubbish. Why on earth do we have technological advances in an industry, and then deny those who use it to be rewarded? It is short sightedness, and with respect to Duncan, he should be applauding the national body for moving with the times and rewarding work of exceptional quality,’ Adam Hourigan wrote. ‘It still holds firm to the importance of the photographic capture – but shows how the use of technology within the realm can create true works of art.

‘…views like this don’t help anyone in the industry as it stands now. Time has moved on, and just because it’s not to your tastes, doesn’t mean it’s not right. As a life member, surely you would be keen to see the institute represent photography as it is, not as it was.’

Others felt compelled to defend Lisa Saad and her images, stating that she entered and followed the rules, won fair and square, and created some amazing images.

Duncan responded to almost all these posts by saying something along the lines of ‘it’s not about Lisa and her ability as an artist it about what is a photograph and what is illustration’.

The consensus on Duncan’s Facebook post favours his opinion – but that’s expected as it’s his page, and many of his followers are likely to hold similar opinions.

There’s a fair bit of unrelated sniping at the AIPP among the commenters, indicating that not everyone is on board with the peak body representing Australian photographers.

US photography blog Petapixel posted a story based on Duncan’s controversial opinion. There, too, the comments are in favour of the landscape purist.

‘I have to agree with him. The images are great and she did an amazing job but they are not photographs, they are illustrations or digital artwork,’ said one commenter.

‘I’ve been saying this for years. Beautiful art but not to be judged as photography,’ said another.

‘One more voice to the “very nice images, but they aren’t photographs” side,’ a final commenter said.

Let us know what you think below!

This was the highest scoring print, an image by Peter Rossi. It was also one of the four images which earnt him the Portrait Photographer of the Year. Duncan thinks that this is more of an illustration than a real photo. Do you agree? Source: AIPP/Supplied.

This was the highest scoring print, an image by Peter Rossi. It was also one of the four images which earned him the Portrait Photographer of the Year. Ken Duncan thinks that this is more of an illustration than a real photo. Do you agree? Source: AIPP/Supplied.


11 thoughts on “Ken Duncan: ‘APPAs highjacked by manipulators’

  1. Ken is right, as great as the images are they are not photos in the real sense, but I may be so out of touch in what the market is today. Perhaps the criteria should be that the photos entered are ones ” as sold” to a client, not something that 1000’s of hours have been spent on and are not commercially viable as a photo but rather than artwork looking for a buyer.

    With digital nothing is real anymore, I’m really pleased that the budding new film photographers are realising this and working hard before they push the button rather spend hours after.

  2. What if I take a very very ordinary photo and send it to India to get them to make a visual beautiful photo. Is that photo real or photo illustration? Maybe they should do a real photo category and a untouched RAW file printed. THAT we show the real photographers from the photo illusionists.

  3. Ken couldn’t be more right. The works are beautiful but they’re clearly manipulated ALOT.
    I think that we could accept basic post adjustments to correct contrast, sharpness, colour etc. But these works do not fit into the REAL photo category that Ken has been talking about.
    This is a case of the judges not understanding or misinterpretting the category. Calling these works REAL just makes the judging panel look bad.

  4. The problem is with the category, not the person entering it, the images are stunning and within the rules, I agree with Ken, I have long thought that the post processing has been allowed to go a bit too far, they are composite images rather than photographs, the AIPP should introduce a category of its own to allow this amazing work to be judged side by side with other compilation images, they should have a separate category for images using darkroom/lightroom techniques, then if you take a stunning image and dodge and burn and enhance colour and texture but do not add or remove any components or add layers that image should be judged along with other images created that way.

  5. Hi I completely agree with Ken Duncan .If someone has the ability to take an award winning photo WITHOUT photo shopping in any way , That is the winner.. I was horrified when a past college of mine paid big dollars to do a photography course in Melbourne and came away with honors and distinctions and (Good luck to her) , but some of this was by copying out of books to put into her own.( I actually printed these photos for her. When I asked “how come” was told that that was what they were told to do!!!!
    There should be 2 catagories as there is a definite skill and knowledge in the photo shop area…but a true photographer should be confident in what they produce without having to “tweak” the image.!

  6. I agree with Ken, this not photography it’s so manipulated. It should be in a different category of its own. Do not mix it with true reality landscape photography. Don’t get me wrong the winners work was amazing but please APPA put it as illustration catergory photoshop.

  7. Im coming in late on this topic and a lot has been said. I believe that the issue here is that some of the entries are in the wrong category and should only be accepted as entries if they comply to the category definition. The winning portrait image is not a portrait, in the classical sense, it is an illustrative entry. Lisa Saad’s images are a commercial entry and that category allows manipulation, so all good there. There is a fairly obvious trend in the AIPP to embrace most entries without any oversight regarding relevance to the category. As a result, you get heated discussions questioning the choice of some of the winners. I have attended judging and often wonder how an image was allowed to appear in the category it was entered. The use of Photoshop isnt the main issue, as its a tool of the trade, it’s the relevance to the category that is causing confusion. Time for a review of the entry process, and some should be rejected because they simply don’t comply. The onus appears to be on the photographer to get it right, when it should be the AIPP enforcing their rules. Ken raised a valid point, but weakened his argument by focusing on Lisa Saad’s excellent and relevant work.

  8. Its not photography. Its their version of Art and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
    As for ‘All this talk about REAL photography is utter and absolute rubbish’ – there is the problem. When you keep pushing the boundaries, you end up with something new..and it not always for the better.
    The so-called ‘judges’ determine and push their personal agenda to their personal flavors.
    Personally I don’t see value in the AIPP, what they offer and where they are. These awards are their mainly to promote and justify themselves.

  9. Traditional photography has changed over the years and I agree with Ken Duncan, traditional photography should be just that and create a category for work manipulated to the tenth degree, lets say Graphic Artist Design Category 🙂 I was once an AIPP member, for what reason I don’t really know. These days I refuse to belong to any organisation that claim to represent the best of Photography in Australia and have seen many Silver awards, for lets just say really average images. This was when I decided groups are simply formed to create some type of control, not just in the Photography World, for myself sales are a true indicator of ones ability and swimming against the school, is way more suitable !

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