After six months of doing the print competition thing, finally time to finish this entry about Print Handlers, with some extra behind-the-scenes goodness. (Guilty secret, we’ve published this before, but the story has changed now, so lets pretend it’s a brand new post. Ssshhh.)

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A few years ago at the Queensland state awards dinner, Simon Hutchen introduced himself, and talked about how he was really excited for one of my prints. He’d been on duty behind the scenes as a print handler, taking prints off the stack, making sure they were in top condition before putting them up for judging. He spoke about carefully checking and dusting my print, and other prints, and we got to talking about all of the aspects of working as a print handler. He spoke about the whole thing with so much respect, respect for the work, respect for the photographers, and a love for just being a part of the process.

Of course, he isn’t the only one to feel that way. I think anyone involved in the awards knows people who have worked back there, and I’m willing to bet that they all sing the same tune. All my other friends that have had roles to play behind the curtain speak in much the same way. Opening a case of prints and being the first to see incredible work, prepping prints for judging, taking awarded prints and putting them up for display… They all talk about the process with that same sense of excitement and respect.

Now, as an observer of the judging for print awards, you never get to see any of that. That all happens behind the wall, and prints magically appear and disappear in the right order like clockwork. I wanted to fashion an image that gave a little peek in to what is going on behind the scenes… Something fantastic, something that conveyed that reverence for the work.

To me, this print is about respect – respect for the work of photographers, and respect for the people that take care of the images. In the finished piece, every print here is special; there are no stacks of prints, they each wait patiently until someone comes to take them for judging. It is an Event for the print handlers – t-shirts, jeans and regular photo-handling gloves replaced with glamorous black-tie dresses and suits with opera gloves. Something special and something to be celebrated.

The Print Handlers

So… preparing a print like this for the awards is interesting. Part of the appeal of this print has to be the impact it has on judges who aren’t really prepared for it, so it’s important to keep it under wraps. After identifying photographers that had actually done print handling, and weren’t too notorious, my pitch was something like… “Hi there! So… would you like to be part of a project? You can’t tell anyone about it, not even to say that I’m photographing you. And I’m not going to tell you what the project is yet. Are you in?” Had a 100% “YES!” rate, which is terribly cool. We ended up shooting these people-parts in our lounge at home, at a few studios (Studio Fascino at the Gold Coast and the Garage Studio in Sunbury), and even in other people’s lounge rooms (thanks Greg!).

The location was a happy accident. Wanda and I were travelling in mid-2015, and one of the shots I took in Sweden seemed to be a good fit. You can check the whole room out in a groovy 360-degree virtual tour (where the photographer stood in a much better spot than I did, dangit).

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Sketches are great for knocking out heaps of the complexity with constructed images like this. Better to throw away a few designs now, instead of later after you’ve shot.

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Guidelines showing the easel height at metre intervals.

 

Colleen was my test subject and the first one to be shot. You might notice she has a red lanyard in the image below – I had an authentic lanyard from an APPA 2015 print handler to use as a prop. Unfortunately, not long after that, the APPAs had a sponsorship change, so my carefully procured red lanyard made way for a standard AIPP lanyard. (At the actual 2016 APPA judging, it was the Nikon AIPP lanyard with yellow squares every now and again. Sigh, can’t win em all.)

How’s this for super committed? I realised one evening that I had a few hours to kill in Melbourne the following day before flying home. I gave Fiona Handbury a call. “Hey, do you want to be in an APPA image? You have to organise a black dress, hair, a lanyard, white opera gloves, a print and a print case… and a studio.” One hour later, Fi says “Done. See you tomorrow.”

Tristam Evison has printed many many APPA-awarded prints, and a great many of mine, so it was quite a pleasure to get to include him in a print. “You’ve worked behind the scenes at QPPA, right?” “Yeah, but mostly delivering coffee.” BAM.

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The ten awesome subjects in the print – all of whom have worked behind the scenes. Top row: Colleen Harris, Megan Rizzo, Simon Hutchen, Alycia Angel, Ralph Brown Bottom row: Tristam Evison, Sue Lewis, Roxanne Gorman, Greg Hanlon, Fiona Handbury

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Behind the Scenes at Studio Fascino. Thanks for the photos Megan Rizzo!

