Welcome to the Photo Follies 2011 Awards, the Premier Photo Industry Contest In This Universe Or Any Universe Yet To Be Discovered™. Entries were judged by a jury consisting of leading industry figures, including a school of Barbary macaques, and senior Google Street View operators on loan from World Press Photo. Judging was overseen by the Russian Central Election Commission to ensure fairness.

The Shop Till You Drop Award [sponsored by Adobe]
Highly Commended: Terje Helleso, for Winter Coat.
Highly Commended: The Sun, for Libyan Low Fly Zone.
Winner: Huili County Government, China, for Walking On Air.
The judges’ verdict: By far the most popular category, this attracted a huge number of entries displaying impressive levels of incompetence. Swedish wildlife photographer Terje Helleso capped a 10 year cut ‘n’ paste career with an animal fashion faux pas. The UK’s Sun achieved spectacular results by outsourcing design duties to a 7 year old with a pair of scissors and Sellotape. The Chinese entry was however unbeatable, raising Photoshop incompetence to an art form: so powerful is it that the viewer feels himself levitating along with the subjects of the photo.

The Robotog Award For Photography And The Law
Highly Commended: London Transport Museum, for DSLR Camera Ban.
Highly Commended: Government of Slovenia, for Panorama Mania.
Winner: Los Angeles Long Beach Police Dept, for Art Police.

Photo © Tim Allen / www.timallenphoto.co.uk
The judges’ verdict: Last year it was reported that Kuwait had banned DSLR cameras. That turned out to be a hoax – but nobody told the London Transport Museum, which imposed its own ban this year. Meanwhile the Slovenian government took a broader view, banning all public panorama photography. Just to make sure they hadn’t missed anything, the ban was made retroactive: all panoramic photographs ever made in Slovenia are now illegal. Not bad, considering that photography has been in existence a century and a half longer than Slovenia itself. Long Beach police won by eschewing the crude truncheon-based approach to photo prevention so beloved by law enforcement colleagues elsewhere; instead officers are now required to supplement firearms training with courses on the history and theory of art and photography.

The Uncle Bob Award For Wedding Photography
Highly Commended: Lasting Impressions, for Where’s The Wedding?
Highly Commended: P&O, for Headless Bride Horror.
Winner: The All-Russia Union Of Wedding Photographers, for Avant-Garde Nuptials.
The judges’ verdict: The Derek Pye School Of Photography continues to churn out worthy award-winners. The Lasting Impressions video operator was unable to find the right wedding to attend after being uncaged; and P&O Cruise’s wheeze of having the ship’s chef double up as photographer was a recipe for disaster. Harking back to the heyday of the avant-garde, the Russian entry surpassed all others in its – ahem – creative approach to the art of wedding photography.

The Susan Sontag Award For Writing On Photography
Highly Commended: Guardian Eyewitness, for Pro Tip – Affordable underwater casings are now available for most cameras, while space travel remains prohibitively expensive.
Highly Commended: Guardian Eyewitness, for Pro Tip  – When glueing your camera to a surfboard, it is important to choose your adhesive carefully.
Winner: Guardian Eyewitness, for Pro Tip  – It is important to avoid laughing while taking a photograph as this can lead to camera shake.
The judges’ verdict: Just as digital technology has made everyone a photographer, so the Internet has made everyone a photography commentator. The web is awash with photo advice, but no other entrant came close to the Guardian for consistency and regularity: while readers daily admire the quality of the Eyewitness photography, professional photographers are equally awestruck by the accompanying Pro Tips.

