The ‘Take A View’ Landscape Photographer of the Year awards (LPOTY) have courted controversy ever since they started 6 years ago. I say that they have ‘courted controversy’ but the reality is that the only people who actually care about these controversies are the photographers who pay to enter the competition. Any criticism is largely lighthearted and constitutes a mere murmur in the grand scale of things.
In previous years we’ve had a photo of a dog on a beach win the competition (and £10,000 prize) then there was ‘Crabgate’ (a hermit crab Photoshopped onto a beach) and last years rather spectacular ‘day turns to night’ cityscape. Intermixed with that lot we’ve had a lot of not-a-landscape landscapes, an impressive degree of repetition and some rather interesting processing.
This year the winner is a landscape, not a ‘classic’ landscape, but a landscape all the same. The image is taken by David X and is entitled ‘Lindisfarne Boats’.
“We went to Holy Island for the night, to visit the famous boat houses and castle of Lindisfarne. I’ve been waiting for a year to do this after seeing Peter Clarke’s great version of it. I hope I’ve done it justice.”
Note that this description does not accompany the image in the book and therefore unless the judges were inquisitive (at all) they could not make this connection.
Both shots are great. I really like them. Dramatic light, strong composition and a pleasingly abstract nature to the upside down hulls. Though I would not have picked these images, they are good shots, in fact I think they would be hard to improve upon (save perhaps a lighter hand with the sky darkening but that’s my personal taste.) I can understand why David entered the image, he probably hoped like the rest of us that it would get into the book and the exhibition. I can’t say I criticise him at all, afterall he is not alone in drawing inspiration from others and why shouldn’t he produce a similar image?
Yet the fact remains that these images are remarkably similar in location, lighting, timing, composition, crop and processing. I do not see artistry or originality in the differences between the images personally (although David’s other work shows that he is a talented and creative photographer). I am left baffled that the competition organizers would select this image as a winner when clearly it is a copy of another image (pointed out by David himself). I can only assume they had no idea, which must mean that absolutely no checking went on despite the previous year’s controversies.
By this point I am probably sounding quite bitter, and I wish it wasn’t that way! The first thing I did when I saw the similarity was laugh!
I put a huge amount of effort into my photography. Readers of this blog will know that I often wild camp on mountaintops for my images and hike long distances. Here is my collection of images that I entered this year: LPOTY 2012 the first image was ‘commended’ which I was happy about.
I am not alone in putting a huge amount of effort into my photography. All over the country landscape photographers drive, hike, camp and endure our variable weather to get unique and creative images, many of which can be found in this book. All the photographers that enter the Landscape Photographer of the Year competition will hope for some recognition for their efforts. For most this inevitably ends in disappointment, such is the nature of the competition. But we all pay to enter, and we all expect that the winner should be deserving. Now David is a very good photographer, but this image did not deserve to win. A duplicate of an image before can hardly be regarded as the pinnacle of UK Landscape Photography. I really don’t want to have a go at David because the competition organizers should be responsible for the vetting of winning images. It seems rather ironic that David’s image description should read ‘I hope I’ve done it justice.’
EDIT: The Sunday Times did not publish the winning image in the awards section of the magazine. I do not know why.
A couple of people have now pointed me towards a couple of other issues with this image that indicate that it may have been manipulated in a way that contravenes the rules. Since I have received a huge number of ‘you’re just bitter’ comments related to my blog post I’ll tread lightly…
If you look again at the two images above you will see that the right side of the competition winning image is looking rather ‘clean’. Of course this mess could have been cleared up prior to the image being taken, but more recent images of the location make this seem a little unlikely. If you look to the distance you will see that the headland has disappeared as well.
One comment below calls into question the relative lighting directions of the shot. The boats appear sidelit yet the feint crepuscular rays coming from the clouds appear to suggest that the sun is directly in front of the viewer (crepuscular rays always converge on the sun). It is quite possible that these are not crepuscular rays at all, but rather artefacts of some heavy handed processing. Could it be that the sky was dropped into the image?
It would be hard for LPOTY to pick up these issues without scutinising the image very carefully (as some others have clearly done!) but then if the image is worth £10,000 and is going to be presented as the best UK landscape photo of the year perhaps scrutiny is in order. Who on being offered 10,000 wouldn’t be happy to turn over the RAW file, just to confirm that no rules were broken?
Here are some related links discussing this subject.
Updated YET AGAIN!
David has been disqualified from the ‘Take A View’ Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards. I hold the competition organizers responsible for what is a complete mess and an embarrassment for UK Landscape Photography. Take a View will shortly release a statement.
Below is my response to David made on the Talk Photography Forum. I am sure we can all now put this behind us.
I would like to say that although the issue is now solved satisfactorily I never set out to harm Davids reputation, only to criticise the competition selection and by association David’s images.
For my part I have no interest in David being ‘stripped’ of his award but perhaps it was the only recourse for the competition after so much bad publicity.
Unfortunately as I have said before if images are to be held as the pinnacle of UK Landscape Photography then they may well come under criticism, but particularly given the past history of the competition.
Whilst David has got to accept a portion of the blame for his mistake it is the organizers that are responsible for this. The writing was on the wall from previous criticism of the awards, and whilst they were fully aware they were unwilling to change their approach. The unfortunate result is that David has been left at the tail end of a backlash.
David I admire you as an artist, your work is certainly individual and has a strong graphic aspect. I sincerely hope people do not criticise you further for this because what has been said is more than enough. I wish you the best with your photography.
Take A View Statement:
Following the recent announcement of the winners of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012 Awards, further investigation has confirmed that the image chosen as the overall winner is in breach of the rules for the Classic view category owing to the extent of the digital manipulation techniques used. Organisers, Take a view have regrettably disqualified David Byrne’s image of Lindisfarne Castle and can announce that Simon Butterworth is the new winner of this year’s competition.
Whilst digital manipulation is a valid part of an artistic process for many photographers and is encouraged in the ‘Your view’ category, the extent of the changes made was in breach of the ‘Classic view’ category. The image was judged in good faith and was the clear favourite amongst the judges. The file that was supplied had all of its Exif data included, which gives information on the camera settings used, and this appeared correct.
Charlie Waite, founder of the competition said: “This is extremely regrettable and it appears there was no deliberate intention to deceive the judges but the level of manipulation means that this photograph gained an unfair advantage in this category and in winning the overall competition. The integrity of the competition is very important to all involved and it was clear that disqualification was the only course of action open to us. The new winning image of Port Glasgow by Simon Butterworth is a very worthy winner. It is the first time that an urban landscape has won the main Award and its strong composition is very pleasing. ”
He added: “We will be reviewing our checking processes to ensure that such issues are picked up earlier in the judging process for 2013 and beyond.” David’s image of Delamere Forest, which won the Classic view category, has been disqualified for the same reason. A full list of revised results is below. (full release here)
The Winner is…
Simon Butterworth’s winner of the “Urban View” category has now been ‘upgraded’ to overall winner. Simon Butterworth is a well deserved winner you can see more of his fantastic landscapes on his website.