If You Liked Humans of New York

Someone was clever and cheeky at Strand Books in New York City. I saw this sign yesterday tucked inside Antoine D’Agata’s book Antibodies.

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If you’re not familiar with Antoine D’Agata’s photographs, have a look. His work is a nice antidote to the clean-cut banality of “Humans of New York”. And it would be a lovely surprise for someone genuinely interested in HONY to open up this book of harsh, intimate and graphic images. I hope that it does shock some folks browsing the photo book section at Strand.

We’ve been trying to write something about “Humans of New York” and our aversion to the work on dvafoto for months, but this photo will suffice for now.

But as a teaser, start with this brilliant critique on Warscapes of Brandon Stanton’s project. And for some discussion of the discomfort some of us in the photo community have for the work see this article in the New York Times from last summer.

Scott and I keep coming back to this phrase, from the NYT article: “Mr. Stanton professes to be apolitical. “I purposely and pointedly try to avoid infusing any meaning in the work,” he said.” This is a huge problem for this project, and we’ll discuss it later.

“Antibodies” looks like a terrific book, by the way, and I’ll grab a copy for myself soon.

Melissa Lyttle reflects on judging POYi

What is this picture saying? Is it truthful? Does the photographer have a voice and a vision, are they moving photography forward with their image? It’s not enough to simply show up (f8 and be there), point, and shoot. When everyone with a camera phone fancies themselves a photographer, we have to set ourselves apart by approaching situations skillfully — photography is, after all, a craft.”Melissa Lyttle

Recently on tumblr, Melissa Lyttle reflected on her experience as a judge for this year’s POYi contest news division. She writes about the overall experience of judging the contest and gives more fine-grained observations about specific categories and trends in submissions. It’s well worth a read.

POYi is remarkable in its transparency. The entire judging process has been available as a livestream for the past few years (though there were some hiccups this year due to technical issues). You can watch and listen to every “in” and “out” and the debates over images, editing, storytelling, etc., as the finalists are determined. While we’re all left wondering which images were disqualified or lost out this year in World Press Photo, POYi lets you see behind the curtain.

Judging for all of the still photo categories has been completed, by the way, and you can see this year’s winning images on the POYi website.

Two sad notes this year, though. Neither POYi Cats nor POYi Chatroom Heroes seem to be active any longer.

Follow dvafoto on tumblr, by the way. It’s a bit different from what we do here.

World Press Photo rejects 20% of final-round entries due to manipulation

When [post-processing] meant a material addition or subtraction in the content of the image, it lead to the images being rejected from the contest…. [T]he jury rejected 20 percent of those entries that had reached the penultimate round of the contest and were therefore not considered for prizes.” World Press Photo Managing Director Lars Boering

The 2015 World Press Photo awards have just been announced, and this looks to be a great year. I haven’t had a chance to go through all of the winners, but it’s nice to see some familiar names in the mix (Glenna Gordon, Andy Rochelli, Lu Guang, Sergey Ponamarev) alongside winners from around the world.

In the announcement of this year’s awards, however, there was a fascinating section on “Integrity of the entries.” Photographers whose work advance to the final round of judging must provide unedited files to the jury to verify the integrity of their images. World Press Photo Managing Director Lars Boering said that 20% of those final round images had to be disqualified from the contest due to “careless post-processing” that led to “a material addition or subtraction in the content of the image.” That’s an eye-opening statistic and sad to hear. Whatever credibility photojournalism has (and it might not be much in the eyes of the viewing public) depends on a commitment to truth and integrity in an image. While those are nebulous concepts–Aristotle, Aquinas, Russell, and other philosophers have been arguing about this for centuries–I think most would agree that “material addition or subtraction” from a still frame is a blatant affront to viewers and to the truth. We should all be alarmed that twenty percent of final-round images had some element of outright fabrication. We don’t have numbers for previous years to compare rejection rates, but this announcement is still sobering.

World Press Photo has taken some heat over the years for awarding apparent photo manipulation. Most recently, there was controversy over Paul Hansen’s 2013 Photo of the Year winning image of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli airstrike. While that image never struck me as being manipulated, World Press Photo took the criticism to heart. The contest now requires original files for final round images. The organization now also wishes to become a think tank of sorts, providing research and guidance in the industry on this and other subjects. Last year, for instance, World Press Photo published a paper by David Campbell titled “The Integrity of the Image.” Here’s a direct pdf link to that paper.