The new crop of world press winners is out and as in every year many reflections come to mind.
Reminiscent of Eugene Smith’s Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath , the winning image, from Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda lacks all the required W’s that makes a great news photograph. By looking at it, you have no idea who,where, when, or why this picture was taken. It’s only after a required reading that you finally find out. Then you can return to the image. But even after, it is hard to connect. Mostly because there is a total lack of visible faces, making it hard to understand the feelings.
We are told by the jury that this image was chosen because it represented both the Arab Spring and the role of women.
See ? This is what happens when you think too much about photography. You end up thinking that the more the hidden meaning, the better the image. It’s becomes more about the underlying message than the actual reporting. It needs to have lots of keys and drawers.
This image, while nice, is certainly not a great photojournalistic photograph. If anything, it is a great image in a photo essay.
No, a great image is the one of this girl crying in the middle of a devastation :
Here, it is hard not to understand what is going on and most important, hard not to want to cry with her or comfort her. There is both compassion and understanding, something totally lacking in the winning image.
In an age where there is so many images available all the time, it is sad to see that the jury would pick one that would have, and has been, missed in the flood of reporting because of it’s total lack of connection.
Again, it sends the message that great photojournalism pictures need to be explained to be appreciated.
The World Press needs to readjust its positioning if it wants to remain relevant. If it continues down that path, intellectuallo photo journalism, it will loose its otherwise passionate audience. In a time when there are more images available then any time in the history of photography, and where viewers are also photographers , it needs to avoid the reclusionist trapping of the “too smart for you ” attitude of the salon photojournalists. It needs to step away from the temptation of seclusion brought forth by a handful of over protectionist photojournalists who would like nothing else then to wall themselves into a “you don’t understand” citadel.
Photojournalism is a popular art made for the masses. It is only succesful if it is vastly consumed. It belongs to everyone, everywhere and should be reaching to the lowest common denominator in order to get a point across. There is no need to try and transform it into an academical experience. It needs no priests.
What it needs is the widest audience possible. That can be only achieve if it continues to be a tool for powerful information.
You can see the winners of the World Press here : http://www.worldpressphoto.org/