Inaugural IFIBs celebrate the truly exceptional

We’re delighted to present the inaugural ProCounter/PhotoCounter 2017 International Foto ‘Industry’s Best’ Awards (The IFIBs).

Using evidence-based criteria backed by peer review, we recognise the truly exceptional within the photographic community, from the big brands to the big thinkers, on both the international and local scene.

Initially we were intending to request a modest fee from entrants to help defray the considerable costs associated with running the judging, which this year took place at Hamilton Island. (Just for old time’s sake!) Instead,we will be licensing winners in the various categories to use the beautiful IFIB logo for the next year on all packaging and POS material.

So not only is entry free, it’s entirely involuntary.

Without further ado, here are the IFIBs for 2017:

It’s beautiful! The L16 can apparently fit in your back pocket.

Best camera of 2017
Light L16
It was a close race between the Light L16, Nikon D850, and Sony’s a9 and a7r III.
After a lacklustre start to the year, Nikon went big with the D850 launch. It was a fair dinkum way for the company to celebrate its 100th birthday. With a 45.7-megapixel CMOS sensor, 9 fps(RAW+JPEG), and the same 152-point AF system used in the D5, Nikon successfully married two popular high-end cameras, the D810 and D5, to conceive the D850.

As for Sony, it threw down two gauntlets this year – with the a9 at the beginning of 2017 and a7r III at the end. The two products combined represent a watershed in imaging technology – after competing as mere alternatives for the last decade, high-end mirrorless cameras are now emerging as the replacement technology for DSLRs. At this rate the word ‘Socanikon’ may soon get an airing. As in Canikon – geddit? Or alternatively, ‘So Can Nikon stay in the race’?

Alas, the cameras mentioned above all share a weakness – they have only one stinkin’ image sensor. Whereas the Light L16 has, well 16. Not to mention 16 lenses to go with them. All crammed onto the back of a brick. The sensors come in all shapes and sizes, and complex algorithms allow the holder to capture the perfect shot. In theory.

One slight grumble from those damned pixel-peepers is that the stitching algorithms make L16 images look like a chest after open heart surgery. But on the other hand, focus can be adjusted after capture, so the scars can be de-focussed. Focus is such a binary, 20th Century paradigm.

But 81 megapixels.

Best retailer of 2017
Canon Australia

Canon taking competition to the next level.

There were a few worthy contenders this year, with Digital Camera Warehouse continuing to build on the success of its online/phone/outlet ‘one price’ strategy and Kogan/Dick Smith making Australian camera retailers who collect GST look a little bit silly. But Canon comes to the fore for several reasons

1. Marketing communications: In both quality and quantity of email offers and the sheer investment in FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc, it dwarfs its customers competitors. None of its customers competitors have the marketing budget to do it like Canon, either in terms of ad spend or personnel. And they also have to company tax.

2. Breadth of activity. While most competing businesses specialise in camera hardware, or the professional market, or photo printing, etc, Canon has all bases covered. While the Canon Store is the main outlet for a range of Canon and third party products, it also helps promote Sun Studios, Canon’s bricks and mortar professional equipment and studio and gear hire business; its Photo Pico photo print services operation, and Irista, its Cloud storage operation. Then there’s its finance arm, in partnership with hire purchase company, SocietyOne.

3. Post-communitarian approach: Most businesses within the photo industry adhere to the traditional notion they are part of an industry. A community of vested interests, if you like. By moving beyond that, Canon has thrown off the shackles associated with market leadership and the costs of contributing industry support, so it can focus solely on itself and shareholder return. A bit sociopathic, true, but the lack of constraining ethics makes it a great marketer.

Most Popular Photographer
Terry Richardson
We just can’t get enough of evidence-based and data-driven stuff here at the ProCounter/PhotoCounter campus-cum-compound, so for this award, we relied on internet data to discover the photographer who attracted the most stories and the most clicks. In this post-Kardashian era, popularity is not about whether the punters like you (not a very evidence-based concept, ‘like’), but rather whether they are talking about you.

For a while there, it looked like the ubiquitous and super-virtuous Andrew Quilty would be a shoe-in (Or was it the equally ubiquitous Ben? Anyway.) That was until the fashion world finally decided that ol’ Uncle Terry isn’t cool no more. While there’s a time in everyone’s life when backwards caps, oversized flannel shirts, skate shoes, creepy thick rimmed glasses, and sporting a double thumbs-up becomes outre, dress sense had nothing to do with it.

Unlike other celebrities whose careers crashed and burned in 2017 due to the surfacing of well-kept secrets of sexual misconduct, there were no questions about what Uncle Tezza was up to.

At the end of the day, his attitude never changed, man – it’s the people who changed. One article queried why the hell Terry had been enabled and celebrated by the fashion industry despite years of claims and controversy, while Hollywood so quickly dumped Harvey Weinstein. Sniffing the wind, major fashion labels and magazines quickly cut all ties with the photographer. New sexual assault allegations against Terry continue to surface, which the photographer denies – ‘they were consensual!’ The party may finally be over for the 52-year old. Who knew? Apparently everyone.

Best Photo Contest
Australia From Above – Tourism Australia, DJI

Conventional thinking might have seen one of the prestigious annual contests – World Press Photo Contest, Sony World Photography Awards, WPPI or perhaps the AIPP APPAs named, but here at the ProCounter/PhotoCounter complex we eschew conventional thinking. Fifty times before swallowing.

