PDN Photography Annual 2009

- - Awards

PDN has the images from this years photography annual up online (here).

The Marty Forscher Fellowship went to Matthieu Paley and the student award went to Michael Mullady. Nikon Storyteller Award went to Ambroise Tézenas. The Arnold Newman prize went to Jeff Riedel and the Student Award went to Carl Kiilsgaard of Western Kentucky University. Cheers.

There’s some great photography in the winners gallery. I always liked looking through the advertising section so I could match a photographer with a campaign. On the editorial side I saw very few images/photographers that I wasn’t already familiar with, but I think that’s fine. It’s still good to celebrate the great work that was done last year. Corporate is another category I like seeing and discovering photographers, because I don’t follow that side of the business.

In the personal section there’s an incredible surfing image by Ed Freeman that I was bummed to discover is a composite. Ed labels the photography as Fine Art on his website (here) and explains that they’re retouched but I wouldn’t have been able to publish them editorially (back when I used to look in the personal section for images to publish).


Also in the stock category there’s an image that produced a little bit of controversy.


Over on You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice they’re calling it a rip off (here).


The similarities between what’s being dropped, subjects and framing make it too close to ignore but a commenter on YTWWN shows (as we all know) that nothing is new, everything has been done before (here).

Then finally there’s student work. It’s always nice to see students who can already take great pictures.

There Are 57 Comments On This Article.

  1. Ah the surf shot is a composite? So. Lame.

    There’s an unspoken requirement for action sports shots to be genuine since so much of the photo is about the moment, the human achievement that is so incredible and striking. Anyone can photoshop a person to be that much higher in the air. Thumbs down.

    • Debra Weiss


      Why are you assuming the intent behind this photograph is that of an action shot? Clearly, that is not what the image is about.

      • @Debra Weiss,


        The surfer, framed in the center of a photograph as he lofts a floater on a wave that was *intentionally altered* to look larger and more dangerous?

        What is this shot about other than action?

          • @Debra Weiss,

            “Clearly, that is not what the image is about.”

            Clearly the concept was not well executed, as many people will just see this as a tinted surf photo. Since surfing can produce images even more striking then this manipulation, I see this as a straight cheat. Now if one looks really closely and find the figure to have the visage of Bill Gates, then I might start to look at it as a “concept.”

            • Debra Weiss


              Clearly, those who were responsible for choosing these winning images disagree. While judging competitions rarely results in a perfect outcome, many of these judges I know firsthand to be extremely knowledgeable. I personally believe the judges did a great job as this is the best the annual has been in a while.

          • @Debra Weiss,

            All extreme sports photos have an implicit concept of action, no matter how ‘fine art’ they may be, because that frozen moment causes so much tension in the viewer that it supersedes all other claims to meaning. If there is no truth in that action, it is a betrayal of the sport and of the viewer.

            That is why the only concept in this photo is ‘cheating.’ All it needs is a little shark fin poking out of the water and a superimposed Mickey Dora looking down from the clouds.

            I’m very curious as to whether anyone at PDN knew this was altered.

            • Debra Weiss


              Please listen carefully. This image has nothing whatsoever to do with sports, extreme or otherwise.

              Re: Your question as to whether PDN knew it was altered. Do you honestly think anyone cares about that? And yes, judging by who the judges were, they knew.

              • @Debra Weiss, “Re: Your question as to whether PDN knew it was altered. Do you honestly think anyone cares about that? And yes, judging by who the judges were, they knew.”

                No one cares if it was altered? That’s a dangerous notion.

                • Debra Weiss


                  If the photographer was a photojournalist who by altering the image was misrepresenting what was happening in reality, yes. However, he’s not. And most would never mistake this image for photojournalism.

                  • @Debra Weiss, I agree that the ethical rules are different with journalism and, in my opinion, editorial photography.

                    I’d have to argue, however, that sports action is a part of photojournalism because it tells the story of the given sport. In that regard, I’d have to disagree with you that “most would never mistake this image for photojournalism.” Perhaps most would not, but I’m sure that quite a few viewers would view this as a single image. Therefore, one that captures a moment that is real.

