Category Archive: contests
It wouldn’t be February without debate and controversy surround the annual World Press Photo awards. In past years, the chattering classes (that includes us at dvafoto) have gone back and forth on the images or techniques given awards, this year questions have been raised about the voting process itself.
Looking through the year’s winners, I thought there wouldn’t be any debate; the categories this year were filled with strong work from many of the year’s major (and soon-to-be-major) news events. John Stanmeyer‘s winning image, one of my favorite pictures of the year, seemed like a subtle choice for the top award. It’s an image that regards marginalized people with a sense of humanity and dignity, rather than using people from the developing world as puppets for pity or handwringing. The subjects, with cell phones aloft, are people with families and histories and futures, trying to communicate in a situation beyond their control. The photo rises above the usual sex, drugs, and war tropes that dominate the major photojournalism contests.
The selection of this image has not escaped controversy. As duckrabbit first pointed out, John Stanmeyer (the winning photographer) and Gary Knight (World Press Photo jury chair) are business partners (full disclosure: I interned at VII in 2005-6). The photojournalism industry is a small one–though that can also be debated, especially if we look outside of the US and western Europe–and it’s inevitable that the judges of these major contests will know or have worked with the photographers whose work wins awards, since both tend to come from the upper echelons of the photojournalism industry. In this case, Knight and Stanmeyer’s ties are very close. In a World Press Photo video discussing the winning image (above), Knight says that he voted the story out of the competition, but the jury kept the image in the running for a single award. Speaking with the New York Times’ Lens Blog, Knight said that he tried to recuse himself from the jury when the image was considered, but that contest regulations did not allow that. Because of this, we must rely on trust that the award was reached in a fair manner. Even the appearance of unfairness in the judging process, however, undermines the award. If nothing else, there is now a strong reason for World Press Photo to amend their the contest rules and create a procedure for dealing with apparent conflicts of interest in the judging. Ironically, it was in a press release announcing Knight as jury chair that World Press Photo said they would alter the rules to increase transparency for examining digital files for ethical violations after the controversy over Paul Hansen’s winning image last year.
I’m not sure that Stanmeyer’s and Knights close ties are the largest issue here. Knight has said that looking at the images entered in the contest, the industry lacks resources to cover the year’s important issues, though he says that is not the case with the winning images. Furthermore, 8% of images chosen for the final round of judging had to be thrown out due to ethics violations. And only 14% of entrants to the contest were women (that number is under “Data on Entries” in David Campbell’s post as secretary of the jury). We’ve written before about sexism and gender bias in the photography industry, but this is a stark statistic.
By the way, here is a video of Gary Knight talking about some of the other winning entries:
There have been a number of responses to the awards and analyses posted online. Here are a few that I found most interesting (some linked above):
- World Press Jury secretary David Campbell’s World Press Photo 2014 contest: Reflections from the Secretary’s seat
- BagNewsNotes’ Thoughts on John Stanmeyer’s 2014 World Press Winning Photo
- Conscientious Redux’s 57th World Press Photo of the Year – A Few Thoughts
- Alessia Glaviano’s reflections as a member of the World Press Photo People category jury.
- Gary Knight’s conversation with the British Journal of Photography, in which he laments that the awards are dominated by a few large photo institutions.
- Susie Linfield’s thoughts that the awards this year reflect dignity and hope
- duckrabbit’s World Press Photo: great pics and the usual incest
- Paul Melcher’s Photojournalism is not a Competition
- Lens’ The World’s Best (Unaltered) Photos
- World Press Photo win is ‘bittersweet’, says John Tlumacki of his Boston Marathon bombing image
- Martijn Kleppe’s collection of discussion relating to World Press Photo 2013, for these links and more
A few weeks ago Ryo Futamura of Japan’s Einstein Studio wrote in about their latest publication, Nice to Meet You. The mission of the organization, through publications and contests such as this, as Futamura told me, is to find and show the world young and talented photographers in Japan.
