Ken Duncan Speaks to DES About the REAL Photo Awards

Studied at the ‘’University of Life’’, Ken Duncan has been well known as the pioneer of Limited Edition Photographic Art in Australia for more than 40 years. Ken started with a dream to have photography widely accepted as an art form in this country. The increasing number of Australian photographers now emulating his panoramic style and finding a market for their work is testimony to Ken’s success.


Ken Duncan, well known for his vibrant panoramic landscape images, launched The REAL Australia Landscape Awards in 2015 to draw a clear distinction between two very different approaches to photography: Photo Realism and Photo Illustration. When he first launched the event, he felt it would be well received, which proved right with the event becoming a well prestigious and awaited one.

The REAL Australia Landscape Awards provides a platform for artists who want to express their creativity through Photo Realism – presenting images that are “believable” and that give a true representation of the scene, with minimal post-processing, to avoid confusion in the marketplace.


We had the chance to interview Ken and ask him about the event and his vision for the photographic industry, along with some printing tips.

  1. What’s special about REAL photo awards?

This is the biggest award in Australia and hopefully it will get even bigger. Not only because there is $52,000 worth of prizes, but because we have 2 international judges, which excludes any biased judgments. History is often remembered through photographs, so if the photographs are not real, we cannot expect them to be an accurate reflection of history.


  1. How did you think about the idea of REAL photo awards?

I am passionate about photography and want to assert that photographers should be able to express their creativity with minimal processing. There’s nothing better than a beautiful picture that is real, and that people can relate to whenever they see this scenery. A real photo these days wouldn’t win in any other competition, and this is why we created the REAL photo awards.


  1. Can you tell us the top 3 factors that affect the quality of your prints?

To be professional, every step has to be done perfectly, but I would say the paper, spray and the mount.


  1. What is your favourite printing paper?

I chose Hahnemühle paper several years ago.  I believe a brand that has been in the printing industry for more than 400 years wouldn’t remain unless it offers the perfect quality that I need.


  1. What’s special about Hahnemühle?

I want my paper to last when I’m gone, and Hahnemühle guarantees their paper.  They offer the perfect quality that I am looking for, because at the end of the day, a photography collector would only blame the photographer if the prints don’t meet his expectations.


  1. Can you describe how you decided to choose Hahnemühle?

I have gone through many tests and with Hahnemühle I have achieved the results that satisfy me, and this is why I choose Hahnemühle paper and protective spray.


  1. There are lots of types of Hahnemühle paper, which one do you use?

While they are all great for different applications, the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth 305 gsm is the one I use the most.


  1. What ink do you use?

I use Epson UltraChrome ink as it offers the best archival permanency and a very good colour gamut.


  1. How important is Photoshop in your final images?

Everyone uses PhotoShop, but to different extents. I don’t like to over use it because what comes out natural, comes out best.


  1. What do you think of the photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?

I think people are starting to appreciate more the value of real images, and understand that having photos printed, not just seen on a tablets or social media, is different. A photo album or photo book with your story is the only proof you existed. Good quality will last, cheap won’t.


  1. If you could be invisible for one day with your camera…

Not invisible, but I would love to go for a shoot on the moon.  I would love to see our planet from above, to see the Earth in all its glory.  It would be awesome to shoot an “earth rise”, as opposed to a sunrise or a sunset.  For me, that would be a defining moment in my life.


  1. What photographic ambitions have you not yet achieved?

I want people in remote areas who don’t have access to the technology to be able to tell their stories, as we are doing with the indigenous youth in Haasts Bluff through the Walk A While Foundation. Also, I will continue to fight for their rights of photographers, as it’s becoming more restricted and difficult to shoot God’s creation freely.


  1. Is there a product you have used for printing and think you can never go without it?

I never buy or sell any print that is not sprayed with a protective coating, otherwise it wouldn’t last.


  1. Of all your different pictures, what’s your best one?

My next one! I am never satisfied and am always looking for what comes next. There’s no perfect image; I’m always after chasing the next picture.


  1. Any advice you could offer to those who are struggling to get perfect prints out of their photographs?

They should believe that a photograph is not a photograph unless it’s printed. It’s like listening to MP3 music instead of the original. It’s about the quality they offer. I encourage them to do something with their work. The more you can educate the industry, the better it is for everyone and the stronger the industry becomes.


  1. And finally, we’d love to know what inspires you to stay motivated with your photography journey?

It’s the story behind each picture and the passion for photography.

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