Aperture Australia: Telling The Story of Photography At A Time Of Change

To capture the contemporary photographic industry would be to create an image of flux. Between the digital revolution which made photography instant and accessible to all, to the influence of the internet in allowing anyone to access and share images, to the impact of almost everyone having a camera in their smartphone, the photography industry is almost undefinable as a single industry in 2019. Aperture Australia, however, attempts to bring together all those with an interest in photography to a two-day conference in Sydney this June.

Director Glenn McKimmin, an acclaimed landscape photographer, highlights that what this conference attempts to do is connect people around images.

“It's not about what aperture you use or what shutter speed, it is all about inspiring and motivating people.”

To do this, McKimmin has invited six photographers from Australia and the globe to tell the story behind their images. Unlike other trade conferences, Aperture Australia takes a leaf out of the TED book of presenting, and shies away from any technical discussions.

“I give every photographer that speaks a brief,” described McKimmin. “The brief is quite simple; it's do not mention what camera you use, do not mention any technical specs, we want to know your story.”

Photographers then open up about what it took for them to get the images that they are best known for, whether that be in the context of conflict, landscape or art, allowing for anyone to understand the process by which photographers go through to capture an image, just as the rest of us struggle to get a good shot out of a smartphone camera. McKimmin has asked that each speaker also present shots that have not turned out how they hoped, to highlight how photographers grow in failure as much as success. Leading these discussions will be TV personality and avid photographer Ray Martin who, as McKimmin highlighted, embodies the passion for photography that animates Aperture.

“[Martin] loves photography, he's always got a camera on him,” noted McKimmin.

While last year’s edition of Aperture opened with eight speakers, this year McKimmin has cut it down to six and will program breakout sessions for further discussion. In between there will be the chance to connect with manufacturers and the representatives of organisations involved in photography.

Aperture Australia also presents the 2019 Emerging Photographer Award. Designed by McKimmin to address, “the single biggest gap in our industry”, the award is open to photographers under 35. Seeing fewer and fewer young people entering the photography profession, McKimmin feared the demise of his industry.

“We are just the caretakers of this industry, we don't own it, we're not in charge of it, and we're supposed to leave it in a better position than when we found it and that's our job. If we don't do something to inspire younger people coming through to take up photography, it's going to die a very slow death in Australia and I don't want that to happen.”

Indeed, recent announcements of layoff of photographers from major media outlets and the easy availability of images online, the future can look particularly bleak for young photographers trying to get a break in the industry, however McKimmin highlights that the path has never been easy.

“Every single speaker we had last year, who were greats of Australian photography, had knockback story after knockback story. The common theme with all of them was that they never ever gave up and it's hard work to make a living just being a photographer, but it's possible.”

Believing that Aperture Australia can unearth the next array of photographic talents, and encourage image conscious consumers to understand the value of the images they are seeing, McKimmin is hopeful about the future of his profession.