Photo Caption Of The Year
Highly Commended: Eastern Daily Press, for Olympus Digital Camera.
Highly Commended: The Mail Online, for Media Scum.
Winner:The Globe & Mail Canada, for Caption Writer Meltdown.
The Mail Online's freudian slip
The judges’ verdict:
The UK’s Eastern Daily Press made official what everybody already knew – that it’s the camera that matters, not the photographer – and adjusted their photo credits accordingly. “You couldn’t make it up” is the Mail’s frequent battle cry, but for the Amanda Knox trial the UK tabloid did just that, splashing that Knox had been found guilty when the opposite was true. But the Mail got one thing right, with a telling typo in one of their photo captions for the story. The clear winner, however, was the Canadian Globe & Mail, where an anonymous – and now missing in action – caption writer identified a previously unknown connection between the paper’s Celebrity Photos of the Week & the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The Enron Award For Business Management
Highly Commended: Kodak, for What Happens In Vegas
Winner: Olympus, for Overcooked Books.
The judges’ verdict: As Kodak losses mounted, company executives did their bit by regularly splashing on private jets to Las Vegas. Olympus’ continued existence as a camera company had been a mystery to professional photographers, with the last recorded sighting of an Olympus camera at a photo-call as long ago as 1998. All was revealed when new CEO Michael Woodford inadvertently opened the books to discover 13 years and $1.7 billion worth of creative accounting.

Quote Of The Year
Highly Commended: Mark Zuckerberg, for Comedy Of Errors.
Highly Commended: Sienna Miller, for Tired And Emotional.
Winner: Johnny Depp, for Photography Is Rape.
Pluck me...we've got a leak
The judges’ verdict
: Everyone’s least favourite geek finally admitted what every Facebook user had been telling him for years: but only after it was his own account that got hacked. Former topless model turned actress Sienna Miller refocused the UK’s Levenson enquiry into the media away from trifling matters such as the hacking of a murdered schoolgirl’s phone toward more serious issues: the Daily Mirror’s cropping of photographs and celebrity documentarians’ habit of chasing her down the street. Although not a contributor to Levenson, it was the camera-shy Johnny Depp who won by building on Miller’s riff to reveal the true nature of photography in a cover story in Vanity Fair.

Photo Product Of The Year
Highly Commended: Sigma Deutschland, for SD1 Morris Minor Edition.
Highly Commended: Urban Outfitters, for Sienna Miller Anti-Paparazzi Shades.
Winner: Hasselblad, for H4D Ferrari Limited Edition.
The judges’ verdict: Who says the Germans don’t have a sense of humour? Sigma Deutschland attempted to kick-start sales of the SD1 by charging 10,000 euros for a limited edition version with wood trim styled after a 1950s Morris Minor Traveller. Urban Outfitters came up with a $12 solution for wannabe celebs wishing to appear anonymous. But racing to victory was the Hasselblad H4D Ferrari Limited Edition medium format camera. In tasteful racing red, and boasting specs including 800 horsepower and a motor-drive with a 0-60 speed of under 5 seconds, the H4D Ferrari was aimed squarely at a previously ignored niche market: wealthy middle-aged photographers with erectile dysfunction. A follow-up, the Jeremy Clarkson Limited Edition, is rumoured to be in the pipeline.

The Remix Award For Plagiarism
Highly Commended: Siegfried Kauder, for Double Strike.
Highly Commended: Cory Doctorow, for Boing!!! Cory Doctorow’s Daily Mail Copyright Clanger.
Winner: Bob Dylan & Richard Prince, for Everybody Else’s Images Revisited.
Photo by Ed Schipul (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The judges’ verdict:
German MP Siegfried Kauder immediately fell foul of his own proposed “two strikes and you’re out” copyright law when two photographs on his website were found to have been hijacked from elsewhere. Author and Creative Commons campaigner Doctorow blew a fuse when he learned that the Daily Mail had used some of his wife’s photographs without permission, then went ahead and did the same thing with a photograph from the Guardian the very same day. But the clear winner was the world’s first plagiarism supergroup. Dylan was caught out claiming paintings in a new exhibition were from his travels in Asia when they were very obviously slavishly copied from a variety of other people’s photographs. In a deliciously ironic twist the fawning catalogue to the exhibition was written by Richard “Prince Of Thieves”, who had just lost his own multi-million dollar copyright suit for ripping off photographs from Patrick Cariou’s book Yes Rasta.

