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Down from the bridge, Middlehurst Station
Phase One XF 150MP, 240mm Schneider, f8 @ 1/80 second, ISO 50

The Australian Photographic Prize (held the weekend before last) was being spearheaded by Robyn Campbell and Karen Alsop, following the demise of the AIPP and the Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA). While some aspects of the new awards are based on APPA, others have been modernised and adapted, such as the role of the panel chair.

Under the old APPA system, there were five judges. A panel chair administered the judging process, but was not allowed to influence the judges. Sometimes, this was a pity because often the panel chair was also a very experienced judge.

Overseas, there are a number of awards which give the panel chair a voice, but not a vote. The panel chair is selected from the most experienced judges and then, during any discussion, is allowed to point out aspects of an entry that might otherwise have been missed by the judging panel.

For example, judges could score an entry very highly based on what they believe is an original idea. The panel chair may know that the work is actually quite derivative (meaning the entrant has been highly influenced by the work of another photographer or artist, who the judges appear to be unaware of), and so a very high score might not be appropriate.

Under the old APPA system, the panel chair couldn't say anything. Under the new APP system, the chair will be expected to share his or her knowledge about the other photographer or artist. At the end of the discussion process, the five judges are asked to re-score the entry.

It's not up to the panel chair to lower or raise the score, only to provide additional insight. The score is still up to the judges, but now they have the advantage of extra knowledge and experience.

It's a good system, especially if you have knowledgeable panel chairs, but no one knows everything about photography. For instance, there are so many photographers and artists accessible online that it's simply not possible to know if an idea is new or original. However, if it is new to a judge, then you must expect them to reward it. By having five judges, we extend the knowledge base - and by adding in the panel chair, we extend it further.

While no system can really 'judge' a photograph, if you enjoy the competition process as I do, then I think this is a great innovation for an awards system like this.

And congratulations to APP - it was a great weekend!

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