Fine state of the Image Nation

THERE COMES A weekend each year packed with so much photographic talent, from here and abroad, it almost boggles the mind —the Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association s (AIPA) Image Nation conference is not to be missed. The Auckland event s format is wall-to-wall inspiration: 12 speakers take to the stage over the two days, six presentations a day, a midway trade show with all the latest gear, and even a little time for snacks and socialising. This year s line-up was as insightful as ever, with speakers from all walks of photographic life —be it fashion or alpine, travel or architecture —each taking the stage to deliver candid, knowledgeable and entertaining speeches about their chosen niche. The local photography pros were represented by the likes of commercial photographer Colleen Tunnicliff, advertising photographer Fraser Harding and sometimes-LA-based fine artist Joyce Campbell. From across the ditch we had the likes of folio consultant Sally Brownbill, interior design photographer Shannon McGrath and automotive legend Urs Buhlman. Perhaps the biggest name on the bill this year was Jez Smith, the Australia-based fashion photographer who has shot for all the major fashion publications and lent his expertise to both America s and Australia s Next Top Model TV shows. The affable photographer took to the podium to talk about the fine line between staying abreast of fashion trends without being led by them —a difference of staying aware whilst maintaining personal style. "In fashion you re paid for your taste but you re also paid to keep changing and evolving," Smith explains. "We re all inspired by everything we see every day." Smith s presentation led into the least photography-focused speech of the event from advertising agency Special Group, but the upstart ad team had plenty of valuable knowledge to impart to those who make creativity their business. In fact the theme of ensuring you give as much attention to your business side as you do your creative was one echoed continuously through the conference by the likes of alpine shooter Johnny McCormack, McGrath and studio operator Richard Linton. Day two proved no less eccentric or informative than the first, kicking off with Fraser Harding s images of Kiwi music icons, Linton s advice on pragmatic business and Campbell s traditional daguerreotypes and ambertype creations. Local travel photographer Grant Sheehan treated the crowd to his  of hotels from around the world, capturing the personalities of the different boutique hotels for one of his books —which led nicely into his publishing advice posited on his experience as the founder of Phantom House books. Melbourne-based Brownbill was a bundle of educational energy, talking about working with photographers at various stages in their careers to help them put together portfolios that help them land work with their dream clients. The conference closed out with another heavy-hitter from across the ditch, award-winning Buhlman taking the stand to talk about his changing creative process in an industry quickly evolving with digital advancement. The automotive photographer showed the crowd his current work, which has moved on from traditional car imagery to shooting backdrops for CGI composite images —in fact, he says most of the major players are already using 100 per cent CGI composite images for their marketing images. The AIPA has worked its magic for yet another year, somehow coordinating so many busy professionals to converge in a single weekend, ripping through the ambitious schedule without a hitch. At the end of each long day the crowd lurched out of the Unitec lecture theatre understandably weary, but bubbling away with fresh insight and inspiration. We don t envy the organisers of next year s Image Nation conference; this one s going to be hard to top.

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