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Well this year's AIPP Photographer of the Year Awards results are out and viewable in full here.
Without doubt some beautiful work - but I think a perfect example also of the continuing move in recent times towards highly illustrative styles of photography...indeed, with many of these images it's arguable that they're now so far from pure photography that many can only be described as photo illustrations.
With some of the work, it's increasingly difficult to see which elements are photographic at all, in the classic sense! Many of them simply don't feel 'photographic' in the sense I think many people would use and understand that word.
Certainly the sophistication of retouching techniques has undeniably reached new heights - digital really has grown up past those early days of crude over-saturation and sharpening artefacts. But I do wonder if photography - always seen as the poor second cousin to painting in this country in particular - perhaps does itself a disservice by becoming more and more indistinguishable from painting and illustration, and less and less an exploration of the things that actually make photography unique and interesting as an art form in its own right?
Of course it's an endless debate, but by moving towards so illustrative and non-literal a style, photography puts itself in direct competition with illustration and painting - two highly developed art-forms that have been refining their techniques and approaches for centuries. That said, I think some of these images would seem quite at home with the best of contemporary illustrative work!
The boundary between photographers and other types of visual artists is blurring, disappearing. In the end - indeed perhaps we're already there now - we'll simply have Visual Artists who use photography as just one part of their toolbox of techniques. Perhaps we'll see illustrators who use photographic elements entering the APPAs soon? Perhaps, indeed, this is what we're seeing now?
Still, like all things mode-ish, there's bound to be a swing back in the opposite direction at some point in the near future - I suspect in a few years we'll see a crop of awards to a reactive group of hyper-realist photographers again pushing the boundaries of what is achievable in more purely photographic forms. Indeed - this is precisely the ever present merry go around between the pictorialists and realists/'modernists' that has been at the heart of photography since it's invention of course.
- Richard J -
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