Grand Prix de Folie Photographie
The judges’ verdict: This year’s winner was a no-brainer in every sense. The premier award has in the past been inevitably scooped by one of the industry’s big players; it’s a sign of changing times that this year’s winner is not even professionally involved in the photo business. Photo blogger Thomas Hawk started the year promisingly, with a museum confrontation that left him facing a $2m copyright and libel lawsuit. But Hawk’s tussle with the World Erotic Art Museum was mere foreplay: the best was yet to come in June, when he accused legendary New York photographer Jay Maisel of copyright enforcement practices that would make Tony Soprano blush. In the ensuing firestorm Hawk displayed his much-vaunted commitment to transparency first by abusing and censoring anyone who disagreed with his frankly expressed convictions, then by quietly removing his offending posts. Finally he removed his blog from its long-standing home in the offices of investment firm Stone & Youngberg, where Hawk’s alter ego Andrew Peterson works, to remotest Utah.

Welcome to the Photo Follies 2010 Awards, the Premier Photo Industry Contest In This Universe Or Any Universe Yet To Be Discovered™. Entries were judged by a jury consisting of leading industry figures, including former deputy assistant night picture editors, photo agency interns and Flickr Pro members.

The Shop Till You Drop Award [sponsored by Adobe]
Highly Commended: Winston Churchill’s Britain At War Experience for Stubbed Out.
Winner: Al-Ahram for Best Foot Forward.
The judges’ verdict: Photoshopping is now so commonplace that mere incompetence is no longer enough to succeed in this category: to rise above run of the mill Photoshop disasters it’s now necessary to show intent to mislead. Clearly inspired by Karsh of Ottawa, the London museum entry provided a fine example. BP overcame their early Gulf shopping limitations to extinguish evidence of the disaster more easily than the disaster itself. But Egypt’s Al-Ahram entry was exceptional. Not only did the newspaper alter a widely available wire photo, meaning that the deception was immediately recognised, but they went on to defend the altered image as an accurate representation. Not since Stalin’s Soviet Union has a democratic state provided such a splendid example of the art of shopping.

The Naked Gun Award For Photography And The Law
Highly Commended: US Transport Security Administration for Photographers Are Terrorists.
Highly Commended: Inspector Manger of the London Metropolitan Police for The Wankergate Tapes.
Winner: Inspector Donaldson of the London Metropolitan Police for Tooth Fairy.
The judges’ verdict: An exceptionally high standard of entries in this category. At first the Kuwait DSLR ban seemed a certain winner, but this entry was disqualified after proving to be a hoax. And we appreciated the post-modernist irony of the TSA entry from an organisation that fails to notice passengers carrying loaded handguns onto aircraft. But in the end the Metropolitan Police’s long-standing and enthusiastic interaction with photographers provided a worthy winner: who says there’s no money to be made in photojournalism? A special mention goes to the supporting role played by photographer David Hoffman in the award winner and one of the commended entries: proof yet again of the benefits of police-photographer co-operation.

The Pariah Educational Workshop Award
Highly Commended: National Geolaugh for Fifty-Two Grand Jolly.
Winner: Zoriah Miller for Intimate Haiti.
The judges’ verdict: While we thought the NatGeo course a fraction overpriced at $52,950, it’s made easier by a $6,000 discount for room-share, and the fact that participants qualify for air miles. However Zoriah’s entry was a clear winner: the opportunity to hone one’s HDR skills while surrounded by the dead and dying, guided by the Sixth Greatest Photojournalist Of All Time™, was one no aspiring disaster groupie could afford to miss out on.