Nope. The criteria for this award was contest organisers thinking outside the box. Tourism Australia and DJI did just this with Australia From Above, Australia’s first aerial contest with over-reaching, rights-grabbing Terms and Conditions.

Despite being widely criticised by photographers, the contest received over 6000 entries. Tourism Australia marketing officer Lisa Ronson said this number smashed the projected 1200 entries they hoped to receive.

Tourism Australia and DJI (and if you believe what you read in the papers, possibly the Chinese People’s Revolutionary Army) now have these 6000 photos at their disposal – they may: edit, publish, print, use, adapt, translate, exploit, modify, include in a compilation, copy, disseminate, dispose, load onto its server, broadcast and/or transit each entrants photo for advertising, promotional display, and/or publicity purposes’.

We think that’s a great return on investment, representing many thousands of dollars of photography which would otherwise have had to have been paid for using the services of a professional photographer. Onya, TA!

Best Marketing Communications
Kodak Moments

There was fierce competition in this category, with the field wide open. The new breed of PR specialists have come to believe that a press release clearly and concisely informing media of the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ of things is a wasted opportunity.

Where once an ‘editor’ (Google it) would slash an overblown piece of self-congratulatory pap down to the salient points, that role no longer exists, meaning that PR people can write anything they want, and chances are it will be cut and pasted directly onto a website without the intercession of thought.

The boldest single piece of communication exploiting the lack of judgement among the cut-and-pasters was from Kodak Moments, which is apparently what Kodak Alaris is calling itself these days. (‘Kodak Moments is the consumer-facing division of Kodak Alaris, a company born from one of the world’s most iconic brands’)

While the TV comedy Seinfeld was famously a show about nothing, the winning Kodak Moments press release, catchily titled Kodak Moments Launches New Premium Photo-Printing Platform Designed To Help People More Effortlessly Celebrate The Moments That Matter To Them was not a nearly as funny. At least not deliberately so.

Here’s par 2, as an example: The new platform is built to address the belief that authentic moments are harder to identify in culture today. By helping people more easily engage with their memories – both new and old – the platform’s design draws inspiration from a ‘Kodak moment’, a phrase so ingrained into the global lexicon that it was recently entered into the Oxford Dictionary and currently has more than 450,000 hashtags on Instagram alone. – What does ‘authentic moments are harder to identify in culture today’ even mean?! WTF is an ‘authentic moment’?

This extraordinary piece of work (unattributable – there is no media contact) has already attracted the interest of Gary Pageau in the US, another poor soul toiling in the thin soils of photographic trade journalism. This is part of what Gary had to says on Kodak Moments’ piece of work after ‘dissecting the corpse’, as he puts it, over several hundred words: ‘These are all very basic mistakes a first-year PR pro would not make. Releases like this are what happens when a company’s marketing function has no clue about the role of the communications function.’

However, perhaps there was method in Kodak Moments’ madness. Customer reviews of the new Kodak Moments app (we think that was intended to be the subject of the press release) indicate it’s as big a dog of a thing as the press release describing it!

Best Industry Organisation
Australian Digital Alliance

The ADA describes itself as ‘a broad coalition of copyright users and innovators who support copyright laws that strike a balance between providing reasonable incentives for creators, on one hand, and the wider public interest in the advancement of learning, innovation and culture, on the other’.

But the truth is the ADA isn’t interested in striking any kind of balance – it’s lobbying efforts are directed at dismantling Australian copyright law, primarily by introducing the US-style ‘Fair Use’ exception to copyright law. Local content creators – authors, artists, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, designers – have all argued that Fair Use would not ‘provide reasonable incentives’ for them to work.

The ADA, a non-profit, membership-funded organisation, has an impressive list of donors. The membership is primarily educational institutes, museums, and libraries. Strong arguments are made by the ADA about the importance of these institutions preserving, using, or distributing copyrighted content. You would have to be a right bastard to stop schoolkids accessing project resources from the school library, wouldn’t you? Or stand in the way of medical researchers searching for a cure for cancer.

But the ADA also represents the interests of two of the most powerful publishers in the world – Google and Facebook. Would it be surprising if they were by far the largest sources of income for the ADA? The Grand Lie the ADA has insinuated into the debate is that you can’t provide a level of fair use for civil society without granting it to these massively well-resourced multinational publishers.

Best Corporate Citizen
Fujifilm Australia
There was little debate in this category. Sometimes it’s incumbent on a supplier to protect its customers from themselves, and by limiting the number of substrates photo stores in Australia and New Zealand can stock to one or maybe two, Fujifilm Australia has done just that. Fujifilm has realised that inventory management is critical to cash flow, which in turn is critical for business prosperity.

Fujifilm in other similar markets is irresponsibly foisting multiple alternative papers onto its specialist and prolab customers – with the spurious claim that they will be able to differentiate themselves from mass merchants by offering premium products using say, pearlescent paper, or prints on thicker stock, or papers for photo books. Or linen or leather textured papers. Or HD papers. Here in Australia, however, Fujifilm realises that this will simply increase their cost base and make the likelihood of their businesses being smashed by predatory pricing from the likes of Harvey Norman even greater. Although Dave Marshall may have left the building, his legacy continues. And it’s a win-win. HN, Big W, Officeworks, etc also like the limited choice policy. Who would have thought?


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