- Written by Anne O'Connor
This Group, originally known as the Electronic Digital Image Division, was first established in 2002, by Paul Bennie during APSCON at Coffs Harbour, following a very vigorous debate amongst management around the acceptance of this new tool which had arisen within the bounds of photography. At the time of this group's inauguration, digital photography was deemed to be not real photography, and as such, it was thought the use of it should be restricted from the wider and more recognized use of prints and slides.
The debate over the use of digital photography resulted in a decision to allow it to be a special interest group within the society under the original name put forward. This group was set up for those members who wished to pursue digital as a sideline to other photographic practices.
Eventually, the Electronic Digital Image Division changed its name to a shortened version of the original, that of Digital Division, which is now known as the Digital Group. As the Division grew with the rapid growth of digital cameras and computer power so did the reluctance of some members within APS to accept the advance of digital photography. The role of Competition Organiser was crucial and it was Paul Bennie once again who first introduced image competitions amongst members of the Division and then some sections in the APS National in 2004. This created a situation that any awards or acceptances obtained in the Digital sections could not be counted as they were not prints or slides. After considerable debate and numerous submissions by Paul it was eventually determined that points gained in prints, slides or digital exhibitions would all be regarded as equal and these were added to what was able to be counted for honour purposes.
Once that was established, Paul realised that the future of exhibitions was in the submission of digital images in an easy and convenient way. He decided this should be via an upload system within APS, and got together a team of experts to establish the Australian Digital Photography Awards. This was ground breaking at the time and required many rules and requirements to be changed to accept the new technology. The computer programmer could develop the software but it was up to Paul to manage the project with many hours of personal time involved. Paul received many enquiries from around Australia from photographers wishing to set up a similar successful system. This required special skills because there was not always support for what was being done.
Paul was Chair of the Digital Division from 2004 – 2008 and as such, was Digital Division Representative during those years on the Management Committee.
A Digital Group Award was introduced in 2010 for members of the Digital Group. This was again, another initiative by Paul, and was to be awarded to those persons who had made a significant contribution to excellence in digital photography. The first recipient of this award was Phillipa Frederiksen. She received this award at APSCON in Roma, the same year of its inauguration. Since then it has been awarded annually at the respective APSCON's up until 2017, Robert Dettman, being the recipient. Paul himself received the award in 2013.
In 2020, Paul Bennie retired from the APS management committee and being a member of the Digital Group Committee.
It was Paul’s forward thinking and his leadership skills that began something which has now become the mainstay of the society.
DIGITAL GROUP AWARD RECIPIENTS FROM INCEPTION