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Vietnamese question: Are drone photos works of art?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016, 11:16 GMT+7
Vietnamese question: Are drone photos works of art?
‘Y-shaped Bridge’ by Thai Ton Hao, a runner-up at the Sixth Ho Chi Minh City Artistic Photo Festival

The artistic value of drone photos has been questioned by Vietnamese photographers after two drone photos were awarded the first and second prize at a photo festival in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Sixth Ho Chi Minh City Artistic Photo Festival was held from May 1 to June 30, receiving over 1,000 submissions from 173 photographers.

Questions were raised on Saturday at a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City organized in conjunction with the opening of a gallery exhibition, where prize winners and selected photos from the festival are being exhibited.

Attendants at the event voiced their objection to the awarding of the festival's top prizes to two photos taken with drones, questioning their artistic value and suggesting unfair competition for traditional photographers.

The first-prize winner depicted trucks loading rice onto ships for export, while one of the runner-up prizes was awarded to an aerial photo of a Y-shaped bridge in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Drone photos are taken directly from above, where the only source of light is flat light [when a scene is diffusely and directly lit],” photographer Tam Thai said at the seminar. “I can’t capture these moments either, and the shooting angles are all the same. How can photos without moments and featuring only flat light be considered an artistic work?”

“There’s really no special content in such photos,” Dang Mau Hiep, another photographer, added.

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‘Export rice’ by Nguyen Minh Tan, the first-prize winner at the Sixth Ho Chi Minh City Artistic Photo Festival

Meanwhile, the winning photographer Nguyen Minh Tan defended photos taken using drones by saying that it takes just as much effort and experience to capture stunning aerial photos as it does to traditional photos.

“[Drones] are a tool to capture photos just like traditional cameras,” Tan said.

Speaking on behalf of the festival’s organizers in response to the debate, Bui Minh Son, head of the team of judges who scored the photos, said his peers considered drones another tool on photo shoots.

“We don’t place emphasis on how the photos are taken, but rather how they look as a final artwork,” Son explained.

Suggestions of a separate category for drone photos was raised during the seminar and received positively by the organizers, who promised to look into the idea.

Taking artistic photos with drones has become a global trend in recent years, with U.S.-based scientific journal National Geographic holding a drone photo contest earlier this year welcoming submissions from 28 countries.

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