- Written by Bronwen Casey
MAPS by Panel
A Challenge Beyond the Production of Single Images
“This honour is reserved for those photographers who are outstanding in their field.”
These are the first words of introduction to this APS honour, that is the highest honour that can be sought within the APS panel system. In essence, what is sought is that the two folios the applicants submit show that they are a master in their field of photography!
This honour is a far different challenge to that of producing single images. It requires not just that the applicant has the skills to produce images of international exhibition quality under one topic, but that they produce a significant body of work that is unified in its concept and presentation; a set of images that when viewed together carry strength as a set that in itself has significance beyond the single images.
If the applicant thinks that this is just a matter of gathering together a collection of images within a category or on the same subject, they will have missed an important aspect of what is sought. Let’s look at the criteria for this honour as written in the APS documentation.
“Demonstrate their photographic skill, talent, creativity and personal interpretation”
As these words indicate, one is expected to demonstrate excellent photographic skill and talent. This honour sits above that of FAPS, where a person achieving that honour should be producing works of international acceptance and international award standard. Technical excellence and demonstration of international standard photographic talent is expected for MAPS.
Creativity and personal interpretation are often what separates the good photographer from the master photographer. Has the photographer presented something in a way that shows their individuality? Have they been an artist behind the camera in the way they have seen and captured the images or constructed the images? These are the sorts of questions one should seek to address in submitting a MAPS portfolio.
“Complete in itself, and coherent, illustrating a specific theme.”
As mentioned above, simply gathering a group of images of one place or one subject may fit the requirement for the set of images to be coherent and fit a theme, but it won’t necessarily be “complete in itself”. The body of work should have a unifying concept that bonds the images as a set. There should be a thought process that follows this theme such that when one looks at this set of images, it is clear they belong together. Unifying factors are things such as a storyline or a creative concept.
“Folio stands on its own as an expression of the author's creativity in the transmission of emotion, moods, illusions, or any other message”
This relates strongly to the requirement above for personal interpretation and creativity. It is where an image, and in this instance, a body of images, speaks of the applicant as an artist of outstanding merit. This MAPS panel honour is not just an exercise in technical excellence but a demonstration of the applicant as
an artist. Each folio of work must have a concept and thought process underpinning it. As a set of work, the images should convey this to the viewer. There should be a uniqueness to the work that shows the photographers individual approach and artistic ability.
“Folio must be submitted in such a way that befits this Honour”
In a nutshell, this is about quality, presentation and professionalism. The applicant for MAPS should think about how a body of work of a significant photographic artist would be presented in an art gallery. It should be excellence and perfection all the way. For the designation of “Master” of APS, one should not expect works to be presented in anything other than a fully professional manner.
This particular criterion had stronger relevance when this honour was required to be submitted as prints, as things such as print quality and presentation were also a consideration. Here one would think about how
the body of work would be presented if one were to hold a personal exhibition of the body of work and how one would show this in a manner that added to that sense that the works belonged together.
Preparing a MAPS Application
- There are a number of things to consider here:
It is very strongly recommended that you do not see this as an exercise in gathering a set of images you have taken under one topic and submitting them. Such a set is extremely unlikely to meet the discussion points above.
- This set should be built as a set from the ground up where the concept, technique and thought that bonds the images is there from the start. Each image should be made with the intention that it belongs to this single body of work.
- Building such a set takes time and effort. It can often involve a degree of personal development and improvement during the process. As images for the set are produced, there is a degree of “honing in” on certain images and redundancy of others as further images are produced. Images standing up to the test of time beyond the initial delight when they are first seen are a good test. This is not an exercise in imagery that only has a quick visual impact, but one where there is thought and depth as one travels between the images in the body of work. It would not be
unreasonable to anticipate that one might produce double the number of images before settling on the final body of work to be submitted. It is also not unreasonable to expect that such a project will in many cases take a year or two.
- I recommend keeping the works unseen until after the application has been assessed. It keeps it new and original such that these images, and images produced by others who may be inspired by yours, have not been exhibited during the years leading up to the submission of your application.
- Do not assume that you will be successful just because you have completed the task of producing a set of images under one topic. Producing a cohesive and significant body of work is far more than that.
- At no time should MAPS by panel be viewed as the shortcut or done because it is seen as a “cheaper” option than seeking MAPS via exhibition. Whilst the honour and badge received are the same, the two paths are very different.
- To gain some insight into what a cohesive body of works of this level should look like, the International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) have much the same requirements for their “Master of FIAP (MFIAP)” Distinction. FIAP require a single cohesive set of 20 images. The portfolios of their successful applicants can be viewed on the FIAP website. The recent years are all there and the portfolios of past decades are being progressively digitised and added. These can be viewed at https://www.fiap.net/en/mfiap
- From 2020, those gaining Master of FIAP are also featured in the August Edition of the FIAP News magazine. This includes an article from each successful recipient about their portfolio which again provides insight into the concept and thought process involved in their cohesive body of work. FIAP News can be found at https://www.fiap.net/en/fiap-news
This honour is not about being able to produce an image worthy of an international acceptance or award, but about being a master in your speciality.
Such sets of images at this level typically do not occur from the gathering of old individual images that happen to fit a topic. The deliberate and planned development of a set of images that are produced to a plan, such that it is clear the images were intended to be seen together as an outstanding body of work, is typically the strongest approach. One should consider things such as:
- individuality and originality of style
- sophistication of thought
- creativity in composition or approach to a documentary
- demonstrating that you are a photographic artist who is a true master of your chosen topic.
- the need for the images to be a united, cohesive body of work that belong together visually and conceptually.
- Anything less than technical excellence of the images would be highly unlikely to succeed.
Why Do MAPS via Panel?
This is not a challenge for the faint-hearted but if you are seeking to develop yourself as an artist who is a master of their chosen field then this is something you should consider. It is a path that pushes you to seek more from your images, as not only must they stand up to the test of an individual image, but they must go further by playing a part in the thought behind the group of images to which they belong. It is a thought process where rather than saying “my image has been chosen to be on the wall in an exhibition”, one says “this room holds an exhibition of my works that convey a concept produced by me as a photographic artist”.
A note to those who take up this challenge……...and this is important!
If you have done as described above, you can expect this project to take over your life a little. You can expect that your heart will be tied strongly to the images, well beyond the love of just one photo in which you take pride. It is extremely important that you value what you have achieved in producing such a body of work for this challenge and that you do not measure yourself or the value of your works by whether or
not they are successful in gaining the honour. Assessment of art is not definitive like an assessment of science! Whilst one always hopes to succeed in the assessment to gain the honour, one should only undertake this if one can stand back from that and value the journey, the personal development and the works as
something in which one can take pride regardless of the outcome of the honours application.
This article has been written for APS members who may be considering applying for MAPS by panel. It is hoped that it will provide some insight into what is required for this honour.