Honours & Distinctions
For Photographic achievement through the exhibition & panel systems.

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Master of FIAP Distinction

The Masters of FIAP Distinction is deemed to be one of the pinnacles of the international honours systems. This article is being written for the general interest of APS members and for those that may be considering applying for this Distinction. It is hoped that it will provide some insight into what is required to have a chance of success in achieving this honour.

All honours in the FIAP Distinctions system, with the exception of MFIAP, are based on applicants achieving results in International Salons that have been run with FIAP Patronage. Each level is increasingly demanding in its requirements for Acceptances and Awards for individual images in various countries and salons, and the requirements for the number of images that must have gained acceptances. These start with the Artist FIAP Distinction (AFIAP), then progress to Excellence FIAP (EFIAP) and on to EFIAP Levels. The highest of these is EFIAP Diamond 3 for which only international awards are counted and the applicant must have 200 of these, gained in salons in at least 10 countries with 50 different images. These awards have to have all been gained since the person gained their EFIAP Platinum level.

The Masters level is a very different challenge. It requires the applicant to show that they are a Master of Photography in their chosen speciality. Unlike the other honours, salon results play no role in this Distinction, other than the prerequisite that the applicant must already have proven themselves at international level by having gained their EFIAP at least 3 years prior. In fact, the documentation specifically states not to include lists of salon results in the application curriculum vitae.

The thought process involved for an MFIAP application is very different to that of producing single images that one might enter in salons, as MFIAP requires the applicant to produce a themed, cohesive set of 20 prints. Very specifically, in FIAP’s words, MFIAP requires the set of 20 images to be “coherent from its conception to its realisation and presentation”. Based on feedback received from FIAP on past unsuccessful applications this clause is extremely important. In addition to the outstanding quality required for this level, and the consistency of subject and style, it is recommended that you present your images in a consistent manner, eg paper, shape, size & orientation. It is also recommended that the technique used in the production of the images is consistent. The images, without exception, are expected to be of a very high international standard and applicants can fail should ALL images in the set not be of this standard. Where an application is unsuccessful, the images are returned and the applicant is provided with feedback as to why they did not succeed. This is usually very brief.

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 with the 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. Building such a set from start to finish, with a plan, is a good way to go. One should consider things such as:

  • Individuality
  • originality of style
  • sophistication of thought
  • creativity in composition or approach to a documentary
  • your set needs to demonstrate that you are a photographic artist who is a true master of your chosen topic.
  • It also should not need to be said that anything less than technical excellence of the images would be highly unlikely to succeed.

Accompanying the set of images must be an introductory text that describes the subject and the creative concept of the photographic artist. The assessors pay very serious attention to this text, which is in many ways what one would call an “artists statement”, albeit it possible a page or longer. ​

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Lodging an MFIAP application is not for the faint-hearted. Unlike the honours that are simply approved if you have gained the required salon results, MFIAP is assessed by a panel. The process in place from this year continues to involve the FIAP board but they call upon an initial assessment and recommendation from appointed experts, where the digital files are viewed by these people who may be anywhere in the world. Ultimately though the final decision rests with the nine members of the FIAP Board of Directors, who are highly experienced, international judges and several of who holds the Masters level themselves. They assess the prints, not the digital files. The decision is made by a majority vote. The prints must be of the highest standard and archival quality. Applicants should prepare them in such a way that befits the honour. The prints should stand worthy to be held in the international collection of photographic art for which they are destined should the application succeed in achieving the Distinction. Here things such as choice of paper than best suits the set of images can add that final artistic touch that is not seen in a digitally screened image. Poor printing, low-resolution images, damaged prints or prints not presented as a set in their manner of presentation will not succeed. Even difference of technical approach or shape and variation of the orientation of the images in a set can hold a set back. This honour is not about breath but about being a master in your speciality. Most digital salons require a file no larger than 1920x1080px. If one was to consider such a file being printed at 300ppi then the resulting print would be no larger than 16.3cm (6.4inches) wide. Thus many heavily cropped images that might gain results in the international salons can never be printed as a physical work of art beyond a small print. Such images will not be useable for MFIAP as these prints are required to be 30x40cm or mounted on light paper to such that the final work reaches these dimensions for storage purposes. Images files that have previously been submitted to FIAP for a Distinctions application, cannot be included in the set. If the applicant is successful in gaining their MFIAP, they cite this after their name together with their EFIAP or EFIAP Level. It is treated as a separate Distinction in that it does not take the place of any other FIAP Distinction or vice versa, but is held and cited together. The successful sets of prints become the property of the FIAP Permanent Photographic Art Collection and may be used by FIAP for exhibitions or at other events.

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For many years now FIAP has asked for the digital files of the images, so images can be reproduced to their original quality if the originals deteriorate. This in no way changes your ownership of the images. Image files of the successful sets are also shown in low resolution on the FIAP website: https://www.fiap.net/en/mfiap?page=1
Anyone considering applying for MFIAP is strongly advised to spend time looking through these successful bodies of work. It will give you some feel for the coherence required between the images in each set and standard required. It should, however, be born in mind that you are viewing a low-resolution digital file rather than a high-quality print on the artist’s chosen paper, that can make a big difference to the final photographic artwork seen in physical form.
Most importantly, I would always advise people attempting this Distinction to view the production of the set with pride regardless of the outcome of the MFIAP assessment. Having watched the applications and success rate of these applications over the years, I have never seen more than a third of the applications from around the world succeed and it’s often a lot less. There is no predetermined proportion set to succeed. It is purely a yes or no based on a required high standard. Producing a set such as this, from start to finish can be a 1-2year project or possibly longer. It is very easy to pin one's hopes fully on the success of the application and make the mistake of being disappointed in the set of images if they don’t gain you the Distinction. If you take on a challenge such as this and see it through to completion it is a huge achievement in itself. You have succeeded in producing a significant body of work. Speaking from the experience of having done a similar Masters application within the APS honours system, when it used to be done much the same way as FIAP does, I found I learned to think strongly beyond the production of single images and honed my skills in my speciality. It was an interesting journey and pushed me to meet the demands of a different challenge.
***Thanks to Riccardo Busi, President of FIAP, for making the above photos of the “2019 MFIAP judging in progress” available to include in this article.