World Press Photos. News and Art.

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So when the World Press Photo finalists are presented in February 2018, I scroll through the photos. I admire the work. I read the short photographer bios, trying to look for a hint that gives their art, their craft, their dedication to journalism away.

That’s because photography is, more times than not, considered an art form. It is a medium through which artists can express themselves. And there is always a strong consideration for the aesthetic factors that come into play when framing a photograph. Right or wrong one might ask?

Is composition, in its broadest sense, that important when covering war zones? When covering dramatic circumstances? When covering delicate, feeble stories? Or would it suffice to just see a picture of something new to consider it ground-breaking? To consider it worthy of the press?

Can a daunting photograph cut through today’s noise even if it is not perfectly composed?

Similarly, can a newspaper article, through the writer’s choice of words, structure, or anything else in their craft, make a story more compelling and worthy of remaining part of the reader or viewer’s memory?

Yes. That is exactly how art elevates the news.

Let’s look at some of the photos from the World Press Photos below, what I’ve discovered while viewing them, and how the photos made are just extraordinary. Therefore they not only tell the news, but they share a story.

And as humans, we remember stories. The mind forgets, the heart doesn’t.

 

Ivor Prickett

The Battle for Mosul

World Press Photo of the Year Nominee

The caption from the World Press Photo website reads: “An unidentified young boy, who was carried out of the last ISIS-controlled area in the Old City by a man suspected of being a militant, is cared for by Iraqi Special Forces soldiers.” July 2017

We assume that the unidentified boy was still alive, and hopefully not in a life threatening situation. It is the boy that tells the story in this photograph. We do  not see the family in their destroyed home, we don’t see weapons and guns, we don’t see dreadful images that are at times too hard to look at for more than a few seconds (which nonetheless must be made).

In Prickett’s image we know there are weapons, without seeing them. We know there is destruction, but the focus is not on that. The photograph elevates the story through the boy’s innocence; his eyes closed, head resting on a shoulder. We see humanity, compassion, people helping others in society. We know there are weapons without seeing them.

Through the composition Prickett tells a story that isn’t only about war. It stands out amongst many other press photos because it reaches the heart.

(Ivor Prickett is also nominated in the World Press Photos General News Series with other photographs on the Battle of Mosul)

 

Ronaldo Schemidt

Venezuela Crisis

World Press Photo of the Year Nominee

From the World Press Photo website: “José Víctor Salazar Balza (28) catches fire amid violent clashes with riot police during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela.” May 3, 2017

Let’s look at this photo. Pause. Take a deeper look.

Our instincts today tell us that we can scroll up and down on any device we have in our hands until we find something that stimulates us.

I challenge anyone to wanting to view this image in their Facebook feed.

But this is our World. This happens. Repressions, people fighting for their human rights. People catching fire for that. Photographers, like Schemidt, having the courage to tell us.

And the photograph’s composition is key. Now that you’ve paused to look at it you won’t have to look back up to see the horizontal visual queues. The gun pointing right, the brick wall with its long horizontal lines, and obviously the flames behind the young man running.

And to think that Schemidt made this photo with a 24mm focal length (and 1/800 seconds, 7.1 f-stop, ISO 400). That means that he was so close that with that amount of fire his camera and face would have felt the heat.

Much like the photo in Mosul there is a unique subject with which the viewer relates to. That’s not what makes the photo dramatic, but it does create an emotional tie which the viewer cannot ignore.

(Ronaldo Schemidt is also nominated for the Spot News Category, Nominee Single)

 

Adam Ferguson

Boko Haram Strapped Suicide Bombs to Them. Somehow These Teenage Girls Survived

People, Nominee stories

From the World Press Photo website: “Portraits of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, taken in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. The girls were strapped with explosives and ordered to blow themselves up in crowded areas, but managed to escape and find help instead of detonating the bombs. 29 August – 22 September 2017.”

I can’t get my head around what these women had to endure. From the struggle of being kidnapped, to the daily fear of having to face death, to being strapped with explosives, to having the courage to eventually escape, and then facing a camera to share their story. To challenge. To stand up. For themselves and for humanity.

The portraits are subtle. A single light exposes their valor in the surrounding darkness. Is this not a way of elevating the story, their story? The identity is kept secret, but the message is loud and clear.

As the viewer, I do not wish to know their names. I do not wish to know the details of their horrific experience. All I care about is the light. Nothing compared to the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. There is no tunnel. There is darkness. And there is light amongst it.

These women are the light.

(One of Adam Ferguson’s photos of the same project is also nominated as the World Press Photo of the Year)

 

George Steinmetz

Feeding China

Contemporary Issues, Nominee Stories

From the World Press Photo website: “Rapidly rising incomes in China have led to a changing diet and increasing demand for meat, dairy and processed foods. The food and agricultural industry is under pressure. 13 June 2016 – 9 July 2017.”

This series of selected photos shows a different aspect of a country’s growth. Aside from all the statistics of economic growth, literacy, malnutrition, and the sorts. This is what it looks like to feed a country’s population.

To achieve such a perspective, Steinmetz used a 25mm focal length (I would have thought wider, but his distance from the scene could be the reason).

Apart from the first one, I believe the structured form of the subject helps give the photographs a very appealing feel. They are easy to view and to gather information from. Everything is either numerically countable, or as least “estimatetable”. The viewer is left with “oh shit, that’s huge”.

I can’t make out what the second one is portraying, and maybe I don’t want to know, and there is something about the last one, with the oil-rig looking platforms in the background that just catches my attention. Maybe its the layers, but I ultimately feel both informed and astonished.

Again, elevating the news through art, to give information and make it stick.

Much like in the following few I chose to share.

 

Giulio Di Sturco

More Than a Woman

Contemporary Issues, Nominee singles

From the World Press Photo website: “Dr Suporn Watanyusakul shows patient Olivia Thomas her new vagina after gender reassignment surgery at a hospital in Chonburi, near Bangkok, Thailand.”

 

Goran Tomasevic

Mideast Crisis Iraq Mosul

Spot News, Nominee singles

From the World Press Photo website: “An Iraqi Special Forces soldier some moments after shooting dead a suspected suicide bomber, during the offensive to retake Mosul.”

 

Roger Turesson

North Korea

Contemporary Issues, Nominee singles

From the World Press Photos website: “A crowd awaits the start of the Pyongyang Marathon at the Kim Il-sung Stadium, while an official guards the exit, in Pyongyang, North Korea.” My favorite of the selection.

 

All photographs that were nominated for the various World Press Photos categories can be found here. I strongly encourage you to spend some time viewing them.

And no. This time there was no music in the background. The photographs, the art, the stories, the people and their stories, and the information all needed undivided attention. And Respect.

Of course a post will be written on the winning photos. Stay tuned.

 

Until Next Time,

Michael Kenna and Detroit

 

Gio

 

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