The Third Season HIPA Awards – Grand Event and aftermath

As I sit looking out of the window here in International Falls, MN close to the Canadian border and a few days into an action packed One2One consultancy with Cedulie’s Photography I look back on an interesting few weeks for me! Its only a week or so since I returned from the United Arab Emirates as the Worldwide Ambassador for HIPA, where I joined a throng of honoured guests, Judges, journalists from all over the world and of course, the lucky ‘winners’ for the third season of the  Awards – ‘Creating the Future’.

It all came together on March 17th (St.Patricks Day but I doubt there was a shamrock or pint of Guinness in sight!) in the shadow of the DIFC Gate here in downtown Dubai. An impressive stage with a ‘floor show’ performed by ‘Cirque du Soleil’. But it must be remembered that this was first and foremost about a celebration of Photography as ‘The World’s Richest Photographic Awards’ gave away prizes amounting to $389,000 US Dollars.

Special awards of recognition went to world renowned press photographer, Steve McCurry whose iconic images taken in Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion and Yi-Ren Ng who in 2013 was honoured with the Royal Photographic Society’s Selwyn Award, given to those under the age of 35 years who have conducted successful science based research connected with imaging.

The main category, ‘Creating the Future’ was undoubtedly driven by Dubai’s bid to win the 2020 World Trade Fair, which we now know was secured at the end of last year. A challenging subject for photographers indeed and I’m pretty sure the Judges were faced with numerous cliches, not the least, ‘sand, seedlings and big buildings’!

The winner came from China and immediately faced waves of controversy that always seem to be attracted to awards of this grandeur and monetary value. The initial question? Was it or was it not retouched beyond all recognition or credibility. My good friend and colleague, David Kilpatrick of Icon Publications fame, went to a great deal of trouble to examine the file I sent him that was a little below par on the resolution front.  His analysis seems to prove quite conclusively that alleged ‘arm fixing’ was not evident and the retouching on a high ISO file was pretty commensurate with the trends we see in so many competitions nowadays.

The second ‘bombshell’ hit a few days later with reports coming out of China that the venue for the winner was a kind of ‘Studio Set’. Even so, revenues generated from this location are put to good use in the community so does that make it ethically wrong? I’ll leave you to judge that for yourselves. What I do know is that HIPA are working desperately hard in the face of all the usual adversity surrounding worldwide awards to do the very best they can to bring photography to the fore with all the considerable resources they have at their disposal.

My message? Bear with them. Give them a chance as they are only just three years all and like any child of that age, have a world of learning and experiences to gather in their laudable journey. The 2014 season’s main theme is ‘The Colour of Light’, which in its Arabic form means so much more than the picture it paints in English. I’m sure that together with the other new categories that it will present challenges to photographers at all levels and with a prize fund of $400,000 US Dollars it continues t be the World’s richest photography awards. But remember, ‘Rich’ should be considered in many ways. In culture, in content, in legacy. So, good luck and happy shooting!

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