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The Oliver Rock Art Photography Award


The American Rock Art Research Association is pleased to announce its annual photography competition for the Oliver Award. The Oliver Award, established in 1996, recognizes exceptional works that master the art and science of rock art photography with a degree of superior satisfaction. The winner of the award will receive a $500 cash prize and recognition at the annual conference. In return, the winning entry will become part of ARARA's archive of rock art photography. The recipient (or legal owner of the original images if not the photographer) will grant ARARA the right to exhibit the winning entry and to reproduce it in ARARA publications. All other rights to the use of the image(s) remain the property of the photographer or other legal owner of the original images.

Prior to 2001, digital enhancements were excluded from consideration. Recent advances in digital photography have led the judges to expand the scope of the Oliver Award to include all forms of digital photography and enhancements. Entries using digital enhancement must include a description of the techniques involved. The judges expect that the entries will include a discussion of the ethics of the enhancements or manipulations used in producing the entry and how they contribute to the science of rock art research.

The criteria and guidelines for the award follow:

The Oliver Award is to be given for excellence in the art and science of photography in the service of the study and appreciation of rock art. The art and science of rock art photography serves two critical masters:

On the one hand, rock art photography must illuminate and educate people that have not had the opportunity to see a site first hand. The art of rock art photography is in capturing the experience of the site, not just in reproducing what is painted or etched upon a wall of stone, but also in evoking a sense of place and the feelings and emotions that invariably one experiences at a rock art site. Without acknowledging this master when we make our photographs, we fail to educate and pass along a meaningful portrait of rock art and thus may fail to help others appreciate the rarity and beauty of this art form.

Our other master is science. Rock art photography must meet the criteria for objectively evaluating and measuring the subject so that the judgments drawn from data obtained from photographs are valid and useful. In the absence of scientific criteria upon which to base our photography, we must follow convention inasmuch as we can, but willingly discard it when it can no longer help us solve the problems facing us. We must acknowledge new, and often, controversial scientific work in the field of photography that may lead to another way of understanding rock art.

For the purposes of this award, it will include all conventional still or motion film mediums, scientific film mediums, video, and digital image captures done on location. It does not extend to multimedia "productions" although the scope of the award may be expanded in the future.

Entries may include a single image or a portfolio of images of a single site or cluster of sites. As with the Castleton Award, there are no application forms, but entries should be accompanied by a cover letter that explains how the entry meets the criteria of the award. In other words, how does it provide a viewer with new information or a new appreciation of the site or sites. This is particularly necessary in the case of scientific studies where the techniques used may be unfamiliar to the judges. The letter should also summarize the applicant's previous work in rock art (a copy of a resume or curriculum vitae is acceptable).

A panel of judges will be selected by the ARARA Executive Board. Decision of the judges is final and only those entries accompanied by an appropriately stamped, self-addressed envelope will be returned.

To enter the competition, send one letter of application and the entry in time to be received by February 15 to:

William D. Hyder
ARARA—Oliver Award
128 S. Navarra Dr.
Scotts Valley  CA   95066


Past recipients include (award not given in years not listed):