Who needs Oscars?

I have to admit to a certain feeling of ennui about the increasing number of awards for photography, especially so those that attempt to introduce something of the ridiculous commercial razzmatazz of the Oscars.

So I didn’t have very high hopes when I heard about the Sony World Photography Awards, especially when I learn they were to be held in Cannes. And although the Honorary Board members did include photographers Bruce Davidson, Elliot Erwitt, Martine Franck, Susan Mieselas and Martin Parr of Magnum, along with Nan Goldin, Mary-Ellen Mark, Rankin and Tom Stoddart. There are also some very well-known names in the other Academy members, along with a number of others whose photographic credentials are perhaps less credible. It was also a team lacking in international terms; far too many are from the UK and US, with only two from Asia, one from Africa and none from South America.

This week’s British Journal of Photography (some stories need a subscription to read online) has two interesting features on photographic competitions. One is about the SWPA (not to be confused with the WPA, which for all of us with an interest in photography is the Works Progress Administration), written by Su Steward (BJP editor Simon Bainbridge was one of the Academy, so perhaps she had to be even more careful than usual in what she wrote.) She gives an interesting view of the event and some of the problems, as well as commenting on the judging and winners, although the article has its own teething problem with a wrongly captioned image.

I did find it surprising, that after quoting the comment made over a Cannes Film Festival lunch that apparently kick-started the SWPA, claiming that there wasn’t “an Oscars for Photography” she failed to mention the “Lucies,” set up for that very purpose in 2003, when Henri Cartier-Bresson received the first Lifetime Acheivement Award. On the Lucie Award web site the front page quotes for Douglas Kirkland “The Movie Industry has its Oscars and the Photography Community has its Lucies.”

The 2007 Lucie Awards were:
Elliot Erwitt – Lifetime Achievement,
Kenro Izu – Humanitarian Award,
Ralph Gibson – Achievement in Fine Art,
Eugene Richards – Achievement in Documentary,
Philip Jones Griffiths – Achievement in Photojournalism,
Lord Snowdon – Achievement in Portraiture,
Deborah Turbeville – Achievement in Fashion,
Howard Zieff – Achievement in Advertising,
Heinz Kluetmeier – Achievement in Sports,
and the 2008 Awards will go to Richard Misrach, Josef Koudelka, Sara Terry: The Aftermath Project, John Iacono, Susan Meiselas, Visa Pour L’Image Festival, Herman Leonard and Erwin Olaf – with more details on the web site May 15.
I never attended the Lucie awards ceremony – despite being invited – partly because it didn’t seem my kind of event, but it surely deserves a mention in this context.

(C) 2007, Peter Marshall. Giacomo meets Max Kandhola

You can find more about the WPA event on its website – or buy the BJP. I’d just like to mention one of the winners, Giacomo Brunelli, who showed me his superb work at Rhubarb Rhubarb in Birmingham last year and I wrote about it for this blog, with a couple of examples, as well as introducing him to Luminous Lint.

Also in the BJP is an article first published on-line at Foto8 by two of the judges at the World Press Photo contest, ‘Unconcerned but not indifferent‘ by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chapman. They lift the lid off the proceedings there and also question the role of photojournalism, particularly as “photographs rarely break the news these days” or at least those that do are largely the products of ‘citizen journalism’, the blurred impressions from the mobile phones of those caught up in the affair. (When I wrote a guide to the photographs of 9/11 – first on-line on 9/12 it received hundreds of thousands of hits – I commented on the immediacy of such coverage, highlighting some of the more powerful examples.)

The BJP adds a little to the debate by publishing a reply by this year’s World Press Photo of the Year winner, Tim Hetherington, who argues that photojournalism remains as relevant today as it ever was.

I’ve been meaning to write for some time about the re-launched “all-new” biannual Foto8 magazine. 180 pages of essential reading for anyone with the slightest interest in photojournalism. If you are reading this are aren’t already a subscriber you almost certainly should be.

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