Quote Of The Year
Highly Commended: Daily Mail for Hanging On The Telephone.
Highly Commended: Judith Griggs and Cooks Source for But Honestly Monica.
The judges’ verdict: We loved the Daily Mail’s disarmingly frank admission of why they so often neglect to pay their contributors – who indeed has the time for such trifles in a busy modern world? Judith Griggs trended on Twitter and provided the catchphrase of the year. But iStock’s entry was truly inspired. The company has long led the business of crowd-sourcing photography, but this was an entirely new business direction: crowd-sourcing abuse. Unfortunately the Internet is not large enough to display the winning entry and its thousands of messages in its entirety, but the following exchanges between COO Kelly Thompson and his contributors give a taste of the iStock community spirit:

‘We know change is never easy and comes with challenges’
‘I really hope someone will burn in hell because of this.’
‘This is not “like robbery”. This is robbery.’
‘What kind of crackhead business model are we riding on here? We are getting raped.’
‘Rotten news all couched in happy, shiny language. Like getting a beautifully-wrapped turd for Christmas.’
‘Hey, where’s my kiss? I didn’t get a kiss. Did anyone get a kiss? I usually get kissed before I get f…..’
‘We knew when we made yesterday’s announcements that there would be a lot of feedback.’
‘I think you would have been better off saying nothing.’
‘What drugs do you use?’
‘HOW MUCH FRIGGIN PROFIT DO YOU NEED MAN? If you can’t operate on a model such as this you’re just a failure and a failed company. We all know that this company is a fucking cash hog. Getty would not have bought you if you weren’t.’
‘You can’t survive on 60-80% of the profits from a product that you have 0% ownership in? Sad. Pathetic.’
‘So I guess all those glowing announcements about how great iStock was doing and how much profit it was making year after year was all lies.’
‘Money isn’t going to be what makes you all happy.’
‘So THAT is your response to this mess?? Wow, thank fuck you’re not my boss!’
‘Oh, for fucks sake … leave out the pathetic, for-the-camera, misty-eyed rhetoric will you? It isn’t going to wash this time.’
‘Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.’
‘Pardon me while I vomit.’
‘Cry me a fucking river Kelly. You’re all a bunch of spineless fuckwits and you’ll get what you deserve.’

The Heath Robinson Award For New Technology
Highly Commended: Sony for Alpha A55 Camera.
Highly Commended: Wafaa Bilal for Camera Head.
The judges’ verdict: We had high hopes for the LeicaPhone, but sadly like so many Apple announcements this proved to be vapourware. Both Time and PetaPixel justly raved over Sony’s apparent invention of the pellicle mirror camera – a mere 40 years after Canon launched the Pellix QL. In contrast, Camera Head was a true original, although we were saddened to note that Bilal must wear a lens cap – or at least a hat – while in class. The country that once boasted the largest microprocessors in the world continued that tradition by providing a winner that proves the spirit of Heath Robinson is flourishing in the world of Russian weddings.

The Stock Shockers Award For Image Misuse
Highly Commended: US Republican Party for What’s In Mexico? Uh…Mexicans.
Highly Commended: Best of The Web et al for Microstock Mess.
Winner: Airdrie United FC for Remembrance Day Nazis.
The judges’ verdict: The emergence of a new market of image users uneducated in picture use made it a bumper year for this category. The Republicans scored a double whammy by using an editorial image of residents in a foreign country for an advertising campaign playing on domestic immigration fears. Best Of The Web and many others showed why the web is made for sharing, whether one knows it or not. But the clear winner was a small Scottish soccer club, not least for their impeccable logic in using a picture of a World War Two Nazi troop train in a match programme: because the club is sponsored by a railway company.

Photo Credit Of The Year
Highly Commended: Daily Mail for © Commissioned Work.
Highly Commended: Daily Mail for © Flickr/Internet.
Winner: Daily Mail for © Internet.
The judges’ verdict: Photographers value bylines and the Mail justly swept the board with their novel approach, ensuring that credit is always given, although not necessarily as expected.

