The Clouseau Award For Law Enforcement [sponsored by the Marx Brothers Foundation]

Highly Commended: Corbis, for suing Template Monster and others for copyright infringement to the tune of $20M, but being unable to collect. David Weiskopf, senior corporate counsel at Corbis, said, “Just because you have a piece of paper that gives you a judgment doesn’t mean you can go out and fill your savings account with a lot of money.” This came as heartbreaking news to Bill Gates, Corbis owner and the world’s wealthiest man. Still, we expect the lawyers got paid.

Winner: Nottinghamshire police, for the arrest of photographer Alan “Tash” Lodge. The judges’ verdict: “The police unit’s arrest, de-arrest, re-arrest, second de-arrest and final re-arrest of Tash displayed all the timing skills a fast moving farce needs: we expected Manuel or Basil Fawlty to appear at any moment. But the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men added an ironic post modernist twist by arresting the very man who’d helped them draw up their own press liaison guidelines. We were also impressed by the fact that whoever the police thought there were chasing, the only successful arrest they apparently made that day was of a passing photographer out shopping, and that at the third attempt. The award will be presented to Nottingham Chief Constable Steve Green, since the actual officers involved chose to remain anonymous throughout the performance. In an era when the cult of personality is almost overwhelming we can only applaud their modesty.”

The Citizen Kane Award For Proprietors

Highly Commended: Piers Morgan, for his successful ownership of the 41-year-old Press Gazette, which closed in November after a mere 17 months in his hands. Stated Morgan at the time of his purchase: “What we need to do is break great stories that make the whole British newspaper industry sit up and go: ‘Fuck me!’ on a weekly basis.” So they did.

Highly Commended: The Independent News And Media. Like many debtors the Indy decided to flee the country, or at least relocate their accounts dept to a distance safe from most creditors – Dublin, Ireland. But the Indy added a twist in the form of a long distance premium phone number: so now creditors pay extra for the privilege of chasing the money they’re already owed.

Winner: Hachette Filipacchi Media. In September 2000 HFM acquired a string of successful photo agencies, including Katz Pictures, Frank Spooner Pictures, Stills, Top, Rapho, Explorer, MPA , Ho Qui and Jacan for undisclosed sums. Katz and FSP were combined under the Katz brand, and last year what was left after 5 years of Hatchet management was sold off to Camera Press. In December 2006 HFM announced it was selling the remaining agencies and their 25 million Euro debt to Green Recovery, a French firm whose investments include manufacturers of, uh, machine parts, paper plates and plywood. The selling price for the fruits of HFM’s 6-year investment? 600,000 Euros. The judges commented: “So often photographers ignore the business side of business: they do so at their peril. HFM’s sterling handling of photo business affairs is a perfect example of why the business side of photography is best left to business corporations.”

The Art Of Photography

Highly Commended: Simon Lee, for Photography Ludditism. The judges verdict: “As obscura as only British contemporary art can be.”

Winner: The Delete Me group at Flickr for Stupid Flickrs. Said the judges: “The keen amateurs at Flickr have often been disparaged by the know-alls of the professional community, so this entry was a particular joy. The breadth of knowledge on display was impressive by any standard, and the ability to cut to the essence of an image – ‘everything is blurred’ – is a lesson to us all.”

New Talent

Highly Commended: Becca Bland, for Zen And The Art Of Non-Photography. The judges commented: “A marvellous debut from Becca. Student photography is so often derivative, but as her portfolio shows, Becca has developed a unique new vision as an early adopter of invisiblography. We have no doubt a glittering career lies ahead, whether flipping burgers or as the part time deputy assistant curator at the Hoxton Slacker gallery.”

Winner: Jagshemash! 2006 was the year of the mockumentary, but before Borat there was Adnan Hajj. Almost unheard of before August, Hajj was an overnight world sensation with Attack Of The Clone Tools, followed almost immediately by Rocket Man. Sadly, as so often happens, Hajj found sudden fame too much to handle, and he returned to obscurity as quickly as he had appeared. He was last heard of working at a local Palestinian newspaper in the West Bank, although not necessarily as a photographer. But most intriguingly there are rumours of the “hidden Hajj”, a collection of 920 other unpublished works, so there is still the hope of further sensations.

