Another year done and dusted. Last time ’round we finished the year – 2021 – cautiously optimistic the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions were behind us.
At the time, I’d wage the majority of Inside Imaging readers had lived virus free. Now we’ve all probably copped a taste at least once! But we’ve moved on. And looking back at our 2022 coverage shows this to be the case.
A wildlife conundrum
Our first top story of the year tackled the question ‘do wildlife photographers need to get political‘. We interviewed two award-winning Australian photographers who care deeply about wildlife conservation – Scott Portelli, and Adam Oswell. They both have vastly different styles, with Oswell working as a conservation photojournalist while Portelli is a wildlife photographer. However they both aim their cameras at animals to tell stories that further conservation efforts.
It’s a stark contrast to one of our last stories for 2022, which explore Kittiya Pawlowski’s snow leopard photo hoax. This young photographer also purports to support wildlife conservation efforts. But it’s a hard pill to swallow after she was caught brilliantly faking wildlife photos.
Doors close, others open
Businesses come and go in the ever-turbulent photo industry. This sadly includes some great long-running organisations that feel like they’re as old as professional photography.
Australian photographers are probably feeling a little lost without Melbourne’s Camera Clinic servicing their gear, which announced its closed earlier this year. An Inside Imaging, Anthony, a customer for over 35 years, shared a lovely farewell e-mail he sent to the Camera Clinic crew. Here is an excerpt:
‘Your family has seen me through good times working for the likes of David Jones and the Wool Corp, bad times when I had almost no work, relatively stable times with a good coterie of teaching and freelance work and now, comfortably working and having fun.
I am grateful for your care, knowledge and willingness to help, no matter how crazy or bizarre the circumstances (my ‘Blad falling in a pond at the Zoo is probably my favourite repair you had to do). But through it all you delivered on time and did your best if it was urgent. You were friendly, diligent and above all, cared about the profession and those in it. You were reliable, trustworthy in terms of advice and if necessary, innovative (my favourite was Wayne’s housing for a remotely-controlled camera halfway up a wind turbine).’
(Hope you don’t mind me re-publishing, Anthony!)
Another venerable organisation, IDEA, officially wrapped up its operations after more than four decades of serving the photo industry. But having been run as an empty shell for around half a decade, IDEA shutting came as no shock.
What did come as a shock to many loyal WPPI Awards entrants was the hiatus of the print awards. The Awards had an APPA-like structure and were set up by Australian photographers, Jerry and Melissa Ghionis.
‘Reading between the lines it appears the WPPI Awards aren’t profitable, nor primed for growth, nor hitting whatever metric measures viability,’ we wrote. ‘And after a shocker couple of years for the events industry, it’s not surprising Emerald Holding [the parent company] is tightening the belt to bounce back.’
The Northern NSW/Queensland floods hit the photo industry. CR Kennedy’s Albion office in Brisbane went under water, causing ‘hundreds of thousands’ in damage. The good news was that it had already sold the premises, and was due to move into new premises ‘high, safe and dry’ on Spring Hill, and simply brought the move forward a week or so.
And unlike Jon Paterson and The New Camera House in Lismore, CR Kennedy was able to secure flood insurance.
The New Camera House was absolutely devastated by floods. Truly horrific. A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign raised $84K for Paterson to again rebuild, with many familiar photo industry names generously donating. The New Camera House re-opened in August. Now that’s resilience.
The Australian Centre of Photography (ACP) may rise like a phoenix from the ashes after it was acquired by NSW Government’s Powerhouse. It’s first task is digitising the $1.6 million archive, and an advisory group will steer the ACP’s direction to ‘connect the organisation to industry and embed knowledge, insights and advice to inform curatorial strategies’. (People sure do like high-falutin’ ways of expressing themselves these days!)
Another revival is out west with FotoFreo, Australia’s inaugural international photo festival, returning after almost a decade of slumber. The pared-back 2022 program featured just 10 exhibitions and a panel discussion, but the 2024 edition looks like it will be significantly larger.
And a couple of former AIPP members have filled an APPA-shaped hole in the awards calendar with the Australian Photographic Prize (APP).
Here’s what we wrote about the inaugural APP event:
‘Featuring a resonant acronym, combined with a similar judging and points structure, along with familiar names and sponsors, including the rebirth of the Epson Print Awards, it’s hard not to regard the APP a close relative of the APPAs. A quick glance at the Epson Print Awards results shows many former APPA champions in the mix.
But there is one fundamental difference; the Australian Photographic Prize is not exclusive to professionals: the Epson Print Awards are open to everyone, and the Nikon Digital Awards are targetted at enthusiasts or those who earn less than $10K per annum from their photography.
Modelling a new awards system on APPA just months after the Institute went belly up comes across as ambitious and risky. For years, while the AIPP was able to maintain the camaraderie (for the most part) and spirit of the competition, the Board wasn’t able to make the adjustments to make them financially sustainable.