Grand Prix de Folie Photographie
Highly Commended: Daily Mail for Million-Dollar Suit.
Highly Commended: UK Labour Party for DEB Turns To Ashes.
The judges’ verdict: As the premier award only the very best entries can be considered for the Grand Prix, and in a stellar year for photo follies the finalists did not disappoint. The Daily Mail made a strong showing with a string of copyright infringements leading to a future appearance in a Los Angeles court. The British Labour Party showed true genius in launching an election campaign by plastering a stolen picture all over the country just days before attempting to pass a copyright bill in Parliament. And AFP’s winning entry had it all: an earthquake, looting, a courtroom drama and multiple comic sub-plots featuring lawyers and photo industry figures unable to understand the simplest of terms. Sealing AFP’s victory was their inspired decision to escalate a simple and easily-settled matter of copyright infringement into a multi-million dollar court case by threatening to sue their victim.

Part of AFP's winning entry for the Grand Prix de Folie Photographie
Moscow, Russia, 15/12//2010. Riot police arrest a Russian nationalist near Kievsky railway station, where police detained up 1,000 people during an operation to prevent ethnic riots. There were scuffles as hundreds of riot police were deployed to prevent clashes between Russian nationalists and traders from the Caucasus, many of whom work at a market near the station.
Photo © Jeremy Nicholl 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Moscow, Russia, 15/12/2010
A riot policeman seizes a Russian nationalist near Kievsky railway station, as police detained up to 1,000 people during an operation to prevent ethnic riots. There were scuffles as hundreds of riot police were deployed to prevent clashes between Russian nationalists and traders from the Caucasus, many of whom work at a market near the station.

Photo © David Hoffman

The UK War On Photography has been going through a difficult phase. First a photographer and videographer won separate damages against the Metropolitan Police in a case stemming from a 2008 demonstration outside the Greek Embassy in London.

Then the European Court of Human Rights rejected the British government’s appeal against its decision in January that ruled Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. S44 is the law much used by police to stop and search photographers, and the court ruling was celebrated yesterday by a flash mob organised by I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist outside New Scotland Yard.

And between the two court rulings a group of Metropolitan Police officers earned the force much unenviable publicity when they detained and allegedly assaulted a 15-year-old photographer for taking photographs in a public place. When the photographer asked under what law he was being detained one officer replied: “We don’t have to have a law”.

Photos © Jules Mattsson
Jules Mattsson [above] was photographing a police cadet parade on a public highway in Romford when he was ordered to stop and give his personal details by an adult cadet officer, who incorrectly claimed he needed parental permission to photograph the cadets. The situation deteriorated rapidly with the intervention of a squad of officers under the command of one Inspector Fisher, who provided a textbook example of how not to interact with the media. Quoting a cocktail of imaginary laws and misinterpreting some genuine ones, the Inspector and his colleagues variously accused Mattsson of breaching the Terrorism Act, the Public Order Act, miscellaneous copyright and child protection laws and the previously unheard-of “public privacy law”. Unfortunately for them the teenager, son of a well-known press photographer, proved considerably more knowledgeable on the law than any of the police officers present.

Having lost the legal arguments Inspector Knacker and his squad did what any reasonable gang of schoolyard bullies would do to a lippy 15 year old: they tossed Mattsson down a flight of concrete steps, expressed concern for his safety and detained him. Mattson has a full account and audio slide show of the incident on his blog: skip to 04:30 in the timeline if you find legal jousting dull and just want the rough stuff.

The outcry in the blogosphere and some sections of the UK national media over the police behaviour was predictable; more surprising to many was how other police officers reacted to the performance of their Romford colleagues. “Rubbish”, “embarrassing”, “disgraceful”, “idiots”, “horrendously ill-informed” and “hopeless” were just some of the verdicts on the Police Specials forum. There’s a double irony here, since photographers frequently complain that the part-time Special Constables are often ill-informed with regard to the law and photography; yet in this case many of the Specials seem far better educated than their full-time Romford counterparts.

More than one of the Special Constables called for the sacking of the inspector involved in the Romford incident. That might actually be a very smart move for the Met. Senior police figures have repeatedly stated that there is no law against public photography in the UK; nevertheless a string of incidents shows that these statements are not reflected in the actions of many officers at street level. Photographers therefore conclude that either the senior police assurances are mere PR spin, or that UK police forces are unable to ensure that officers operate within the law regarding photography.

