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LS members' thoughts on WP awards

Paul Melcher offers one point of view on the choice of some of the World Press Photo winners. Private discussions with a few colleagues have yielded similar or diverging viewpoints. Perhaps LS members would like to offer their views, thoughts, and observations on this topic.

Paul’s blog comments, though linked at the LS homepage top, are copied here:

“dark, blurry, slightly incomprehensible and borderline boring

The World Press awards has revealed its winners for 2008. As expected, the picture of Britney Spears having her head shaved off won for the best image of Arts and entertainment. Or wait..it did not. Once again, The World Press has shown its complete disrespect for the world of news in favor of an overly intellectualized vision of the world. A bit as if the judges, once gathered in a room, behind closed doors, had said: “lets kill photojournalism a little bit more this year”

The photojournalism intelligentsia has voted. A closed group of overly self adoring and painfully egocentric intellectuals whose vision of a news photography is closer to the likes of ICP than the masses. They look for the creative touch, the Holga/lensbaby effect, the “je ne sais quoi” that makes a news photograph a work of art. They over think photography to an excess and seem to look for the Picasso rather than the human touch. They do not believe that an news image can be good, if doesn’t carry the touch of a creative artifact.

This years big winner is a blurry image of a tired soldier. Although not taken in a combat situation, and probably because of low light, it is slightly blurry. I don’t care for such poorly taken image. What is so wrong about reality that it has to be altered and given the highest prize in photojournalism ?

Sadly enough, we see the same intelligentsia controlling most of the major prizes worldwide and spitting out the same type of winners. These judges are all friends with each other and spend the rest of the year over analyzing images as if they where reading a Kafka novel. It has to be dark, blurry, slightly incomprehensible and borderline boring.

No wonder photojournalism is dying. Once again, the sports images of this year seem to be the real winners. Amazing images of incredible situation. The rest is dark, so dark. Not just dark subjects, but simply slightly underexposed or taken with low light. The less you see, the more you can imagine. The image is good for what is not there, so you can fill in the blanks yourself. Even the Nature category is full of blood and sadness because a happy image, according to these judges, cannot be a good image.

Lets no forget that politics, for example, has no place in the World Press. We marvel at the John F Kennedy images in the Oval office yet there is not one image of world leaders in action. Between the French election last year, the changing of guards in England and the US election, you cannot tell me there was no great images.

It is a little bit as if, outside of Africa ( Kenya, mostly), Afghanistan and Iraq, the rest of the world stood still. Or, maybe it was not favorable for a nice moody b&w panoramic Holga image. You can almost hear the judges discuss the lightness of being, quoting “The human condition”, while sipping their warm cappuccinos.” This image is so Nietzscheen, isn’t it?”

Certainly not a good year for the World Press. Even more, because, once again, they refused to acknowledge multimedia, one of the most powerful tool of today’s photojournalism. Or, in a socially driven internet, they do not have a people’s choice, where image consumers could vote.

No, they prefer to remain in photojournalism Medieval ages, taking comfort in congratulating themselves for picking the least interesting images possible as to prove there is more to photojournalism than the reporting of the news. If anything, this, and other awards of it kind, are killing photojournalism. They create the false impression that this is the standard to achieve.

If you have time to waste and have really nothing else to do, here are the winners :

PS: At least I was right about John Moore’s images who, by the way, truly deserved this prize.


by Russell Gordon at 2008-02-09 01:18:43 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Belgrade , Serbia | Bookmark | | Report spam→

It’s an incredibly facile rant about this year’s award winners….it’s seems his reaction is more attune to the same argument he’s re-cycled from elsewhere…….

