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World Press revealed

This is interesting, if maybe a little contentious, a rare glimpse into the thought process… http://foto8.com/home/ Oliver Chanarin talking about what it was like to be on the World Press Jury. Some interesting observations on how they read the photography… personally I think Tim’s winning picture fits right in with where the competition should be…

by Josh K. Lustig at 2008-03-06 13:33:52 UTC (ed. Jul 6 2008 ) London , United Kingdom | Bookmark | | Report spam→

More than World Press revealed, this article, however contentious, seems to reveal a lot about our work. It touches on a lot of issues I have been thinking about for a while.I would be very interested to hear responses to this article from other photographers on lightstalkers.

I am not sure if I totally swallow Adam’s desire for for “self-aware” compasitions that comment on the process and the picture taking act as being the future of photojournalism. In some ways this makes me equally as nervous, wherein the event or subject photographed is being used as a “tool” for the photographer to make a point. In some ways this takes away from a certain “respect” for the subject and capturing “what is at hand”. However I am also tired of the photographic cliches that fill our media (and often my photoshelter site), these seem especially dangerous in this media hungry time.
So if anybody has the time it would be wonderful to hear any responses to this article. How do people resolve the issues brought up. What can photojournalism and photography do to push our images towards telling truths rather than solidifying preconceptions, and bolstering pre-established institutions of power. (Not to mention how can we do this and make money)


by Trevor Snapp | 06 Mar 2008 21:03 | Mexico City, Mexico | | Report spam→
Hmmm…. Interesting article!

I know the photo of the Thai prostitute and I find it a bit interesting that it made its way through all the rounds and then didn’t get a mention except in this article. I mean as a photographer we are as complicit in the act as the number of other observers that are present and prostitution by definition means that someone is paying to buy sex.

The implication in this article is that the photo did not get a look in because perhaps the women did not consent to being photographed or was therefore paid to be photographed.

God did the WPP jury get squeamish at the last?

Did the prostitute just titillate the jurors and then was dismissed because of what seems to me very specious terms? Did WPP want to keep it clean? Obviously the image made an impact on the jurors far enough into the process to put it in contention for the picture of the year so what were the real reasons it got bounced?

I mean what about the millions of dollars being spent on warfare- is that not prostitution? I mean someone is paying to get people killed!

Or is it simply because a prostitute in Thailand doesn’t count quite as much as a soldier in Afghanistan? Because of all the money guns and testosterone that are being poured into it rather than presenting what may turn into a bleeding heart story where the only money being exchanged is a pittance.

No offense to Tim Hetherington’s image -it is a beauty, but so is the photo of the Thai prostitute.

It just seems to me that this year there are more hidden agendas happening in all of the awards, grants and institutions that have been set up to promote photojournalism than ever before. One where a shrinking media market is responding by blurring the world of so-called art photography with that of so-called photojournalism but endeavoring to maintain some journalistic standards.

The classic example is the shot of the tent. It is described as a self conscious attempt to navigate the situation and is carefully thought out. I have no problem with it as an image but does it not also tend towards a particular style that is seemingly more in place in an art gallery?

I believe that WPP needs to publicly redefine itself, or at least take off the thinly veiled nod to aestheticism masquerading as journalism or vice versa, if the tent image can make it into the limelight on the grounds that it is self conscious, why not the prostitute?

If one is art why is the other not? And then what is photojournalism nowadays? Perhaps we can come up with another term that more fully reflects photography as it is happening now rather than some paleolithic experience of it!

Right- I’m off to play chess……..

by lisa hogben | 07 Mar 2008 05:03 | sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
the more background information I get about this event, the more I think it is a farce…

by [former member] | 08 Mar 2008 15:03 | Ibiza, Spain | | Report spam→

I posted a comment in response to the article in defense of the Thai prostitute photograph and my anger at the fact that the authors spoke about the photograph in very demeaning and patronizing ways without even revealing the photograph or properly contextualizing their relationship with the photographer. I wrote a long comment which was later redacted and edited. I shall leave below my comment.

My concern was not with respect to the jury or the awardwinners, but to this article and how they treated that photographer. Also, the fact that it was then removed from foto8 was even more troubling.

I leave below the comment i’d originally left. It includes lots of typing/spelling errors but I wish not to edit it as I would have liked it to have stood: it’s emotional testimony to the rawness of my feelings.

