Marlborough will play host to the Photographic Society of New Zealand when it holds its 62nd National Convention in April. Reflecting on last year's convention, the organization’s president, Shona Jaray, takes a look at some of the distinguished work on show while Adrian Hatwell discusses some of the esteemed speakers
Natex: The National Exhibition of the Photographic Society of NZ
Some of the best photographic images that New Zealand has to offer are shown at the National Exhibition (Natex) of the Photographic Society of New Zealand. Held each year in conjunction with the National Convention of the Photographic Society, Natex is open to all New Zealand residents, irrespective of whether or not they are members of the Photographic Society.
Eric Young trophy for Best Landscape Digital Image, Bevan Tulett FPSNZ, The Glow As a New Day Begins
Marlborough Camera Club and Nelson Camera Club have the opportunity to host the convention this year and follow the high standards 2013's host, Kapiti Coast Photographic Society, achieved. As host, the club was tasked with organizing the exhibition, from providing entry forms to hanging and displaying the exhibition and finally returning all entries to their owners.
Arthur Bates Trophy for Champion Monochrom Digital Image, Meg Lipscombe FPSNZ, The Scarf
Last year, in total 255 people submitted 1728 images, and of those 534 were selected for exhibition. There were four sections: Open Projected Images, Open Prints, Nature Projected Images and Nature Prints, and four images could be entered in each section.
Selection took place over a weekend in March. Three, three-person selection panels viewed every image at least once, though in reality it was often more than once. Selection weekend is always a big one.
Honors Ribbon Open Digital Image, Joy Kachina, The Boulder Bank
The selectors were issued with electronic scoring devices carrying five buttons. The information provided when the buttons were pressed was displayed in a digital read-out behind the panel. That provides anonymity and helps ensure selectors are not influenced by other members of the panel. Each selector awards up to five, to give a maximum possible total of 15, for a clearly outstanding image. In the case of a wide variation of scores between selectors a discussion would follow, with each selector given the opportunity to argue in support of their score.
Brian Brake Award for Best Digital Image Photojournalism, Bob McCree FPSNZ, Go Away
After the first round of scoring the panel looked again at those images with the middle scores, i.e. those on the cusp of selection. When those images the selectors believed were of a quality and range suitable for a national exhibition were finally confirmed, the task of awarding trophies and medals began.
Maadi Cup Champion Monochrome Print, Michelle Usher, At Peace
Each trophy winner is also awarded a medal. Last year there were 12 gold medals, eight silver, eight bronze, and 17 were awarded honours. These awards were presented at a ceremony at the National Convention. All the award-winning images can be seen as a slide show here. If you click on ‘show info’ at the top right the title of the image, the photographer and the date of capture will be displayed with the image. The complete 2013 catalogue (17MB PDF) can be downloaded at this link.
The catalogue, in addition to showing the award-winning images, lists all the acceptances.
Best Print Nature Illustrating Nature (Gold medal) Ken Trevathan, Sally Lightfoot Crab Excreting
The front cover of the catalogue features the winner of this year’s Ronald Woolf Youth Award, Taliah Morrison. This award is for the best print by a photographer under 25 years of age. It is wonderful to be able to encourage young photographers and see the freshness with which they approach their photography.
Each year this exhibition is generously sponsored by Canon New Zealand. The Photographic Society is extremely grateful for its support.
By Shona Jaray APSNZ, President, PSNZ
PSNZ National Convention 2013
Each year the Photographic Society of New Zealand’s National Convention plants its stakes in a different part of the country. Last year the event cycled around to the nation’s capital, in Wellington’s Town Hall, and more appropriate accommodation for the event’s prestigious guest speakers you could not ask for.
For this 61st National Convention, which also included a generous serving of practical workshops, trade displays, and general mingling, the organization put together a truly inspiring roster of presentations. The following is merely a sample of the wisdom and wit on tap at the event; anyone remotely serious about photography who has not made it along to one of these conventions is doing themselves a disservice.
Liu Heung Shing
The event’s headline speaker, Liu Heung Shing, is a Hong Kong–born Pulitzer-winning photojournalist acclaimed for his extensive coverage of China, among other international press assignments. An accomplished, good-humoured orator, Liu led a captivated audience through tales of his storied career, culminating in his editing of the exhaustive 400-plus-page photo book, China: Portrait of a Country.
As much a fascinating lecture on the development of the People’s Republic as simple biography, Liu delivered a challenging explanation of the country’s sweeping changes, his difficult relationship to the nation and the problematic visions of China in books produced by foreigners.
“In these books I have seen multiple versions of China, but I have not yet found the version of China I’m familiar with.”
It was these feelings that prompted the photographer to take on the daunting Portrait of a Country project. It required him to call on a lifetime of experience, visiting many countries and hundreds of photographers, sifting through shoeboxes of photos and negatives, on a four-and-a-half-year journey to assembling a vision of China he felt accurate.
