There IS a line. There IS a definable point, a noticeable action. No slippery slope.
From the POYi rules:
• No masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed.
The Hipstamatic App for iPhones is a software that manipulates colors, saturation, exposure and textures in an image to “Bring back the look, feel, unpredictable beauty, and fun of plastic toy cameras of the past.” (From The Hipstamatic official Facebook page) The website for the app states images become “Artistic and painted with light.”
As described by the the company who created it, this application CLEARLY clashes with POYi rules. Therefore, the winning essay HERE shouldn’t qualify for this contest.
Let me back up and clarify – really quickly – what this post is NOT about:
IT IS NOT A PERSONAL BASHING – I am a HUGE fan of the photographer who made these images. I consider him a friend – when I worked with him, he was very kind to me, a lowly confused intern at a Big-City Paper. I have told several folks that I think he should win POYi this year, for his amazing coverage in Haiti, Afghanistan, and the midterm elections. I consider him one of the best living photojournalists in the world.
IT IS NOT A RANT AGAINST PHONE-PHOTOGRAPHY - This is a documentary/journalistic photography contest. The medium has NOTHING to do with the content. Use a daguerreotype, large-format, medium format, phone, pinhole, whatever. *The physical tool used to make the image is not an issue here.* Several other times I have seen camera phone images win contests and there have been no issues.
If anything, this photographer’s huge stature in the photojournalist community enhances the iPhone’s legitimacy as a tool – The reasons he gives for using the phone are completely functional. This is a photographer who doesn’t need “gimmicks.”
The issue IS about a digital manipulation that was applied to the image. The filter changes the content of the image, and by the rules stated above, should not be applicable in this contest.
The most ironic thing to me is that many other award winning photographs have been MUCH more manipulated than these, but they have been done so on the “slippery-slope” of what can be called “toning.” There are many, many, many other images I personally think have been “toned” to an excessive point that becomes, not a simple color-balance or contrast adjustment, but out-and-out manipulation. Don’t even get me started on this, as I think so many photographers spend more time “toning” their images to outlandish lengths than actually thinking about and making good images to start with… I am NOT condoning those images, or the photographer’s responsibilities in image preparation.
However, I have to concede that standards can be tricky when judgments are made by an “opinion-based” threshold or judgment.
The reason I think this case is so unique – and DOES need to be addressed quickly – is the fact that there is a singular action that can be pointed out and admonished as against the written rules for this prestigious (and guiding) contest.