Statement regarding 2013 Overall Winner

13 September 2013

The Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year is an annual photography competition that has for over a decade invited amateur and professional photographers from all over the world to capture the unique natural beauty of Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea.

On 29 August 2013, the photograph Near Miss by David Rennie was announced as Overall Winner. Judges selected this image as an extraordinary capture of natural behaviour.

Following the announcement, several members of the photographic community questioned the authenticity of the image, which generated quite a bit of discussion. In response, the South Australian Museum, as Competition Organiser, undertook a formal review.

This review included:

  • receipt of additional files and information from the photographer. Note: this did not include a raw file because the photographer does not shoot in raw. Under the current ANZANG rules there is no obligation for photographers to shoot raw, or to provide raw files to be eligible;
  • analysis of metadata; and 
  • Expert opinion from the original judging panel, two additional professional photographers and a wildlife ecologist to assess both the image and the situation depicted.

Following the review the Organiser concluded that:

  • the photographer is an amateur who has demonstrated regrettable file management and discrepancies in the metadata of his files which has caused concern; 
  • the photographer was able to demonstrate his processes which did not show any malice in the presentation of different metadata. As a self-taught Picasa user he used existing files as templates to resize images for different purposes, such as entering the competition, submitting the high resolution file for competition and posting the image elsewhere on the internet. The metadata from the original file was retained, rather than the information of the whole image fitted over it;
  • the review could not categorically rule out whether the image had been composited, neither could it categorically prove that it had been. While suspicions have been raised there is no proof; and
  • the photographer has signed a Statutory Declaration to the effect that the image is derived from a single file and has only been manipulated within the allowable guidelines of the ANZANG competition. With that the organisers have given the benefit of doubt to him.

Following the review the Organiser and Australian Geographic determined that there is no categoric evidence on which to disqualify the image. The review determined that the scene depicted was possible, albeit rare, and the image was taken by the photographer as indicated. As a result David Rennie will retain the Overall Winner prize for Near Miss.

ANZANG exists to encourage photography of the natural world and to create awareness and debate about it. The competition was established on goodwill and seeks engagement from amateur and professional photographers alike.

Following the concerns raised surrounding the 2013 competition, the Organisers will review the competition rules around whether raw files will be mandatory for all future competitions.

The Competition Organisers would like to thank everyone involved in the review, including the photographers who voiced their concerns about the image. It is heartening to know that the photographic community cares for the integrity of the competition. With new entry criteria in place the Organisers anticipate full transparency on all future ANZANG competitions.

The determination of this review is final and no further correspondence will be entered into.

Prof Andrew Lowe
Acting Director
South Australian Museum

13 September 2013

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