Here is my comment which was removed from the website:

Please excuse my long and emotional comment to follow. I respect the WPP, the judges and the decision of the awards completely. this is also not meant to be a personal argument with photographers, only the comments addressed above in the essay. Please take them for what they mean! Not an attack on the jury but on the language that the others above have used to discuss the Thai Prostitute photograph, a photograph that they haven’t even offered for the reader to see. Please ignore my comment if you wish.

*The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like God, and it surveys for us. Yet no other god has been so cynical, for the camera records in order to forget." —John Berger

We are bruised by spared space and the lift of light, a tongued tunnel of shadow lip-lit, and the hanging of a boot, moth rain and the curl of steel beneath breathed-upon moisture, the arch of the wearied ribs of a roof and the calf of a window’s muscle, the knotted knuckles of twined flower-fingers poured out of themselves from a glass and the uncarefully set dime: the spare and dare of things.

I’ve read the thoughtful and lucid essay about but still, I cannot help but feel an anquish of pain as to the language that’s offered the reader and the rendering of what constitutes the importance of a photograph. Last month, I was a vocal defendent of the WPP choices and winners (some of whom are friends, many of whom are photographers who I admire and respect, as photographers and people, a great deal). However, I stunned by the paragraph, the solipsistic language and the myopic understanding of the photograph regarding the Thai prostitute. More critically, I am aghast that in the discussion of a photograph, and by extention the work of that photographer, that the authors have chosen (rather pornographically) to not show the image. I respect the author’s (or jury’s) decision to decline the photograph for consideration for the award and yet they double back upon themselves by arguing for its “illegitimacy” by using such patronizing nomenclature like “The image is carefully lit and composed with consideration normally reserved for fashion photographs, making it appealing and seductive and for this reason extremely unsettling. If we feel beguiled by it then we are somehow implicated in the act. The jury called for answers. Who was the women in the picture? What was the relationship of the photographer to the girl? Did the photographer have her full consent. Can a vulnerable women operating in the environment of a brothel even give or deny consent? Did money change hands? Did it matter? Ultimately the photograph was eliminated from the competition…”

There is much to write about with regard to the author’s understanding and argumentation against the image, but let me be frank. I am familiar with the photograph in question and I am familiar with the series/essay of which the photograph is a part. This particular photograph is 1 photograph in a series about a Thai prostitute, which was accomplished during a project that was organized and taught by some of the finest living photographers on the planet, including WPP award winners. More importantly, the criticism and implacation made by the above authors that that particular photographer was exploitive, that the entire process and essay was inherently exploitive (read “Can a vulnerable women operating in the environment of a brothel even give or deny consent?..”) is itself a disqualification of the integrity of the language used to deny or reject the story. Moreover, the language of “The image is carefully lit and composed with consideration normally reserved for fashion photographs, making it appealing and seductive” is ENTIRELY about the author’s relationship to the photograph. I personally have an entirely different perpsective, viscerally, intellectually, emotionally and photographically to that specific image. Rather than seductive (light, please remember, is a seduction of our souls, our lives, our broken, disconsolate lives), the image is in fact the opposite: a tunneling of questioning. Are implication in this image is critical, for we as photographers have still not often delt with our own culpability and procurement of others. We dandy about, we scourge and suck upon moments in order to speak upon them, for it is within our speaking that we are convinced (for good and ill) that somehow we can understand. That specific moment is a totem image, for it comes within the framework of the essay, each of which calls into question the life that this prostitute navigates, her relationship to those around her (the hotels, the streets, the friends, the johns, etc) and that their lives are, sadly and unfortunately, “sustained” because of a larger system of exploitation, a part of which photography too has a culpability.

I wouldnt disagree at all that the continued photographing of women, children, men, people, around whom we have as a profession and as a culture we have sustained our careful judgment and concern, is itself not a healing or an excavation but a perpetuation. There is legitimacy and concern that i think the authors touch upon that is critical to our discussion of the use and reasons of our work. However, this standard does not apply simply to the sex trade but to the entirety of this vanquishing life. We suck upon others and their lives and the scented broken moments for we, right or wrong, achingly or deludedly, believe that the story, the singing out against the dark, the untrapping of the trap-door of life, will allow for a richer and deeper and more compassionate understanding of this, our passing life.

That the authors above have chosen to reduce that photograph into a contraption of their own discomfort without fulling vetting the life of the essay behind the story is a discomforting proposition. What constitutes exploitation? This is a singular and critical question that each of us, writer and photographer alike, need to square off with and one of which every photographer i know of integrity struggles with.

