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Nikon Photo Contest International 2008-2009

Nikon Photo Contest International (NPCI), which is designed to provide an arena for interchange among photography enthusiasts from all over the world (professional and amateur alike) and to contribute to the culture of photography, is about to start. We talked with two people from the marketing division who are in charge of this international contest-now being held for the 32nd time-about its history and appeal, and about Nikon's ambitions in organizing it.

Kanoko Terashima
Communications Strategy, Communications Department, Marketing Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
After joining the company in 2002, Ms Terashima worked in the Sales Promotion Section and was chiefly engaged in sales promotion activities for products such as COOLPIX. Having been involved in the previous contest, this will be her second time in charge. Her hobby since childhood has been classical ballet.
So Okamoto
Communications Strategy, Communications Department, Marketing Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
Mr Okamoto joined the company in 2007. As well as being involved in promoting digital single-lens reflex cameras, he is also working hard as a deputy in charge of NPCI. His hobby is independent travel, as he enjoys meeting people and experiencing cultures from around the world.

Aiming to develop a borderless imaging culture and foster exchange through NPCI

Please outline the aims and objectives of NPCI for us.

Mr. Okamoto gives an outline of NPCI.

Okamoto:

Nikon has been staging this international photography contest since 1969, and ever since its inception it has attracted the support of photography enthusiasts the world over. In recent years, it has been staged every other year. In total, more than 306,000 people have entered the contest, submitting approximately 1.27 million photographic works. The last contest-the 2006-2007 event-was the largest so far, with entrants from 135 countries submitting over 47,000 works.

Terashima:

NPCI was established with essentially three goals in mind. First and foremost is to further spread the culture of photography. We want everyone to accept photography as a part of their lives-as something that is not out of the ordinary. Secondly, we would like to foster communication and mutual understanding between people through photography. Our aim is to achieve a borderless world through an understanding of the respective viewpoints, characteristics, and natural environments of different countries. Lastly, with the contest being staged since 1969, we are mindful of leaving behind a record of the changing times and trends over the years for future generations.
The basic principle of NPCI is to provide an arena in which photography enthusiasts from around the world (professionals and amateurs alike) can convey their views of the world in images. Our thinking is informed by our wish to assist in creating a forum for photographs taken in various places around the world that will allow large numbers of people to appreciate their diversity and acquire a deeper understanding.

How does NPCI differ from other photography contests?

Ms. Terashima talks about how NPCI started and explains its significance.

Okamoto:

There are many photography contests staged around the world, but what really distinguishes NPCI is that it is both global in scale and open to the entire spectrum of photography enthusiasts-professionals and amateurs alike. Moreover, the contest does not simply try to popularize the camera but also sets out to use photographs to spur personal interchange and recognition of our differences, with a view to the attainment of mutual understanding. This theme is also unique to NPCI, I believe. There are as many as 10 judges, not all of whom are Japanese. The involvement in recent years of overseas judges has brought to the contest an international perspective that lends it further appeal.

Terashima:

Nikon is not simply a company that manufactures cameras-it also harbors a strong desire to assist in advancing the imaging culture and the culture of photography. I think that this is demonstrated by NCPI. We will naturally be pleased if in the end photographers choose Nikon products, but that is not the be all and end all-we also hope that photography will become a readily accepted part of everyday life. NPCI reinforces this effort.

How submitted works have changed in reflecting both the diversity of the world and the changing times

Have entrant profiles and photography trends changed since the contest began in 1969?

Terashima:

Since around the year 2000, digital submissions have increased sharply. In the contest before last, the 2004-2005 event, the ratio of digital submissions to print submissions was 6.5 to 3.5. However, in the most recent contest, the 2006-2007 event, the ratio was an overwhelming 8 to 2. Hand in hand with the increase in digital images, there has been a huge increase in the number of digitally processed images submitted, since the contest entrance rules state that "images that have been digitally edited are also accepted." Judges have also commented that there has been an increase in submissions that emphasize creativity and that have been produced based on individual sensibilities. Of course, there have also been many excellent photos submitted in recent years featuring subjects shot in a straightforward documentary like fashion; however, it seems to me that submissions at the other end of the spectrum-ones that express an individual's concept or sensibility are increasing in number.

Okamoto:

It seems that in the past there was a tendency toward pronounced differences in national characteristics. For example, there were many works from Italy and Germany that exemplified beauty, while works from Brazil featured beauty and events in roughly equal measure. Intriguingly, China used to produce an overwhelming number of photographs that captured people's daily lives, but with each successive contest, the number of outward looking submissions with social content seems to have increased. This probably reflects social changes. In addition, India seemed to produce a lot of original, elaborately staged works. It seems that such extreme national variations have faded of late, and that instead the differences between individuals have come to the fore, as each submitted image has grown more elaborate.

It seems that the NIKKOR brand of lenses is unique in terms of its long history and the level of credibility that it has established.

Ms. Terashima and Mr. Okamoto show
how the photographs differ depending
on the year and country from which
they were submitted.

Terashima:

People in Japan can submit their photos; however, since the contest was only opened to Japanese entrants in 2002-2003, they have had only three opportunities to participate, leading judges to comment that, compared to the submissions from overseas, the images submitted by Japanese entrants have been a little lacking, in both quality and quantity. Being a Japanese company, we at Nikon would like to see much more works from Japan. The unfortunate reality is that because we have targeted overseas photographers for such a long time, the contest has a low profile here in Japan. Reflecting on this situation, we are proactively promoting the contest in Japan as well.