                    But again, I agree that as long as the photographer didn’t represent himself as a photojournalist, thereby capturing the image as a ‘real’ moment, then no harm. I think the issue that’s being argued by others is whether this is clearly represented as an advertising image or that of a moment.

                    • Debra Weiss


                      You too are under the misconception that this image has anything to do with sports.

                      If anyone viewing this image can’t tell that the photographer didn’t document a real moment then a) if they are photographers they should think about another line of work, and b) they should see a good eye doctor.

                    • @Debra Weiss, hmmmm, so, it’s an image of a sporting event, but doesn’t have anything to do with sports?


                      the arrogant, condescending nature of some ‘art experts’ never ceases to amaze me. so much for having an intellectual discussion about ‘art.’

                    • Debra Weiss


                      Thanks for the compliment but I would never refer to myself as an “art expert”.

                    • @Debra Weiss,
                      I would tend to agree with you until I looked (on Freeman’s website) at the context that this image appears in. Do you call the rest of the series a “concept” series? I would err more towards “action”, “documentary” or “portrait”. The rest of the series appears to be a natural looking (and tastefully done, Ed) story about surf culture that I would enjoy as a body of work. In this context the shot looked like an extreme sports shot to me. Not questioning it’s impact but knowing that there is a composited image in there seemed really inappropriate, and a little deceitful for my tastes. If PDN is publishing the image out of context then all of the above is negotiable. You’re making a lot of generalisations about people’s perceptions Debra.

                • Fascinating conversation. Just to clear up any doubts you might have, let me say that, yes, that picture was Photoshopped halfway to death, as are all my pictures. I feel terrible thinking that I might have betrayed some trust or broken some unspoken rule in doing so, but I seem to have lost my copy of the Rule Book; anybody have an extra one they can send me?

                  • john mcd.

                    @Ed Freeman, You’re good at what you do and are certainly aware that it won’t appeal to everyone, or that the techniques employed will be acceptable in some markets and not in others. But rules? Don’t we make our own.

                  • @Ed Freeman,

                    “…photoshopped halfway to death, as are all my pictures.”

                    Your honesty is refreshing. And it takes guts to apply your ‘fine art’ label to a photoillustration that passes as a photograph, artist statement or no.

                    Thanks for responding and congrats on the PDN nod.

                    • @Mason, I don’t see what the point is here, Freeman entered the personal work category not a fine art and also there’s a ton of famous “fine art” photographers that use photoshop.
                      Also who says that fine art photographers shouldn’t use PS? Using it does it always make it a photo illustration?
                      Painter in the past shouldn’t have been use photography?
                      Have you noticed that in the current fine art photography world everything looks the same or has been done in the past?
                      Ideas and concept and originality is what makes work special, anyway you want to convey your message(if any) is fair game.

                    • @Mason, Thanks Mason. Guts might be needed if there were anything shameful about using Photoshop; I don’t think there is. Curious that nobody bats an eye at in-camera or darkroom manipulation, yet the slightest computer tweak sets off alarm bells. Maybe the dust just hasn’t settled yet; give us another fifty years.

                      p.s. Anybody who thinks straight photography is true to life has obviously never seen my driver’s license picture…

                    • @Ed Freeman, I think it’s a beautiful image.
                      In addition to this, I’ve never seen a floater that looked like this in reality. It didn’t look real right off the bat to me, if that’s any solace. I’m only a novice surfer but I don’t see this image as misleading. It’s not a literal surfing picture. The odd juxtaposition of things in this image only led me to want to study it further upon seeing it.

                    • @Peter Hoffman, Funny thing is, the surfer and his relationship to the wave is the only thing that HASN’T been Photoshopped. The sky is new, and the wave at the bottom of the frame has been substantially altered. But the middle part with the surfer is real…

                    • @Ed Freeman,
                      I really dig your attitude and have to say that I shouldn’t have said bummed because you obviously broke a “rule” and that’s always a good thing.

