Stephen Mayes looked at 470,214 images as chair of World Press Photo - images that he says are a reflection of the world's media, not the world's photography.
As he states on the blog, Notes From Nowhere:
Every year, the jury is astonished by the repetition of subjects and the lack of variety in the coverage. From the infinity of human experience the list of subjects covered by the entrants would fill a single page, and (excluding sports as a specialist area) could be reduced even to three lines:
- The disposed and the powerless
- The exotic
- Anywhere but home (the American election would be one of the exceptions to this rule….)
This is the general view, the blurred impression of 470,214 images and of course there are many exceptions. But meanwhile hospitals and the sick (and especially mental hospitals), the afflicted, the poor, the injured are photographed way in excess of their actual numbers. And I have a feeling that there are as many photographers as drug users in the Kabul’s Russian House. As one juror said this year, “90% of the pictures are about 10% of the world.”
- Over represented: commercial sex, suffering black folk, Muslim women in veils, same sex couples kissing, holding hands
- Under represented: middle class, affluent drug users, real sex, personal sex, black culture and expanded vision of black life outside Africa.
“Heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized” defines photojournalism as represented by the vast majority of the entries. Where is the intimate, the personal and the real?
A full recording of Stephen Mayes speech on chairing the World Press Photo is here.