Services To Her Majesty’s Paparazzi [sponsored by Thugs R Us]

Highly Commended: Elton John, for D*n’t F*ck*ng Sh**t M*, *’m *nly The F*ck*ng P**n* Pl*y*r. Elton shows in inimitable fashion why he doesn’t usually write his own lyrics.

Highly Commended: Brangelina’s bodyguards everywhere. Featuring strong language, allegations of racial abuse, gunplay and throat-holds, the Brett led team performed in the finest traditions of football supporters on tour.

Winner: Jay Kay of Jamiroquai for selflessly and without concern for his own safety providing regular nightclub photo-ops. The judges commented: “A popular category, but again often predictable. As in Brangelina’s case, the supposed stars often take a back seat, letting their minders assume the leading role, and the photographers are almost always the victims. Jay Kay easily rose above the competition – although only briefly before crashing bleeding to the ground – both by starring, and by invariably finding himself on the wrong end of a fist or head-butt, despite picking on the smallest available photographer: daring stuff.”

The Heath Robinson Award For Outstanding New Technology

Highly Commended [disqualified after missing the award deadline]: Digital Railroad for Marketplace. After its announcement in October 2005, the judges had eagerly anticipated Marketplace’s entry in last year’s awards. After its rescheduled launch date of Fall 2006, and then “end of year” they had expected its appearance in this year’s ceremony. Marketplace is now slated for launch in the Spring, although precisely which Spring has yet to be determined.

Highly Commended: Alamy, for AlamyRank. The judges commented: ”Alamy continue to lead when it comes to innovative strategies for image distribution. Their launch of a system that actually makes it harder for clients to find an image the more frequently that image is returned in searches is a fine example of their outside the box thinking, and created a deserved sensation amongst contributors.”

Winner: Leica Cameras for the Leica M8. In an era when it seems that all advances in the photo business come from new technology companies, the judges were delighted to see the most traditional of camera manufacturers triumph in this category. They commented: “Priced to compete with a mid-range Mercedes, the long-awaited M8 is proof that perfection cannot come cheap, nor quickly: it has been in development since 1932. What set them apart from the competition was Leica’s proof of commitment to black and white photography by producing a US$5,000 camera incapable of rendering colour correctly without the addition of a lump of glass mounted in front of the lens.”

Most Sensitive Photo Editor

This award has long been dominated by white males of a certain age, advancing waistline and shiny bum. So the judges were delighted to see the ladies on top this year with two sparkling feminist comedies.

Highly Commended: Victoria Lambert [Glamour], for Anyone Here Been Shot And Speaks English?

Winner: Helen Roberts [More!], for Anyone Here Been Leaked And Speaks English? The judges commented: “Both performances were superb and unexpected additions to the chick-lit genre. However we felt Helen in the original just had the edge with her determination to never stop digging no matter how deep the hole she found herself in – she always wanted more!”

Best Rights Grab [sponsored by the BBC, Conde Nast, Haymarket Publishing, IPC, and every local rag, government department and tin-pot PR agency with a copy of Picture Viewer, a database and ambitions to run their own picture library]

Almost inevitably this was the most popular section; the judges were practically overwhelmed by the number of entries. Yet the quantity was rarely matched by quality. “The genre is usually as predictable as a Steven Seagal straight-to-video offering”, sniffed the judges. Yet both the winner and highly commended provided two of the year’s big surprises, proving that originality can appear in the most moribund of genres.

Highly Commended: Mark Coyle of BBC Scotland for his no-budget Flickr offering Pimp My Auntie. BBC rights grabs are nothing new, but Mark added a brilliant new plot twist by attempting to get amateur photographers to hand over their rights to the Beeb before they’d even lifted a camera. “Innovative”, was the judges’ conclusion, who also appreciated Mark’s decision to direct the production under the nom de grab of “Sparks57”.

Winner: The Guardian, for its 4 part series The Accident, Fury, Backdown and Win A Free Picture Library. Of all the entries this year, this was definitely the critics’ choice. “Breath-taking, genuinely groundbreaking,” was the judges’ conclusion. “Structurally it was inspired. Although this began with what appeared to be the standard rights grab plot, this was a mere device to grab audience attention. The abandonment of conventionally scripted performances in favour of wholly independent ad-libbing by the main characters created an atmosphere in which neither players nor audience could predict what would happen next. Overlapping Altmanesque dialogue combined with Lynchian grotesquery to produce an environment in which anything could happen: and usually did. The result was a brilliant ensemble piece, but of epic proportions, which provided a roller coaster ride to the very end. A complete triumph.”