 

See Simon in there, with the blower, making sure that print is nice and tidy and ready for judging? That’s the exact print he was telling me about when I first met him, the one he was really excited to prepare. That seemed fitting.

 

The Prints

One of the fun easter eggs for me in this print is the selection of images playing the part of APPA prints – each one of them printed and re-photographed as an award print, prints that could conceivably fall in to categories like Travel, Landscape, Portrait, or Illustrative. (None of these images have ever been in the awards, although I’ve shortlisted a couple of them have been shortlisted when preparing award submissions in the past.) There are photographs of my gorgeous wife Wanda, our son, my Dad, plus some of our amazing theatre clients including ImproMafia, The Sexy Detectives and BangNation, one of our wedding couples Caitie and Luke, and some other personal work including a smoke-painting-shoutout to Kelly Gerdes. And a sunrise shot from a Landscape Masterclass in Victoria where we met a bunch of pretty legendary photographers that have become good friends. (Does this mean these 13 prints have also scored awards at a state, national and international level? I think yes!! 😀 )

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Judging volume 1 – The Mat. Sigh.

Ever have a good idea that turned out to be not so great?

For the 2016 APPA print, I acquired some of the material that was used to create the judging wall – offcuts from the exact batch that the judging walls are made of – and used that instead of a traditional mat. The fabric and the stitching pretty much exactly matches the rest of the wall. For the few minutes that the print was on the wall, it was intended to be a sneaky look in to what was going on behind the scenes at that exact moment. I was pretty taken with the idea that the print would be contextually correct for just a few moments, a little window in to that back room, PART of that wall instead of a print sitting on the wall. Surely that whole convention-breaking thing would be celebrated by the judges! Surely!!

Um, no. Just. No.

That was a risk that did not pay off. Pretty sure the unusual mat was the least appealing part of the print for the judges. It was distracting, and made it harder to connect with the image; it’s hard enough to clear your mind between one print and the next, without having this distracting mat poking you in the eye while you’re trying to read the print. I don’t think anyone tumbled to the idea that the stitching or the material was the same – I think it’s probably normal to judge a thousand prints and have never really looked at the judging wall! But – that’s what taking risks is about, so it’s all good.

Huge thanks to Tristam and Wanda for the mat help. They both went WAY above and beyond to make this thing work. If either of you want to punch me in the shoulder and tell me to mat things normally next time, go for it.

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Also – can I complain about the score? No I cannot! The print scored an 87, squarely in Silver with Distinction range. Not too shabby.

Judging volume II – Vegas, Baby

This print had a run at the WPPI 16×20 awards in Las Vegas. One notable improvement – no crazy mat. Too late I realised that I’d kind of botched some colour around the window, but time had gotten away from me, so the print went in as it was, and it came home with an 83, Silver Award. Nothing to sneeze at.

Judging volume III – Back to Brisbane

This print started life in Brisbane, and for the very last time we are able to take prints that have been to APPA and give them a run in the state awards. So – no crazy mat, colour issues fixed, feedback from the judges at both APPA and WPPI actioned, and an intense edit-print-examine-curse-edit-print-examine-curse-repeat cycle later – super excited to watch the print score a 90, Gold Award, at the Queensland awards, and also become part of the Illustrative Photographer of the Year portfolio!

One of the best bits? It is understandable that this image can look like a bit of a piss take on the awards, but the intent is anything but – it’s supposed to be about respect. Hearing Kaye Davis from New Zealand challenging and talking this print up as a something of a timeless tribute to photography was just excellent.

Thank you’s

I think most of my APPA prints are a team effort, and this one more than any other. Thank you to my amazing wife and partner in crime Wanda for being super supportive, and for being extra patient with me when stitching the crazy mat. (And for not divorcing me after my back-seat-driving while she was sewing. “Too close! Wait too far! Too spaced out! Too neat! Too messy!”), Dan for the material, Tristam for the matting (yes it STILL smells, Tristam) and APPA+WPPI printing, and Shane for the QEPPA printing. And to my a+ assistant Tara who is always super keen to be part of these projects, despite my hassling her all the time to clean her room.