Amidst his globe-trotting story — from teenage holidays spent translating news feeds for his journalist father, to his Pulitzer-winning coverage of a collapsing USSR — Liu revealed an early inspiration from our end of the world. At the very unsure beginnings of his career he met legendary Kiwi photographer Brian Brake — in the late ’60s at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
“Brian Brake was so easygoing, he took away the fear,” Lui explains. “He made me feel that the bar [to being a photojournalist] was achievable.”
Though his address was peppered with tales of perseverance and success, Lui — like many of the great photographers looking back — fears the industry circumstances that gave rise to his incredible body of work are now a thing of the past.
“I could go to China with my camera and no deadline — it was very leisurely. I could look, I could take my time, and I could find people to tell me their stories.
“This [time] is something photojournalists do not have today.”
Adelaide landscape photographer Pete Dobre is an easy guy to spot in a room; he wears his outfit of a red-checked shirt, red cap, shorts (often with holes) and mismatched socks as devotedly as a cartoon character. But behind each item there’s a tale of practical wisdom and hard-won life lessons, convincing enough that he had the PSNZ council members wearing identical outfits by convention’s end.
Humble and forthright, the self-taught pro brought with him some wonderful landscape images and wildlife films to show the crowd, but his real mission was to share some encouragement.
“The sky inspires me. For me it’s the most important part of the landscape, if there’s no sky, rarely will I take a picture,” Dobre explains.
It’s a philosophy that has served him well. The successful photographer is now able to dedicate six months of the year immersed in Australia’s remotest regions. During that time he lives entirely off what he can load into his car, sleeping outdoors in a zip-up swag, existing on a diet of two dry Weet-Bix a day, with a power inverter under his vehicle to charge batteries. This ascetic lifestyle all feeds in to his work, waiting for that moment where he can achieve what he has coined a “P.O.” – photographic orgasm.
“If you limit your time, you limit your shoot. The essence of photography is simply light and time.”
He emphasises the point with a series of amazing films depicting the aberrant nesting of pelicans in South Australia’s Lake Eyre, following the Queensland floods. He was in the area, on and off, for two years and in the early days it would take him three-and-a-half-hours to move 30 metres in order to get close enough to shoot the birds and their babies.
“You learn things when you have the privilege of staying in a place for a long time.”
He, like Liu, admits that amount of time is not something many have the opportunity to invest, and it’s not something he takes for granted.
“To make a living as a landscape photographer is hard. Now everyone has a camera, everyone is a photographer. I’m lucky every year I’m still around.”
Dobre closes his address by urging the attendant photographers to be generous with their skills. He recounts the story of a 16-year-old on a bad path who wrote to him for help; seven years on that boy now runs his own portrait business and shoots for a multitude of car magazines, thanks in part to Dobre’s mentorship.
“Encourage young people, they are your future,” the artist implores. “Don’t hold knowledge to yourself — share it.”
A local boy who has strayed about as far from the nest as it’s possible to go, Amos Chapple returns home with wild stories from some of earth’s most untravelled regions. And if this photography thing doesn’t work out for him he has a bright future as an entertainer — Chapple certainly knows how to tell a good yarn.
Starting out as a photographer for the Herald, posted for two years in Hamilton (“the kind of place you can really focus on your work — I didn’t have much of a social life,” he says, laughing), Chapple quickly tired of the negative stories chased by the media and set his sights abroad. He was fortunate enough to pick up a job at UNESCO’s Our Place organisation, travelling the world to photograph world heritage sites.
“You worked on six-month contracts, so you never had any job security. It kept you hungry, which is very important for a young professional.”
It was during his five years there that the photographer developed a taste for travelling to the places few others dared to go. He’s brewed tea with Bedouins in Jordan, shot the Komodo dragons of Indonesia, ridden the mountain railways and crossed the Nongriat Village tree root bridge in India — anywhere people hadn’t already photographed a million times over, he was keen to explore.
“You can travel to places and take the best photos anyone has ever taken there, quite simply because nobody has photographed there before.”
Despite having what many would consider a dream job, Chapple had an epiphany while hiking in the hills of Upper Svaneti in Georgia, where he took refuge in a farmer’s hut, that would significantly alter his career path.
“I was fit enough to walk up a mountain, I knew enough Russian to talk to the farmer, he liked me enough to let me stay in the hut. It was all due to who I was as a person.
“That is when I decided I was never again going to work for anyone else.”
And so he became a freelance photographer, travelling to the places others would not and selling the resulting picture stories. He has since travelled to the ex-Soviet territories, camped out on the Iran-Iraq border and bundled up in the Russian village of Oymyakon, said to be the coldest permanently inhabited place in the world.
On his fantastic voyages Chapple advises the audience there is one single tool he has found more valuable than any other for travelling the world — his Kiwi passport.
“People love us; we have no real historical footprint and there’s this image that we’re very decent, fair people … with a New Zealand passport I can go into Iran and get a visa on arrival,” he enthuses. “Make use of that passport.”
This year’s National Convention will take place from April 23–27, hosted by the Marlborough Camera Club in Blenheim — make sure that's marked in your calendar to ensure you don’t miss the next round of inspiring guest speakers.
By Adrian Hatwell