Contributions To Photographers Rights [sponsored by the National Union of Journalists]

Highly Commended [disqualified after a change in the voting by-laws]: L’Alliance du Stock d’Artistes, for Bend Over For Riser and The Turkeys Vote For Christmas. The judges were impressed both by the SAA’s Dunkirk spirit, by which they were able to describe their achievement of a 10 year licence for Getty’s new Rights Ready product as a victory; and by the mental gymnastics which allowed them to hold a number of seemingly contradictory positions on pretty much anything that took their fancy. The judges also approvingly noted the SAA’s creative approach to figures when describing the results of their voting procedures. However, in a highly controversial move, the SAA’s entry was disqualified after the recent change in the organisation’s status. The judges explained: “There is no doubt that the SAA performance was of the highest standard. However they broke the Golden Sureshot Academy rules in at least three instances. Firstly, the rules clearly state that all performances must be public. The SAA’s insistence that they perform in private for artistic reasons, and in particular the fact that only the board took part in the critical Rights Ready section of the performance, meant that they fell foul of this rule. Secondly, the Academy’s rules state that the performance must take place in front of a ‘substantial’ audience. While the term ‘substantial’ is somewhat vague, due to the SAA’s complex membership structure the organisation itself was unable to give a precise account of the number of their members present at the performance. Finally, Academy rules are quite specific that this category is for professional media workers only. The SAA’s recent change in status and decision to admit photographers who are not professionals rendered their entry invalid.”

Winner: Chris Wheal, for numerous performances. The judges commented: “NUJ activist Christopher kicked off the year with a bang with his attack on photographers as mini-capitalists and junior globalisation greed merchants. He continued in fine form in March when he attempted to hire union photographers at a union conference for what he himself described as beer money. His subsequent disappearance led some to worry that he had run out of steam and lacked staying power. However he proved the doubters wrong with a triumphant return in the Gowers Review, his submission to which contained a tortuous comparison between the work of photographers and plumbers. Truly inspirational, his work provides a model for rights-grabbers, and his thought processes will provide psychiatric case studies for years to come.”

The Han van Meegeren Memorial Award For Fauxtography [sponsored by Adobe]

Highly Commended: Sky News, for Come To Dorset For The Mountains, Stay For The Elk. News production is notoriously expensive, and Sky comes up with a budget-slashing double whammy: use free amateur footage, and have Colorado stand in for Dorset. Or was it the other way round? Citizen Journalism rocks!

Highly Commended: The Guardian, for Come To Dorset For The Mountains, Stay For The Elk. The Guardian manages to top Sky on the same story by simply screen-grabbing the Sky channel and re-publishing the images the next day. Copyright? What’s that? “Sky News, the Guardian, and the news media in general, strive for veracity through vigilance”, concluded Guardian Ombudsman Ian Mayes.

Winner: Reuters, for Is There An Editor In The House? The judges commented: “When it comes to a major breaking news story it’s hard to compete with the wires. Their local knowledge, resources, devotion to accuracy and sheer attention to detail sets them apart: you can’t argue with 100 years of experience. This very exclusive Reuters coverage of the Israeli bombardment of Beirut, displaying all the image correction skill of a two year old with his first crayon set, helped Reuters live up to the old mantra of the hot news dog: ‘We may not be first, but we’re wrong’.”

The Piers Morgan Award For Picture Editing – News

Joint Highly Commended: ABC News and every other professional media website with a kazillion dollar budget, photo editors, sub editors, researchers, assistants and background checks up the wazoo that still managed to run Reuters’ Adnan Hajj pictures while the rest of the world was rolling on the floor laughing.

Joint Winner: You. Yes, YOU! And you over there, stand up. And you. And you too, take a bow; make your way toward the stage. And all the rest of you, get a move on, we’ve got several billion to get up here. In fact, everyone in the world with a computer, a functioning eyeball and an internet connection who was able to spot Reuters’ dodgy pictures before they could.