Massive thank you to the photographers that very enthusiastically signed up to be part of this image – Simon Hutchen, Alycia Angel, Fiona Handbury, Colleen Harris, Roxanne Gorman, Greg Hanlon, Ralph Brown, Tristam Evison, Megan Rizzo and Sue Lewis. All of these guys have actually done this job, working behind the scenes at state or national awards. You guys put a lot of trust in me, and I hope this print is something you will value for a long time.

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The 2017 AIPP Queensland Epson Professional Photography Awards were as exciting and amazing as always. I judged for the second year, spending time on the panel in the Landscape, Portrait and Wedding categories judging with some industry heavyweights and getting to view some really amazing images. This year I submitted four images for judging, all in the Illustrative category. The goal was to get all four over the line to a Silver award – with the high standard of entries in the Professional Practice range, four Silvers is a challenging but achievable goal. Very pleased that all four of them made it over the line!

Giant surprise #1: Two of the images managed a coveted Gold Award. A few years ago, a Gold award was something that I hoped I might get once in my life, so my mind is blown that two images would fall in to that category at one time. Print Handlers (which has made an appearance at APPA, and WPPI) just snuck over the line with a 90, thanks to a challenge from NZ judge Kaye Davis. One of the new prints managed a score of 94 after the most amazing, heartfelt challenge from Mark Rossetto – a very solid gold!

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Judge Mark Rossetto inspects, then challenges up, one of the new prints. (Thanks for the photos, Roxanne Gorman!)

 

At the end of judging, my prints managed one Silver, one Silver with Distinction, and two Golds!

Giant surprise #2: At the presentation dinner, I was awarded the 2017 AIPP Queensland Epson Professional Illustrative Photographer of the Year award! Congratulations also to the two other finalists, Charmaine Heyer and Jan Ramsay, both of whom are incredible artists. Also a great pleasure to be given the award by Sara McKenna, the current President of AIPP Queensland, an award-winning photographer, and a good friend. Sara has been amazingly supportive since this whole crazy awards journey has started for me, and it was fantastic to have her present the award!

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Current AIPP President Sara McKenna presents the Illustrative prize. That is some shiny AIPP bling she has there. (Photo credit – Stephen Jones)

 

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The category winners and overall winner of the QEPPAs! (Photo: Stephen Jones)

Last time I was standing amongst the category winners, I couldn’t believe I was there with such a group of rockstar photographers. Now I am chuffed to call many of them friends. Congrats to all of the category winners, including friends Andrea Thompson, Foroogh Yavari and Selena Rollason. It was also an immense pleasure to be up at the podium during the night to present the Emerging Photographer of the Year award to good friend Shane McCaffery.

Normally I like to keep images under wraps until the national awards, but… they’re out and about now, along with all of the category winners’ images, at the 2017 QEPPA Gallery. Or you can check them out below! I’m going to hold off on the normal blog entries about these until after the nationals… I do have an entry coming for Print Handlers, but I’ll leave that for another day!

Congratulations to all of the category finalists and winners, to the talented and very nice Ken Drake who took out the overall Photographer of the Year award, and to everyone who entered – it is very brave to put your prints out there to be judged!

The biggest of thank-yous to my family Wanda Bailey and Tara. Wanda, you support me 100% of the way, and have a hand in everything (more than you know!). I love you heaps. (#everybodyneedsawanda) But this award is for Tara; she is the most excellent assistant, she’s been there helping me with every one of these prints, probably 20+ different sessions. She’s held softboxes, prints, reflectors and flashes; she’s helped to set up and tear down gear; she’s brought her own ideas to sessions too. I’m proud that she’s held the camera and shot some client theatre work with me this year as well – it is very cool to see her developing an interest and a talent in this stuff, and I’m envious she’s starting a zillion years before I did. This is for you sweetheart.

 

Illustrative

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The 39 Steps just wrapped a brilliant season at the Brisbane Arts Theatre. Visually a lot of fun to photograph – and a credit to the newly professional status of the theatre.

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