This weekend saw the running of the annual AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) APPA (Australian Professional Photography Awards) awards in Sydney. These awards are the highlight of the calendar year in Australia in competition terms and are eagerly looked forward to by many (myself included). In fact, they are widely regarded as being at the very top of the pyramid in professional photographic circles. There is something very special about the APPA awards and it’s more than just the kudos that comes with receiving an award – its the incredible standard of work across all categories every year that never ceases to impress and amaze. If you have never checked out one of the annual APPA award books I encourage you to do so (they can be ordered online from the AIPP). They are are a wonderful source of inspirational photography. There is a palpable buzz that comes with the opening of the first days judging at APPA and a drum beat that rises to fever pitch as each day progresses. There are moments of incredible elation and moments of crushing defeat. It can be an emotional roller coaster and whilst its not healthy to become too emotionally invested one can’t help but ride the roller coaster of ups and downs.
If you want to see where the bar is set for world class photographic images and prints you need look no further than APPA. Every year the bar is continually raised that much higher in terms of the standard of work entered. I admit to being a bit of a nervous wreck during the APPA judging. The spine-tingling anticipation of having my work scrutinised for any minutia by my peers gets my heart racing. It’s not even the fear of scoring poorly that puts me on edge; its something far less tangible that I can’t quite put my finger on. If you have never entered or attended the APPA awards that probably sounds a little strange, but for those of you who have entered before you will know exactly what I am talking about. Its a special competition and quite honestly its not for the faint of heart. It’s never wise to take these things too seriously, but on the other hand, APPA is the standard by which professional photographers are judged against each other and is considered to showcase the highest level of photography so one can’t help but become emotionally involved.
This was a massive year for me as I entered APPA after winning multiple categories in the Victorian State Awards including Creative Photographer of the Year, Science Environment and Nature Photographer of the Year, Highest Scoring Print of the Year and overall title of Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year. There is a hefty weight of expectation (even if it is self imposed) that comes with those awards that carries over into APPA so I felt even more nervous than usual when my first print turned around for judging.
For those of you unfamiliar with APPA you can read my previous blog post HERE about how the system operates. The four prints (the maximum you are allowed to enter) I chose to enter this year were my highest scoring prints at state level and I entered them into the Science, Environment and Nature Category. At state level they scored 2 Gold Awards and 2 Gold with Distinctions and thats about as good as one could ever hope to score. So, I was ecstatic to receive a Silver Award, a Silver with Distinction and two Gold Awards for my four entries this year at APPA. All four entries were printed on my favourite fine art paper – Moab Somerset Museum Rag. You can watch a video of the judging of the three highest scoring prints online by clicking on the image below.The culmination of these four awards provided more than the necessary points to also receive the coveted and highly sought after ‘Master of Photography’ ribbon from the AIPP. This award requires the accumulation of not less than ten points in no more than five years after receiving an Associateship Award and its no easy feat to achieve. I had set myself a goal of achieving this in four years and I am pleased to say I managed it in just three years. In fact, I already have several excess points in the bank toward my first Master of Photography Gold Bar. You can read about the honours and points system on the APPA website.
I was even more ecstatic to subsequently learn at the awards dinner last night (which unfortunately I could not attend in person due to print workshop commitments) that not only did I receive multiple Gold and Silver award scores for my prints at National level as well being awarded a Master of Photography by the AIPP but that I also won the overall category and award for 2014 AIPP Canon Professional Science, Environment and Nature Photographer of the Year. This was only the second time I have ever entered this category and taking out the overall title is a huge thrill and honour. It was also a great honour to learn that I took out the highest scoring print in this category – an honour that resonates deeply with my love of the craft of photographic print making.
APPA – Silver with Distinction Award ‘Bear Reflections’
With APPA done and dusted for 2014 and my goal of achieving Master of Photography completed, along with being the overall winner of the Canon 2014 Professional Science, Environment and Nature Photographer of the Year as well as highest scoring print in the category I am now planning to take a short term hiatus from competitions and focus on my book projects that are currently overdue for completion. I hope to have more to say about the first of these over the coming weeks.