It’s the time of year for the usual criticisms of the winning images in World Press Photo. if you’ve not already done so, rather than wade through the whole lot on the official site you might like to look at a slide show of the 18 top winners on Lensculture. And of course you can learn something more about some of them on PDN and the British Journal of Photography site with a stories about Paul Hansen‘s winning image from Gaza City and Spanish photographer Bernat Armangué‘s series of images also from Gaza as well as several other stories.
Paul Hansen was also the winner of the 2012 Newspaper Photographer of the year in the 70th Pictures of the Year International (POYi), with a portfolio that as well as Gaza covered the mass murders on the Norwegian island of Utoya in July 2011.
I usually go to the the WPP show when it comes to London, but always with a heavy dose of deja-vu, though usually there are pictures that stand out for some reason or other, though often not the major winners. But most of the main themes that produce the most shocking or startling images repeat themselves event if the massacres, famines, floods and earthquakes happen in different parts of the globe, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the images are often similar.
Duckrabbit quotes a Gary Knight ( Chair of 2013 World Press Photo Contest – before he stepped down) quote from ‘A Photo Editor’ and a comment from that site by Mike Moss in a post entitled Cliché on cliché? But what I found more interesting is the comment made on duckrabbit by Tobias Key on the lighting in the winning image.
As he suggests there is something that seems over-produced about it, as if it was lit by a large soft-box fired by a radio-trigger on the camera. It would have been a powerful picture without the added drama of the lighting, because of the subject matter and viewpoint, but to me the lighting makes it into a film set, or a hyper realistic painting, and for me it weakens the raw impact of the image. I have a suspicion that the effect is partly or mainly from post-processing rather than lighting. Perhaps there is a clever Lightroom pre-set you can buy to do this to your images?
Don’t get me wrong. I admire the photograph and the undoubted courage and skill of Hansen and others who make such images. It’s something I could never do. But perhaps this – and others – work would be better if they turned down the techniques a little and let the subject speak for itself. Of course that way they would almost certainly not win prizes.