Tag Archive: poyi
Taking a page from the Overheard in… series of blogs (New York, the Beach, the Newsroom), POYi Chatroom Heroes has been chronicling conversation in the chat window of the online streaming of 2012 Pictures of the Year International judging process. There’s snark, armchair judging, admiration, and anything else you’d expect to hear among the audience. Worth a laugh.
Damon Winters’ iPhone-taken story, A Grunt’s Life, was awarded 3rd place Feature Story in the 2011 Pictures of the Year International. This has been met with controversy. Many, including most prominently Chip Litherland, say the pictures aren’t photojournalism and that they don’t represent what was in front of the camera, others, such as Logan Mock-Bunting, say that the images violate POYi’s rules that stipulate, “No masks, borders, backgrounds or other artistic effects are allowed.”
I have no problem with the pictures being allowed in the contest. There haven’t been masks, borders, or backgrounds added to the picture (and “other artistic effects” should be read as non-photographic elements added to a picture; the structure of the sentence in the rule makes this clear–”other” indicates that forbidden effects would be of a sort similar to borders, backgrounds, and masks and not of a sort that includes such things as color filters, flash, grain, black and white conversion), and I think there’s no reason not to call this photojournalism. What follows is a modified version of my response to these concerns that I posted in a conversation on the Luceo Images facebook page.
If the color modifications of an iPhone application are to be forbidden, why allow black and white or flash in photojournalism, then? That’s not what the scene looked like in front of the camera. Or why allow ISOs, apertures, and shutter speeds that manipulate light in a way that the human eye can’t achieve (the human eye can’t have infinite focus starting on something at 3 feet away; the human eye can’t let in enough light in an instant as a ISO3200 on bulb; etc.)? As long as the content remains true–that is, nothing has been posed or removed or added to the frame–and it’s intended (photographed and presented) as journalism, I don’t see a reason to disqualify pictures from the contest.
I see arguments against these types of photos as similar to complaints about Salgado making pictures that were too beautiful for the subject matter. Our goal should be to make people look, and these do an admirable job at commanding the attention, not just because of the content but because of how the pictures look and how they were taken. So much photojournalism shot in the traditional style gets ignored or washed over; we need to use everything at our disposal to connect to audiences.
And I’m wary of a lot of the argumentation around these images.
Slippery slope arguments don’t work. It’s perfectly possible to imagine a world where Winter’s photos are awarded, but more traditional photography still gets published and awarded. In fact, there’ve been other problems with over-toning in the past, or Holgas, or other weird techniques, but it hasn’t destroyed all of the other photojournalism that’s still being produced, nor does it mean that non-hipstamatic photojournalism won’t hold public attention. Recent coverage of Egypt proves that. Even the most straightforward wire photography was going viral.
Arguments about the tradition of photojournalism don’t work, either. Older ideas aren’t necessarily better. They might be, but we need evidence that new photojournalism tells a story less accurately or connects with audiences less well than old, straightforward photojournalism. Only then can we fully discount the new style. If we held on to the traditions, we’d be moving corpses like Brady, we’d be shooting daguerrotypes, we’d be posing and using huge lighting setups like the early Life photographers, we’d be layering frames like W. Eugene Smith, we’d all still use film. Traditions fall by the wayside. Methods evolve. New styles emerge.
I don’t want to say that just because the technique is novel or popular that that makes it okay, either. That’s fallacious reasoning. Danielle Steele sells a lot of books, but that doesn’t make her books great literature.
As I see it, the photos are faithful to the story and to how things were in front of the camera, and that’s all that really matters. The colors might be juiced a bit, but that doesn’t invalidate the work. Really, the colors aren’t changed much at all compared to work such as Richard Mosse’s infrared work exploring conflict in Congo.Artistic technique goes a long way in communicating tone and emotion in photography, and I think we (photographers and the public) would be a lot worse off if we (photographers) couldn’t use aesthetic language in photojournalism.
[Matt, the other half of dvafoto, wanted me to say this: 'Matt agrees with everything but wanted to record the fact that he still hates iPhone photographs. Even his own.']
Pause in our normal programming for a bit of an update on what I have been up to here in the Balkans. Lots has been going on and it seems like it will be continuing through the summer. And Scott and I have plenty of interesting things planned for dvafoto so keep tuned.
My long-term project about the relocation of Belgrade Roma “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” is currently featured in Lens Culture magazine. This project was also shortlisted by Anthropographia and was included in the exhibition at the New York Photography Festival and will continue to tour worldwide (a cool picture of the exhibition, snapped by a NY friend, is in the gallery above).
I’ve also published “Chapter Two” of this project on my Photoshelter Archive and included some images in the gallery above, so you can catch up on the project since my last post about the project on dva. I am continuing to photograph this story, following the families of the Gazela camp as they resettle around Serbia following the destruction of their community.