                    • @Ed Freeman,

                      Would be interesting to see before and after images.

                      The action looks more like a kick out than a floater.
                      What is deceiving is the bit of spray starting just back from the tip of the nose, and along the outside rail. It’s rare to see that carry over in that manner without any contact with the wave.

                    • @Bob,

                      There doesn’t seem to be any way to upload JPEGs to this thread, or I’d be happy to let you see it. I should probably have someone like you peering over my shoulder when I do these things – I don’t know the first thing about surfing (although authenticity is not my higest priority, obviously…)

                    • Debra Weiss

                      @Ed Freeman,

                      No one in the real art world bats an eye at digital manipulation. In fact, I have long been of the belief that it is digital manipulation that would be responsible for elevating photography to fine art status. If it mattered, the work of Ruud Van Empel, Loretta Lux, Maggie Taylor and others would be unable to garner the thousands upon thousands of dollars their images sell for. To paraphrase a comment made by Rick Wester, former Director of Photography at Phillips DuPury and now owner of Rick Wester Fine Art, ” If anyone has a problem with Photoshop, they need to get over it. The train has left the station.” He made that comment during a curatorial walkthrough about 3 or 4 years ago and the train is not about to go in reverse.

                    • @Debra Weiss,

                      And yet another art salesman justifies his existence. What a surprise.

                      I never said photoshop didn’t have a place in fine art. In fact, it is by far the most powerful tool artists have ever had at their disposal.

                      “I have long been of the belief that it is digital manipulation that would be responsible for elevating photography to fine art status.”

                      You can’t possibly be serious – elevating?

  2. Honestly, did none of these people ever watch nickelodeon? We all grew up with green slime being dumped on people and I don’t think anyone ever thought it was original then.

    Obviously a direct rip-off, but it’s stock. What else do you expect?

    • @dude,

      Beat me to it :P
      Find more @ Ai-Ap
      That series spawned other rip-offs earlier in the decade as well.

      Of course Halsman was one (or two) jumps ahead of John Clang 50 years earlier: http://www.flickr.com/photos/monkeyc/95165918/

      @Debra Weiss
      On the “surf shot”: communication is best understood when one has implicit knowledge of the subject matter.
      A lack of that knowledge is why you don’t fully comprehend this image, the context, or the lack of significance. (Why it has no bearing on what is portrayed).

      • pixelate

        @Bob, I think Halsman’s image and Clang’s are entirely different. I love both.

        Clang did a series of images involving “splashing” a dry medium for an Hermes campaign a few years ago. Those were pretty spectacular. I wish I had a link of it.

        • @pixelate,

          Yes, John shared it with me at the time.
          He also had a series -and I saw several study/WIP images- with models jumping/midair.

          Both the splashing and “midair” are represented in Halsman’s work. Subjectively they are different. Cognitively they may share something. While I’m not suggesting John “borrowed”, I’m sure he was aware of the earlier work. Interesting coincidence. Was Halsman the first to use these visual treatments in a studio shot? I don’t know.

  3. Pdn annual is, as usual, a mix of great shots and some stuff that makes you seriously think that the whole contest is a joke(beside the stock photography section that is a joke on his own)
    Great work by Simon Harsent, Clang, Coppi Barbieri,Solve Sundsbo, Gilbertson,Riedel and some great photojornalism shots, other than that do we really need to see more of these empty landscapes at night?
    More of the same to came in the communication arts photography annual, actually it will be pretty much the same.

    • @tacotony

      hah. I really really really try to be more eloquent and polite about things, but I have to admit, my first thoughts went along those lines exactly. Doorknob retarded.

  4. john mcd.