By virtue of starting afresh the APP organisers, Karen Alsop and Robyn Campbell, were able to adopt the desirable components of APPA while addressing what the zeitgeist has taken to calling ‘problematic’ components, such as how to welcome keen amateurs to the fold, and including digital image file entries.
Lastly, vale to the great industry leaders and luminaries who passed away this year: John Atkins, Tim Page, and Graham Burstow. (There are others whom we will have missed, we urge readers to make good our omissions in the Readers Comments below and we will then update this review.)
Australian photographers doing good things
It’s always a pleasure to cover good news stories regarding Australian photographers. And there is fortunately plenty of them every year.
Photojournalists cleaned up on the global photo contest circuit, with Matthew Abbott taking out the 2022 World Press Photo Story of the Year, Adam Ferguson winning the Sony World Photography Awards, David Gray triumphing at the 2022 World Sports Photography Awards.
And a special mention to Bendigo photographer, Lauren Starr, who won the whopping $150K Bluethumb Art Prize.
A couple of photographers, James Pozarik and Russell James, are also recipients of the Queen’s Birthday 2022 Honours List for their contributions to photography.
Melbourne photojournalist, Luis Ascui, also settled a legal dispute with Victoria Police, after officers pepper sprayed him while he covered anti-Covid lockdown protests last year. It’s a great result and shows justice sometimes prevails. No one deserves such treatment when they’re doing their job. Especially when that job is bearing witness to newsworthy events to keep the public informed.
And congratulations to Andrew Quilty on releasing his authorial debut, August In Kabul. The book marks Quilty’s exit from Afghanistan after living there for almost a decade, covered through an in-depth profile.
Photographers behaving badly
One of the most challenging stories to cover has been the Ryan Schembri controversy, which has continued to manifest in 2022. We’ve heard from more than a dozen desperate clients, who claim the award-winning golden boy of wedding photography hasn’t delivered what he promised. Some clients are angry, others distressed – they all just want a satisfactory outcome.
Although Schembri’s alleged bad deeds may have been eclipsed by UK wedding photographer, Lee Brewer, who operates South West Photo and Film. He went bankrupt leaving ‘hundreds’ – up to 800 – of clients out of pocket, some just days before their wedding.
Back in Australia, Mark Culley, a respected astrophotographer, was found guilty of defrauding the Professional Photographers’ Association of Queensland (PPAQ) of $21K over a three year period. That’s an average of $7K per year, which hardly seems worth the risk.
The photographer transferred the money over 59 transactions and forged documents in Photoshop to cover his trail. He pleaded guilty to five charges, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for three years.
Russia invades Ukraine
We barely had a second to catch our (shortened) breath from Covid when Russia invaded the Ukraine. And in response various photo industry businesses participated in the great sanctioning of Russia, although it hasn’t appeared to demoralise Putin and the Ruskies.
And with the invasion came propaganda and bad information, with an influx of photos wrongly circulated in the months after the fighting began. Mostly via social media. A 2019 photo of exhausted Tasmanian firefighters, for instance, was shared on Twitter as ‘Ukrainian firefighters’.
A 2013 photo showing two Australian SAS troops in Afghanistan was also used for Russian military recruitment ‘propaganda’.
AIPP funds up in the air
Inside Imaging broke a major exclusive after publishing the Liquidators report, which found the Institute went into voluntary administration (thanks for correction, Jane Doe!) with $164K in the bank. Once the liquidation wraps up the left-over money – which could be a significant sum – will ‘go to an organisation with similar purpose’.
The question remains whether such as organisation exists in Australia. It must be a not-for-profit entity that resembles a professional photographers’ association. From our understanding, the decision will be made via a Supreme Court decision.
We last checked in with the liquidator in October, and were told they’re ‘progressing the administration, however a Supreme Court application has not been made. The Liquidator expects an application to be made by the end of the year.’ So we’ll hit the ground running in 2022 with an update.
We should mention something about AI at this stage, to signal we are in the zeitgeist, but its a subject which tends to sap the will to live, so we won’t.
We’re proud that almost every story we’ve highlighted here is ‘Our Own Work’. In the interests of keeping things interesting for our readers – and ourselves to be honest – we’ve sought out stories, rather than hanging around waiting for press releases to hit the in-tray.
So we were humbled when the Inside Imaging readership responded so well to our subscription drive in the middle of the year. It really gave us a positive response to that existential question – ‘what are we doing this for?’ (Spoiler alert – it isn’t rivers of gold!)
And all year long we’ve resisted the urge to run a story about turning an orange, or a tin can, or a matchbox, or a chocolate Easter egg or a sheet of cardboard into a pinhole camera. We’d have to get some credit points for that, surely!
Have a great Christmas break. Cheers.
Will and Keith