Lastly, thanks to friend Pete Brook at Prison Photography for writing about my work on this project in a post titled The Roma People: Matt Lutton building upon a legacy of wandering photographers.
I also have published on my archive a new gallery of work from Bosnia in an ongoing project called “This Time Tomorrow”. I will be following events in Bosnia closely as political and economic stagnation continues to slowly suffocate the country. Some tectonic shift will and must come to solve one of the world’s most entrenched political crises. Maybe tomorrow, but probably not.
I am currently focused on completing my book about Serbia in the aftermath of the Milosevic decade, titled “Only Unity”. My project was recently announced as one of seven nominees for the POYi Emerging Vision Incentive, a $10,000 grant for an emerging photographer. See some of the work and my (full) proposal at the POYi website. Congrats to the winner of the grant, James Chance and the other nominees.
I am also announcing for the first time publicly the existence of an tumblr sketchbook for this project: onlyunity.tumblr.com. Have a look if you want to follow me feel my way through this work. The latest news is that I’ve finished the first book dummy, which will serve as my university thesis, enabling me to finally graduate this year.
It has been a busy couple of months with a few interesting assignments, taking me from Budapest on a corporate job to a British international school in Belgrade for a UK newspaper. There is much to come this summer, including a trip to a Serbian winery connected to the royal family and projects to be featured in well known online publications. And of course focus on Dvafoto. I look forward to sharing this all soon, and I hope you are enjoying your summer (or winter, if you happen to be south of the equator).
I’ve had a quiet week here in Belgrade waiting for housing and jobs to come through, will actually hear about both on Tuesday. So I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time looking at imagery on the interweb (as you saw in my last post about Oculi), here is some of what I’ve been looking at.
Firstly, as I discovered while entering my own work, there is a trove of wonderful, unusual and otherwise unknown-to-me projects available on the Oskar Barnack Award website from Leica. Beyond 20 some years of winning projects, they are posting all of the entries from this year in their entirety. Direct links here: Oskar Barnack Award Entries 2009 and the brand new Newcomers Award 2009, which I entered (lookie). You can even search by country or by name. I’m sure to be spending many hours in the coming days combing through .. I’ve already found some great projects from people (and places!) I’ve never heard of. Unfortunately my connection and/or the site is really slow so I can’t easily pull up many examples for you. Just go digging, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Amy Stein’s blog brought the work of Jen Davis to my attention. Really interesting stuff. Outside my normal purview, but I love it. Really good personal photography, and pretty different than I have seen before.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jason Eskenazi’s Wonderland is an incredible, moving book. And he is a great guy too (helped so much with editing my portfolio six weeks ago). So many congratulations to him for winning POYi’s Best Photography Book award last week. Unfortunately, there still isn’t an ideal place to look at the pictures. Oddly, the best may be this page at NPR which has a terrific little segment from Eskenazi and Gene Richards talking about the project.
And also from POYi, I see that Eugene Richards won special recognition for his project and book A Procession of Them. It is a touching, utterly humanistic body of work about mental illness and its (lack of humane) treatment around the world. A similar project, which I also admire from the depths of my soul, by Kevin German has been updated with a third installment. As I’ve told him before, this is special work. And beyond his contributions with pictures, German recently solicited donations from his blog readers to help support the people at the institution he was photographing. Incredible, hat’s off to you sir.
I don’t know how new this is or how I came across it in the first place, but the indomitable Chien-Chi Chang has a new project with National Geographic about North Korean refugees. Oddly from Chien-Chi, I’m not loving the pictures on a visual level, but the story (and story telling) is great and important.
Lastly, PDN has just announced the honorees of their special PDN 30 under 30 issue for 2009. I haven’t had a chance to look through yet, but there usually is some good stuff in there. I’ve known Dominic Nahr’s work for awhile, so congrats to him (and the others who I’m not familiar with .. this ‘win’ surely will bring some eyes, including mine).
I’ve been looking a little bit at the POYi 66 winners as the results come in. Congrats to all (and those who remembered to get your entries done on time!), especially friends Kevin German and Eric Kayne.
So far one story has really grabbed me and shook me, the winner in the ‘Newspaper Issue Reporting Picture Story’ category: A Dark Addiction. It appears to be part of this package from The Washington Post, which credits ‘staff photographer Andrea Bruce’. Otherwise, I don’t know who took these pictures.
Strong images, incredible story, incredible access. This does a terrific job of bringing to light an issue (drug addiction in mining towns) that I hadn’t heard of or thought of before, and does so in a highly personal and individually-engaged way. Very affecting, I’m glad this got recognized and gave me a chance to see the pictures and learn more about this story. What contests are all about, I guess … recognizing the best projects and pictures and giving them a wider audience. Nice to see it working so well after all of the whining about World Press Photo..
update (by Scott on Feb. 27, 2009): The photographer is, indeed, Andrea Bruce of the Washington Post, as confirmed by her 3rd place win in POYi’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year category.