Campaign Photo: The pick of the shots

The Campaign Photo awards, presented this week, aim to recognise and celebrate the power of the image in commercials. Chairman of the judges Mark Denton reveals what made the gold winners stand out from the crowd.

It was an honour and a pleasure to be asked to chair the second annual Campaign Photo awards jury.

I was particularly fluffed up about it because I thought its very existence might be an indication that print was making a comeback.

It's been around 15 years since I worked at an ad agency and obviously there have been a few changes in the industry since then. Lots of good stuff has happened and an equal amount of not so good stuff.

From where I've been standing, it seems like one of the saddest victims of progress has been the once mighty medium of print.

I used to love doing print work, almost as much as telly. In fact, it was a close call when I weighed up the merits of a 30-second TV brief versus a 48-sheet poster brief. And, of course, with a print job the added bonus was that there was a good chance you'd end up on a stills shoot.

As a creative, the absolute joy of seeing a rough scribble transformed into a fantastic image by a master craftsman was a sensation that's hard to beat. Every part of the process felt creative. Just choosing which photographer I wanted to use in the first place was scarily exciting.

I can't ever remember being told I couldn't use someone because they were too expensive or being asked to consider using a stock shot.

Sometimes in the creative department it would feel like you were playing photographer Top Trumps, with a rival art director trying to outdo your John Thornton with a Lester Bookbinder or a Brian Duffy.

I was fortunate enough to work with some of the industry's finest: Norman Parkinson, Brian Griffin, David Montgomery, Barney Edwards, John Claridge etc etc etc.

But whoever took the shot, it was the quality of the finished picture that counted. This was back in the pre-digital era. There were no computer screens to display what you'd just shot, and not so many post-production tricks that could be applied to the final image. The tools that are available to photographers and art directors now are gobsmackingly sophisticated and far beyond anything I could have imagined as a young art director.

Which brings me back to the awards. I was disappointed by the number of entries that were overproduced and overpolished. The result was a lot of images that were soulless, and a bunch that were just downright ugly.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-image-manipulation, far from it. But to me, if you're going to make your photograph look like an illustration, it's got to be a bloody good illustration. For the best part, the winners haven't fallen into the same trap and, where post-production techniques have been applied, it's with a degree of subtlety that's right for the subject.

I'll start with my personal favourite gold winner: the collection of black-and-white photographs for the St John Ambulance campaign. The idea behind the photos is not new - beautifully posed pictures of dead people were very popular with the Victorians. But I've never seen them used in ads before. They are deeply moving images, perfectly executed for an immaculately art-directed campaign. What's not to like?

There are two Colour Multi-Image gold winners. The first is the "brave" series of portraits of kids. There's obviously been a lot of work that's gone into these shots but they display a lightness of touch, allowing nothing to come between the viewer and the subject.

The joint winner in this category has a different mood altogether. Grim and atmospheric location shots for the "know your limits" campaign. They all seem to work, with the exception of the "park drive" execution. Where did the terrible silhouettes come from? (Or is it just me?)

Finally, the big winner. The gold for the most powerful image goes to "knife crime". It's a beautiful photograph, oozing with craft and production values. My only question is, does some of the polish get in the way of believing the tear? Just a question ...

- Mark Denton director and managing director, Coy! Communications

Title: Life Lost
Photographer: Nadav Kander
Brand: St John Ambulance
Entered by: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Creative agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Creative team: Adrian Rossi (creative director/art director), Alex
Grieve (creative director/writer), Victoria Daltry (art director), Will
Bingham (writer)
Retouchers: Antony Crossfield, Gary Mead, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Location: London studio
Brief: Create natural portraits but with an unsettling quality so that
when reading the copy you reappraise the portraits and realise that they
are not alive or sleeping but, in fact, dead

Title: Knife Crime
Photographer: Alex Telfer
Brand: Knife Crime
Entered by: Alex Telfer Photography
Creative agency: Blue River
Creative: Anthony Cantwell
Retoucher: In-house
Location: Kingsland Church Studios, Newcastle upon Tyne
Brief: The effects that knife crime has on the victims' families

Title: Brave
Photographer: Kiran Master
Brand: Shire
Entered by: Kiran Master
Creative agency: Seiden
Creative: Steve Feinberg
Retoucher: Core Digital
Location: New York
Brief: Show the face of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
through portraits that are simple, almost austere, but which radiate an
inner dignity. No attempt to manipulate emotions or promise outcomes,
only to make a human connection that links quietly to isolation, tension
and exclusion

Title: Alcohol Know Your Limits
Photographer: Jason Hindley
Brand: Home Office
Entered by: Jason Hindley
Creative agency: VCCP London
Creative team: Mark Orbine (creative director), Dave Tokley, Richard
Yates (art directors), Anthony Stamp, Matt Gilbert (writers)
Retouchers: Stanley's Post, Happy Finish
Location: London
Brief: The "would you?" print campaign illustrates a series of
situations that people would not act on while sober, but would feasibly
do when drunk. It aims for people to think twice about the risky
situations they get themselves into while under the influence of

- To buy the book of the night, which showcases all of the award winners, go to www.blurb.com/bookstore.