Wednesday, 10 May 2017

World Press Photo 2017

Burhan Ozbilici for The Associated Press

"Trust is at the heart of what we do and can never be taken lightly. World Press Photo relies on visual journalists to give us the information necessary to verify their photographs and stories. They all do so willingly. We play our part by having a rigorous verification process that ensures our winners are as accurate as possible. Together we produce the best in visual journalism", writes Lars Boering, Managing Director, World Press Photo Foundation.

Trust is indeed important, it is essential. Not just in press photography but in very probably everything. Boering's claim to "produce the best in visual journalism" is however not much more than a claim (or wishful thinking) for there are no hard criteria as to what may be "best". Moreover, making such a claim doesn't exactly inspire the aformentioned trust that photojournalism relies upon but risks eroding it.

To be more specific: I'm not even sure that Burhan Ozbilici's World Press Photo of the Year 2017 is a good photograph. Don't get me wrong: I think the story of this assassination (the combination of photographs and the accompanying text and captions) deeply irritating and moving. In other words: excellent photojournalism. But a good photograph? In my view, a good picture is more than a snapshot, factors such as light and composition need to figure prominently.

I very much liked what Stuart Franklin, Chairman of the 2017 Jury, had to say for I thought his elaborations informative and clarifying. "Viewing the pictures, and despite a desire for objectivity, differing filters are applied by each juror. These relate to aesthetics, news value, cultural bias, social or environmental significance and so forth. Personally, I looked for an empathetic eye, and am very pleased to have found that in so many of the photographs that made the cut. Photographs need to be of a professional standard and uncontrived, although the People category is open to the established practice of portraiture. Despite efforts to counter stereotypes, they sometimes slip through. The tension between art and journalism, deeply embedded in the medium, is also an unavoidable contingent."
Tomás Munita for The New York Times

When selecting the pics for this blogpost, I decided to let myself be guided by instinct. The above picture shows members of the Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo, a youth auxiliary wing of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, waiting along the road to Santiago de Cuba at dawn for Castro's funeral procession to pass.

Needless to say, impulses do not always come out of the blue. The reason I feel drawn to this pic might have to do with the fact that I sort of have a special relationship with Cuba for, many years ago, I got married in La Habana.
Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

This is what Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug offensive in the Philippines looks like. The photo shows Jimji Bolasa (6) crying before funeral parlor workers remove the body of her father, Jimboy, who was found dead after being abducted by unidentified men.
Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Residents of Mosul flee the city in November 2016.

There were many more pics that I thought captured touching moments. World Press Photo 2017 presents a veritable tour d'horizon to the trouble spots of this world and in so doing reminds us of what we need to be reminded of. For photographs in combination with explanatory words can help us feel the pain and sufferings of our fellow human beings.

World Press Photo 2017
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam 2017

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