But if the Met were to sack an officer of inspector rank for illegally preventing a photographer from working those criticisms would ring hollow. Further, it would send a strong message to frontline officers that anyone tempted to emulate the Romford mob would have a short policing career. And if the comments on the Police Specials forum were anything to go by, such action would not necessarily be unpopular within the police services. In other words, the Met could transform the Romford fiasco into a PR victory of sorts if they so choose.

None of that is going to happen of course. Mattsson has already taken legal advice, and proceedings will surely follow: on the evidence publicly available the Met will lose, or at best manage to settle out of court. Either way the incident will cost the force at least a few thousand pounds, not to mention the attendant adverse publicity.

The most comprehensive legal advice currently easily available regarding photography, police and the law in the UK is a new article by lawyer Shamik Dutta on the EPUK website.  Meanwhile, one of the Special Constables has a succinct and accurate summary for the police cadet officer responsible for starting the Romford furore: “If you don’t want your picture taken, don’t leave your house.”

Photo © David Hoffman

While Gordon Brown entertained the British electorate with Bigotgate, the Metropolitan Police gained David Cameron some unwelcome publicity with an Election Day raid on a photographer’s home that immediately became known as Wankergate.

On May 6th David Hoffman was working at home in London’s east end when he heard a loud banging on the front door. On opening the door he found himself facing what he describes as “a wall of cops, very pumped up, very angry, very aggressive”.

“Is that your poster?” demanded the police, referring to a poster in Hoffman’s front window of Conservative leader David Cameron with the word “wanker” emblazoned across it. When Hoffman confirmed that it was the police asked him for identification; as he turned to comply the five officers threw the door open, rushed in and handcuffed him.

“They burst into my house, pushed me back and handcuffed me,” claims Hoffman. “They said I had committed an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act, I was being detained, and I might be arrested.” Section 5 of the POA refers to behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

In a later statement police denied forced entry, presumably on the technicality that the door was already open. But Hoffman, in a video interview with the Guardian, describes the officers involved as “a frightening gang of bullies who burst into my house”.

As a veteran photojournalist Hoffman has worked at many scenes of violent disorder and is used to dealing with police. He says, however, “this really took my breath away: I had no idea what they were going to do.”

After the police left Hoffman was phoned by Inspector Stephen Manger of Tower Hamlets police, and the two discussed at some length the possible options for a rewording of the offending poster. Excerpts give some flavour of The Wankergate Tapes:

David Hoffman: Suppose I were to replace the poster with the word wanker changed so there were 4 asterisks in the middle?
Inspector Manger: You’re denoting what that word is still, aren’t you? I think it’s possible that could be an offence.
David Hoffman: If I were to even cover everything except the W?
Inspector Manger: Well, now I’m not sure. You could construe that word to be anything. But now you’re losing the punch-line for your poster, sir.
David Hoffman: Supposing I put tosser? Where do you stand on tosser? Would I be arrested?
Inspector Manger: I can’t comment…
David Hoffman: I’m about to do it…
Inspector Manger: Mmmm. I couldn’t comment on that sir.
David Hoffman: You didn’t get this in your Inspector’s exam then?
Inspector Manger: No, it’s a tricky one, isn’t it?
David Hoffman: Well, could I say masturbator?
Inspector Manger: No, you couldn’t say that sir.
David Hoffman: Onanist? Self-abuser? It’s difficult to see how that would cause alarm or distress: a biblical word like onanist.
Inspector Manger: You have to consider what a reasonable person would find distressful.
David Hoffman: Is onanist a word you’re familiar with?
Inspector Manger: No, it isn’t.

The photographer, who has twice successfully sued the Metropolitan Police, has since consulted his lawyers, who plan to seek a Judicial Review of the police action.  If the review is successful the whole country would be legally free to display wanker posters and it would be difficult for police to cause alarm and distress when they become over-excited. A cold shower will have to suffice.

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