For the record, let me say this: I know the work. I know the photographer and that the above authors have called into question the integrity of the work (without even eluciding the entire essay or showing the images) is itself a perfidious tact. How can an organization like WPP ring their wrists about the work of a photographer and use such dismissive language and not even share with the readership the image or the series of images they “eliminated.”

to question an image, to struggle with what constitutes exploitation in photography is a critical and important responsibility for each and everyone of us. To, however, patronizingly, dismiss a photograph/photographer and not even have the integrity to share the image with the readership is itself a purposefully pretentious act, an act of judgment-upon-high. I might have felt more comfortable had the authors simply decided not to discuss out of hand the rejection of that photograph.

The call for introspection and analysis requires, a priori, the attempt to understand one’s own behavior and language. I question the author’s reflections about that image and the choice of words and their orientation in an otherwise balanced essay.

“Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it.”—John Berger

Bob Black*

by [former member] | 08 Mar 2008 17:03 | toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Let me add too this:

I think Tim’s photograph is an extraordinary image, filled with brittle beauty and heroic depth, sublime and ache filled….and so too is the image that was so pretentiously written about at Foto8. As Lisa has properly pointed out, the language of exploitation of which the authors couch their argument against the Thai prostitute picture is simply hypocritical, for the very important question of exploitation by others (photographers/writers/governments/masters, etc) is a complex and important one: to harness that photograph (Thai) to that subjugation without even having understood the history of the picture, the history of the essay and work behind the image, or the relationship of the photographer to the story and to the picture’s subject (this woman photographed) is the worst kind of hypocritical showmanship.

I dont have a problem with any jury choosing or rejecting images. that is their mandate and their perogative. As i’ve argued before, I personally think the jury did a great job in awarding substantial photographs and stories prizes. However, for a member to write such dross about a picture and not to even provide the background information about the photograph, the photographer or the image itself is an extraordinary lapse in judgment.

In the end, I feel sorry for the author, for the lack of depth of thought and consideration. the great irony is that, eventually, the story will eventually be seen for what it is: a photographers story about a specific woman involved in the sex trade. Often our judgments, couched as critique and criticism of those who investigate, is in truth our own moral inability to accept others lives and conditions, forthrightly.

Sadly, I shall not look upon the process of these awards in the same fashion again.

Is it not always better to admit our failings than to hide them or wash them away in denial?

My thoughts go out to the photographer and also to the members of the jury who were not involved in the Foto8 essay or aware of the conditions of the initial interview as documented. They too were done a grave disservice. I still respect those photographers and editors who were not apart of the essay or the resulting removal of my comment at the website or aware of what took place during the questioning of the photographer.

We learn, all of us, right.


by [former member] | 08 Mar 2008 17:03 | toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
please see the original foto8.com article (free login required) for an explanation and the resolution of the issue of the comment removal (and reinstatement) plus Katharina and Bob’s further comments on foto8 and this story.

by jon levy | 09 Mar 2008 23:03 | london, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Thanks so much Jon! You’re the best!

sorry for my own verbal disorientation ;))


by [former member] | 10 Mar 2008 12:03 | toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Its great that your comments weren’t censored Bob.

I must admit I was pretty worried there for a while…

by lisa hogben | 11 Mar 2008 02:03 | sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Yesterday I went to the see the World Press Photo exhibition at the Tokyo Museum of Photography. I came away more blown away than I expected, especially as I had seen much of the work before, online or in print (e.g. Heatherington, John Moore, etc.)

However, at the entrance was a small essay from the judges, which echoed the Unconcerned but not Indifferent essay discussed here.

Definitely got me thinking, and I found it extremely healthy that the awards organisation seems to be actually questioning itself as to what its role is. I don’t feel the need cast judgement on either the awards process or the foto8 essay, or the discussion here, but it’s all given me (and I hope others) great food for thought. Right, now I’m off to digest…

by Dave Walsh | 06 Jul 2008 01:07 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Here is a reply from Gary Knight to a few of our questions published in the Sydney Morning Herald back in February. Seems like the opportunity presented itself to post this time ’round.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates

by Ana Elisa Fuentes | 06 Jul 2008 07:07 (ed. Jul 6 2008) | Bavaria, Germany | | Report spam→

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Josh K. Lustig, photography, video, words Josh K. Lustig
photography, video, words
London , United Kingdom ( AAA )
Trevor Snapp, Photographer Trevor Snapp
Mexico City , Mexico
lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
Sydney , Australia
jon levy, jon levy
London , United Kingdom
Dave Walsh, Writer, photographer Dave Walsh
Writer, photographer
(Energy and Environment)
Wexford , Ireland
Ana Elisa Fuentes, Photographer Ana Elisa Fuentes
[undisclosed location].


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