Nice to Meet You is a small magazine highlighting winners of the Japan Photo Award (previously known as the Einstein Photo Award). As you can see above, the work selected is a bit of a grab bag, but much of it is intriguing. I’m particularly interested in the images because they look so much different from what I think of as “Japanese Photography” (which is mostly just Daido Moriyama‘s harrowing work). Futamura said that many of these photographers have had difficulty getting their work out to audiences outside of Japan, and even within the country, the market for this type of work is quite small.
While it will be hard to get a copy of Nice to Meet You unless you’re in Japan, you can see work from all of the artists on the publication’s site. Here are a few that grabbed my eye: Daisuke Matsumoto, Hideki Masuda, Junicci Hayakawa, Arata Kato, Yasuhito Hatajima, Yuya Kaai.
Yesterday James Estrin, co-Editor of the New York Times Lens Blog and Staff Photographer for the Times, announced that they are inaugurating the first New York Photography Portfolio Review, a two-day event in April 2013. It will bring together 160 photographers, in two one-day sessions, with more than 50 prominent reviewers, including a diverse selection of photo editors, agents, publishers, curators and buyers. The event will include private portfolio reviews, discussions and workshops.
They’ve also announced that the event will be free to attend for invited photographers, a step away from other major portfolio reviews in the US and Europe which can cost hundreds of dollars. The event, on April 13 and 14 at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, is divided in two sessions: on Saturday the 100 invited photographers will all be 21 years or older, and on Sunday all 60 photographers will be aged 18-27. To attend you must submit a portfolio by February 13, and invited photographers will be informed by March 8, 2013.
This is such an interesting event that I wanted to pose a few questions to Estrin, and he agreed to fill us in.
Dvafoto: Whose idea was this project, and how does it fit Lens’ and the NYT’s goals?
Estrin: I’ve always thought that the web, and social media were very powerful tools for communication, but significantly different than actual human interaction. Real Analogue interaction can have important and profound consequences.
I came up with the idea for the review with Lens co-editor David Gonzalez.
We have been lucky that our marching orders, from our boss [assistant managing editor for photography for the New York Times] Michele McNally, have always been to make the very best blog we could. Make the best editorial judgements that we could make, be willing to be smart, try to be principaled and don’t worry about traffic or business. So if this event can help the photo community, and create opportunities and discussion, then it fits into our mission. There are many ways to communicate.
Why did you choose to make the event free? This surely bucks the trend of most portfolio reviews and events for photographers these days.
It’s free because we wanted to create as many opportunities for photographers, regardless of background, to share their work.
There are fine portfolio reviews that charge- most of them non profit either by design or execution. I reviewed this year at Review Santa Fe and also at Lens Culture Fotofest in Paris and I think both were very was helpful for many photographers as well as for myself as an editor. At the same time I think we all have a responsibility to our fellow photographers, particularly the youngest new photographers amongst us.
Many people helped me when I was a young freelance photographer. I wouldn’t be here without them. I always remember how difficult it was to show my work in the pre-digital era, and how alone I often felt. There is an important tradition of experienced photographers helping newer ones.
Why the age categories? Will there be a different curriculum for each session?
The age categories are because I wanted to make sure that we did the utmost we could for up and coming photographers.
All photographers 21 and older can go on Saturday and I think the opportunities will be great. But on Sunday you have to be 18 -27 and there will be many workshops as well as reviews. By the way a very accomplished 21 -27 year old photographer could apply and get in for both days.
Ultimately, we just wanted to do some good, have fun, and help our colleagues in any way that we can. So we asked what would be a meaningful thing to do.
My colleagues from the New York Times, National Geographic, Time, Aperture, Abrams books, PDN, and many museums, magazines, galleries and blogs have generously agreed to share their time. We are adding new reviewers daily.
Thanks to James Estrin for answering some of our questions and for organizing this fantastic opportunity for photographers.
The deadline for submitting your portfolio is February 13, 2013 on the entry page. Good luck to everyone applying!