The EPUK Golden Sureshot Black Hole Award For Disservices To Professional Photographers

As the most prestigious award it was only natural that there would be fierce competition in this category, and many category winners were also short listed for the Black Hole.

However the requirements for the Black Hole are exceptionally high. While questionable business activities, professional mismanagement, an aggressive demeanour, detachment from reality and a general absence of common sense are all desirable characteristics, they are not enough to ensure victory. Black Hole winners’ influence must be such that they destroy all who fall within their orbit, yet they must also carry within themselves the seeds of their own destruction: the Black Hole must truly suck.

So it was with great difficulty that the judges decided on the final candidates.

Highly Commended: Andrew Gowers, for We’re From The Government And We’re Here To Help You. Although the term “professional photographer” appears nowhere in the body of the 150 page Gowers Review that may be because the author makes such a good job of advising the government on how to eliminate the profession. The judges’ verdict: “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch: the smallest, meanest member of the anti copyright gang.”

Highly Commended: Mourir de Faim l’Association d’Artistes. Despite their disqualification from another category, the SAA’s entry for the top award remained valid, and the judges remained enthusiastic about their performance. The judges observed: “Only two things kept the SAA off the top spot. Firstly, we feel the damage they do is largely accidental; what we call the bull in a china shop syndrome. But mere folly is not enough for the Black Hole: the destruction must be intended to be of benefit to the perpetrator. Secondly, the SAA’s concentration on the stock industry means they have virtually no effect on assignment photography. Since the Black Hole demands that the winner wreak havoc throughout the photographic business, the SAA’s neglect of the assignment area was a fatal weakness. Nevertheless, within its limitations this was a performance of the highest order.”

Highly Commended: Chris Wheal. Again, the judges remained enthusiastic. “While Christopher’s inconsistency on the copyright question has led some observers to dismiss him as a mere chancer and hypocrite, we strongly disagree,“ noted the judges. “On the contrary, his performance is subtlely nuanced, varying both to suit his audience, and depending on whose money and copyright is at stake that day, or how his statements may affect his political position, whether inside the NUJ or further afield. He successfully avoided the bull in a china shop trap that stymied the SAA: unlike them, there’s no doubt that any damage he causes is deliberate. However, rather ironically, his only stumbling block was that his copyright abolition campaign is aimed solely at assignment photography: even were he successful the stock business would be left unscathed. Given their relative strengths and weaknesses it may be worth Christopher and the SAA getting together: they could be next year’s Black Hole dream team!”

Winner: Getty Images. The judges commented: “Where to begin? Economists like to say that when America sneezes the world catches cold; we say when Jonathan Klein breaks wind the photo industry chokes. Getty had a truly magnificent year, and their entry in the premier Black Hole category was unassailable: they fulfilled every criterion, and then some. To fully grasp the scale of their achievements this year it’s worth taking a brief review of the last 12 months.”

Feb 9: the company announces the purchase of microsite iStockPhoto for $50M. Although Getty write the cheque, the year’s subsequent events lead observers to question who has taken over whom.
July 25: Getty announce disappointing RF sales, citing the effect of – surprise! – the microsites on this section of the market.
Oct 20: the company sacks dozens of staff, including some senior executives, during restructuring described as “the continuous re-invention of Getty images”.
Oct 24: Getty CEO Jonathan Klein announces Open, the company’s new strategy to apply the iStock model to professional photographers. Aware of the mind-bending possibilities, Klein stresses: “This is not based on something we’re smoking.”
Nov 9: the company announces it has been awarded the honour of a Security and Exchange Commissions inquiry for possible irregularities with its stock options grants.
Dec 4: iStock photographers are offered full-blown Getty contracts, and on a “pay to play“ basis cheaper than that offered to Getty’s professional contributors.
Dec 13: Group Creative Director Lewis Blackwell announces the end of professional photography as we know it, at least within Getty Images.

Getty’s superb year was doubtless appreciated by their stockholders, who were rewarded with a drop in the share price from slightly over $90 at the beginning of the year to just over $41 at year’s close.

That’s it for the EPUK Golden Sureshot Awards for this year. Thank you all for attending, may you get what you deserve in 2007, and try not to trip over Jay Kay on the way out.