Saturday, 12 February 2011

World Press Photo




World Press Photo time again and more controversy on its way. The winner is good I think, except some think it's too much like Steve McCurry's Afghan girl and others think the way the image was used (and the publication it was used for) should be taken into account in the awarding of prizes.

So Politics, Theory and Photography asks the David Levi Strauss question: 

"The first question must always be: Who is using this photograph, and to what end?" 

But if that were the case, how many of the winning entries could one have in the World Press Photo? Indeed would there be a World Press Photo?  And if not, would that be a bad thing?


The overall feel is somewhat reactionary, a glance of the death that comes at the end of the affair. It's like the climax of the film without the preamble. I remember reading a story about how 3 separate photojournalists were embedded with US forces in Afghanistan and they all came back with the same image - the soldier dying in the helicopter shot, the same one that Larry Burrows did in his Yankee Papa 13 essay. But Burrows showed something beyond just death.


Many of the winners have that same kind of feeling, that showing something terrible (that should be shown) but so what? But perhaps press photography has always been like that, it's about the eye-catching picture, never mind the back story. And there seems to be a lot of death in the ones that I like. All photography is gee-whizz photography in the end, however you look at it.


Anyways, some favourites are the Suicide in Budapest, the Tibetan burying the earthquake dead, the victims of the Merapi eruption - and they're still waiting for the big one, the really big one. Then there's the Niger meat market and the children in prisons in Sierra Leone 

My overall favourite has to be Kim Jong Il and his son, and next Beloved Leader in Waiting.
Here you can just see what Kim Jong Il is thinking. It's the same as the rest of us. 

2 comments:

HOST Gallery Blog said...

I think the honorable mention of Michael Wolf is exciting in some ways, as in WPP are opening the doors, as is the fact that they used pictures by and of Edison Pena, the Chilian Miner... It is such a complicated debate, and goes back to your previous post, is the aim of a "press" photograph to change public opinion, to shed light etc, or simply to illustrate?

colin pantall said...

...in some ways, yes. It's the token nod that will make some people happy and some people not so happy.

I don't know - I love Michael Wolf's work, but the Streetview thing has a limited shelf life and is a flash in the pan.

Like you say, there are so many criteria for what makes a world press photo, and the judges to keep an eye on those, whilst also recognizing that a good press picture is not the same as being good in all ways, and in some ways it might be quite bad!