Im not a great fan of WPP to begin with, though I celebrate the work of the photographers who are honored and not-honored, but i think they’ve made an interesting choice of images this year (some very “wpp” and some not so much)…the Photo of the Year (imho) is always ridiculous (i mean naming a photo as “photo of the year”, i dont mean the pics chosen) a priori, but, his rant is really pedestrian….

the range of documentation, reporting, narrative and yes “simple, straight forward” photography is ripe and those selected are indicative of that…I am hard pressed to see the entirety of those selected as anything less than an example of how ripe, how rich, the narrative of photography still thrives, unbendingly…..

i hate the nomenclature of awards and the hegemony of the dictates of the photographic constituent, but pleeeeeze, his screed is silly….one may not think the image chosen as photo-of-the-year (or other stories/images) abides by what (for him) constitute unadorned, non-academic, straightforward journalism, but…that, itself, is an stupid, intellectually knife-banding effort….

like all years, like all awards, there are some remarkable images and stories and this year, like all other years, doesn’t come close to representing the range of “reporting” that exists within the photographic community, but it does, as always, continue to show that regardless of our suppositions and proclamations, photography still is a remarkable speaking out of that which has skinned the days and ways by which we’re carved upon and that aint just blood and ward and injustice, but by other things….

funny, his obsession with “blurry” and "holga’ and others tropes that have since become reactionary cliches…i challenge him to point out, specially, given all those photographs and stories, how his rant begins to describe this years photography?…

too that hasn’t diminished, in all her multifarious shapes and dances….

the “bohemian’s” post is just as ridiculously obvious and empty as the the style and content that he cavorts to lament….

in a word: take it for what it is…a stupid competition, filled with great photography and, for some, not-so-great, that hints at but doesn’t bespeak the entirety of what photography still accomplishes….

I’ve never, btw, ever heard another photographer say “this image is so Nietzcheen (sp?), insnt it”…that’d be the tired, fancy of a bored bohemian…


by [former member] | 09 Feb 2008 01:02 (ed. Feb 9 2008) | toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
I read the rant, and honestly thought he sounded silly and bitter. I didn’t enter WPP, but looking thru the work, I felt humbled. My overall perception is that people were shooting ‘outside the box’, and that there was a very high caliber of communication going on, albeit ‘creatively’.

by [former member] | 09 Feb 2008 02:02 (ed. Feb 9 2008) | New York, United States | | Report spam→
it was interesting if only to see someone be so anti-creativity as well
as the long established anti-intellectual. dumber photography.. hmmm.

by julia s. ferdinand | 09 Feb 2008 05:02 | chiang mai, Thailand | | Report spam→
.and again in a different context
see other context

by Imants | 09 Feb 2008 07:02 | Outskie, Australia | | Report spam→
Why not forget WPP or let it be ?? But start a LS members a WPPLS contest 2009. There are more LS members winning than from Magnum, VII, Getty, AP, Reutera, AFP or any other photographers organisation or photo agencies???

by [former member] | 09 Feb 2008 07:02 (ed. Feb 9 2008) | Working to hard / The Hague, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Meet me…

I am the WPP winner for the coming year…

Just became a camera owner and got a pirated CD of photoshop in my bag. And you bet… I am the WPP winner the coming year.

Well… most of the single images at the WPP this year left lot to be desired. Are they strong single images or those that can just be “part” of a story?

The stories looked a little better… but hey… I forgot the use of photoshop here… in a lot of them…

The WPP-Pic of the Year is far from one telling image.

The only one that told something in RECENT years and was strong enough to fit in that category was the winner in 2004 (I think the guy was from Reuters). Reuters the British Agency? where is it missing this year?

Welcome to the WPP awards for commercial photo-shopped photojournalism…

And I do fit in here…

by Camera Owner | 09 Feb 2008 20:02 | Amsterdam, Netherlands | | Report spam→
Let’s save all the hoo-ha! until after the Oscars come out and we can do the whole lot on in one go. Save your energy.

by Mikethehack | 09 Feb 2008 20:02 | Way up my own ass, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

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Russell Gordon, Journalist, Photographer Russell Gordon
Journalist, Photographer
Belgrade , Serbia
julia s. ferdinand, photographer julia s. ferdinand
Chiang Mai , Thailand ( CNX )
Imants, gecko hunter Imants
gecko hunter
" The Boneyard" , Australia
Camera Owner, Camera Owner
(Camera Owned... now learning t)
Amsterdam , Netherlands
Mikethehack, Freelance thril performer Mikethehack
Freelance thril performer
Way Up My Own Ass , United Kingdom


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