    As with most photo contests these days it’s as much bout maximizing entries, and income, as anything else. As usual, there is a mix of the exceptional, the merely good and that which really makes you wonder what the judges could have possibly been thinking. As far as the surfing image, I usually find myself agreeing with Debra Weiss when she weighs in on a discussion. But not this time. I’m getting weary of overlit, composited and “enhanced” sports images in advertising(e.g. Serrao’s World Cup and Olympics stuff for Nike which was interesting when it was new and unique). It’s become a kind of crutch, photo-doping if you will, more about Photoshop than Photography.

  5. John Szarkowski must be doing somersaults in his grave if this is the best photography has to offer.

  6. I am happy to be in the annual this year. But just like every contest this is subjective and I know many great photographer friends of mine how submitted great images only to find out that they didn’t make the cut. Then the get the issue and complain that their work was were better that this or that image or at least most do. I know I have in other contests I have entered.

    As for the slime controversy-what category was that image in? ‘stock’ Sure if this was in an art gallery we should be angry at the plagiarism or rather lack or originality but this is in the stock category where the industry gets its rocks off by redoing other ideas and providing a cheeper product then shooting something original and unique.

  7. Great images in the photojournalism section; stoked to see Ed Ou’s work in it.

    What’s up with the surf image? It looks as if the wave is breaking towards me and the surfer is moving across the image. Neat picture nonetheless.

  8. why would meg care when she took the idea herself?:


    clearly unoriginal on both ends since we’ve seen food poured on people for ages….and nicole’s actually is different than meg’s or oxfam’s since in this photo annual win, she submitted photos of children with food being dropped on them to convey kids playing with food, trying new foods and disliking foods.

    maybe meg is jealous that she didn’t win.

    but bottom line is meg didn’t come up with this idea.

  9. I followed the Meg Watchter/Nicole Hill Geruit controversy from YTWWN, and I’ve been kind of appalled at peoples’ reactions. If you go back to Nicole’s blog, she actually announced before her shoot that she was going to be basing it on Meg’s shoot, using it as “inspiration”…but then she proceeded to shoot a nearly IDENTICAL shoot. Children or not, original or not, she took the idea directly from Meg, recreated it, entered a contest, and actually won. I think that’s outrageous. It would be one thing if it was somehow accidental that the shoots look so similar. For that matter, it would be fine if she recreated the shoot for her own personal experience. But to acknowledge that you are basing a shoot on another photographer’s work and then totally rip it off and use it for your portfolio and enter it into a contest is shameful. Tons of bands have been inspired by The Beatles, but if somebody came out with a song called “Let It Pee,” using the same melody and chords but new words to relate to the potty habits of children, they would be sued.

      • @Ian Aleksander Adams,
        Let It Pee might be legal as parody, but “Dropped” was not a parody of “Dumped,” and in order for a band to legally cover a song and profit on it in any way they have to PAY for the rights to use it. To be honest, part of my comment was that I’m less appalled by the fact that it happened than I am by peoples’ reactions in the comments. It may not be the crime of the century, but to me there is at least a clear right and wrong in this case.

        • @Alex, I understand that, I just felt the need to point out that the example you used doesn’t fit this scenario (since the makers of Let it Pee would not be successfully sued)

  10. I’m usually very cautious to call something a rip-off but these actually DO look too identical to believe its just accidental.

    I think the original series is better though. More emotion and life especially in the two right pictures of Meg Watcher.

    The real scandal is that PDN gave an award to a series which uses an advertising aesthetic which I would even find unbearable for microstock.

    Also in terms of freshness 80% of the stuff doesn’t deserve an award anyway.

    But hey – Stephen Shore got one too. Did he submit the book himself?

  11. OMG VINCENT LAFORET WON A BUNCH OF AWARDS?!? He’s such an undiscovered talent!!!

    Did you guys know he shot a video with his 5D?? You can read about it for the 1000000 time on page 40. Man, how does PDN come up with such original content?



      a video is still a video, godamnit. Doesn’t it belong in video magazines? Haven’t photographers been hopping between mediums for years? Why is it a big deal now?

      I guess maybe because many mainstream magazines seem to have huge ad contracts with photography equipment manufacturers.