The World Press Photo Awards

It's that time of year again.

I'm a big fan of this competition. I was taken to see the travelling exhibition in 1999 by a good friend of mine, Annabelle Dalby and it changed my way of thinking about photography. I was just properly getting interested in social issues, politics and the like and ever since I have looked to the world press organisation to give me a yearly overview of some of the best published work. The books also form a kind of annual document of the state of our society - the mainstays of which appear to be war, disease and disaster. Oh yes, and Polar Bears.

Here are some of my favourites from a first glance over the winners.

One interesting trend which I noticed this year was the obvious digital post being done to the images. Gabriele also noticed this and we had a brief chat about what this means. Personally, I don't mind some digital post - I do this to pretty much all my images. I'm not a good colour printer so photoshop is a wonderful tool for someone like me. However, I'm opposed to the excessive use of these tools, which I define by saying that if it detracts from the content of the images then it is bad. Photoshop should be used to enhance what is already in an image. I find most commercial and advertising photography distasteful simply because of it's over produced artificial looking aesthetic and when this style is used in documentary and journalism I believe it demeans the content. As Gabriele pointed out, they start to look like Nike ads.

Anyway, judge for yourself. The complete list of winning photographs can be seen here.

Any thoughts?


Alice Dison said...

I am glad that Stanley got an award. I love his work and I feel that he deserves the recognition. I understand about the concern on the highly photoshopped files. I thought that as documentarians, we are suppose to have an honest view of what we are showing. But with that being said, the work of Francesco Zizola, I absolutely love, admire and am intrigued by. Look on Noor's website, you can see other projects by him. I would like to ask him how much he color corrects, I would like to think that having him be part of such a prestigious agency that it wouldn't be as drastic and we might think. So if anyone knows him or meets him, ask and let me know.
There are also some discussions that are going on at the Lightstalkers site.

Tom White said...

I too liked some of Zizola's photographs but think the amount of post done on them here is both extreme and unnecessary.

I read some of the lightstalkers debates and amongst the huge amount of bitching about the images (often undeserved I think), the berating of photographer's egos (for even entering the competition) and other such nonsense I found this unusually rational comment regarding the photoshop issue:

Quite a number of Flickr posters, those citizen journalists, are waving the same PhotoShop magic wand to make their images pop from a field of millions. These WPP prize winners have fallen into a fad that will date their pictures. Their main fault is drawing attention to their imaging techniques (proof is the fact that we are arguing about them right now), not to what they have recorded. They distracted and entertained more than informed and made us concerned and impelled us to open our wallets to the Unicef.

by Max Pasion 13 Feb 2008 | Jersey City, NJ,United States

Which is exactly my issue with utilising these techniques to the extreme extent that I saw in some of the winning entries. Use these tools, but please don't take them into the realm of gimmickry. Like a holga lightleak it can be very cool or just plain crap. It's a fine line, and a matter of taste...