Industry News

Icon Awards Celebrates Photographic Excellence: Builds on Prestige of WPPI Awards Legacy

April 30, 2024

By Abbey Pleviak

The torch of excellence of WPPI’s Photo Competition has been successfully passed along to the Icon Awards with its inaugural session held at WPPI last March. Competition co-directors Melissa and Jerry Ghionis achieved their goal of sustaining the prestige of the former competition while elevating the experience for participants with both in-person and virtual events.

According to co-director Melissa Ghionis, the Icon Awards’ other main goals were “to celebrate the finalists and the winners all week long” and “focus on what makes an award-winning image by providing valuable feedback to the entrants.” These aims were accomplished through the Icon Awards Judging Room, live image judging on the WPPI Show Floor, the Icon Awards Gallery on the Show Floor, and a black-tie Celebration Gala with live music.

3rd Place, Portrait Division: Maternity © Mauro Cantelmi

The Icon Awards Experience

The Icon Awards offered an incredible experience for all levels of pass holders at WPPI. Live judging of all the top ten images in all categories happened on March 3 and 4th all day long with the winners being celebrated at the Gala on March 5th. Photographers gathered in the hushed room as photograph handlers brought out the top ten scoring prints in each category to the semi-circle of waiting judges.

The images were projected on a big screen for those in attendance to view as the judges gave their critiques. The winners for first, second, and third place were determined live by these judges with conference goers in attendence, giving an unprecedented view into the process of choosing award-winning images. Watch all 18 hours of judging and the Icon Gala Awards Ceremony with live musical performances on the Icon Awards YouTube channel.

3rd Place, In-Camera Artistry Division: Wedding © Mike Chien

Icon Awards judges also offered live judging on the WPPI Show Floor. There were twelve different sessions on the Show Floor, which you can view here. While the judging of the digital competition didn’t happen at WPPI, they are also available to watch here.

Another special feature of the contest at WPPI this year was the Icon Awards Gallery, which was displayed on the Show Floor. Many of the images were accompanied with a QR code, which the viewer could scan for behind-the-scenes video of how the image was created.

The Icon Awards strives to offer a forum for photographers to not only showcase their talent, but also to develop their skills through critiques. Valuable learning comes about not just from having one’s own image critiqued, but also from seeing how other images are critiqued. Judges strongly recommend anyone who is submitting to view as many image critiques as possible.

2nd Place, Wedding Division: Bride or Groom Alone © Savio Isshak Issef

Community, Innovation, and Celebration

Isshak Savio, who received his Master designation describes the Icon Awards as, “a dynamic artistic landscape where innovation and inspiration thrive.” Savio won first place in two categories — Wedding Couple Together: Wedding Day and Wedding Party: Family and Friends. He also took second place in two categories – Bride or Groom Alone: Wedding Day and Maternity. 

He goes on to express the social and artistic value that the Icon Awards at WPPI provide, saying “Through this competition, we are no longer just photographers working in isolation. You offer us an opportunity to shine, to be highlighted, and to surpass ourselves as artists. These competitions bring us together, giving us a purpose and a goal to strive for. They create a real community of photographers where we can seriously evaluate our level and encourage each other to push our limits.”

For co-directors Melissa and Jerry Ghionis, being able to see the difference the awards makes for so many diverse and eclectic photographers around the globe is one of the most rewarding aspects of the competition.

2nd Place, Wedding Division: Creative © Rachel Owen


Get Ready for the Next Round of Icon Awards

If you’d like to be involved in the Icon Awards, the time to prepare is now. Entries open on August 1st and close on Oct 1st. In the meantime, be sure to check out the rules, the categories, the types of entries and their fees, how scoring works, and the prizes you’ll be eligible for. Especially don’t forget to check out the image reviews (linked above) to get perspective on what to submit and amazing tips on how to prepare those images for competition. And while you’re there, you might also like to pick up some classy Icon Awards merchandise.

Best of luck to everyone who joins the competition. I can’t wait to see your work during the Icon Awards programming at WPPI March 18 – 20th. If you are planning to go, this is a great time to pick up your WPPI Conference Pass during the Early Bird Sale because it’s currently only $79!

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