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Reflecting on a changing industry: World Press Photo Awards Days

Reflecting on a changing industry: World Press Photo Awards Days

© Frank van Beek

April 2016

CPN looks back on this year’s World Press Photo Awards Days and talks to some of its award-winning photographers and participants...

April in Amsterdam means one thing for photographers: the World Press Photo Awards Days. The annual gathering, now into its 60th year, saw photojournalists from around the world converge upon the Compagnietheatre for two days of networking, presentations and talks, which this year took place from 22-23 April.

The topic on many photographers’ minds this year was one of integrity; specifically, the integrity of the image and the context surrounding it. After several years of soul-searching, a new sense of optimism was tangible. Industry experts offered advice, direction and guidance as emerging new paths to preserve authorship became clearer. One of the potential treatments came from Fred Ritchin, Dean and Scholar in Residence at the USA’s International Centre of Photography (ICP) who – in collaboration with colleague Jonathan Worth, Director of Phonar Nation – has worked on a set of standards and principles called Four Corners. The concept was discussed at length with examples of how to protect the contextual integrity of an image, which the photographer has full control over.

Please click on the video above to watch a short film on how World Press Photo winners feel about winning their award.

Informative and revealing lectures

Several talks and lectures this year focused on the business aspect of storytelling, with notable speakers such as Magnum executive director David Kogan stating that: “My job is to find a [business] model that works. So what we have done now is centralised the process so there is unity among the staff, with goals focused on content, shooting new stuff and not relying on – for instance – Robert Capa’s work. My job is to create an environment so photographers are incentivised for the work they wish to do.” Mr Kogan was joined on stage by Adrian Evans, a Director of the Panos Agency, Clement Saccomani, Managing Director of the NOOR agency and Matt Shonfeld, Executive Director of the Institute agency.

© David Corfield

From L-R: World Press Photo MD Lars Boering discusses how agencies run their businesses with directors Adrian Evans (Panos), Clement Saccomani (NOOR) David Kogan (Magnum Photos) and Matt Shonfeld, (Institute).

Black and white came up for discussion, with National Geographic’s Kathy Moran, Senior Editor for Natural History Projects, stating: “when people come up to me and say they want to shoot their work in black & white, usually the answer is ‘fat chance’. But we try and make a case for it if the photographer feels that the story justifies its use.” Rounding off the argument, NOOR photojournalist Francesco Zizola – a multiple World Press Photo winner in recent years, and second prize winner in this year’s Contemporary Issues category – reflected: “In black and white we believe it’s the truth. But we need to discuss...”

The key findings of ‘The State of News Photography’ report – an online survey conducted with photo contest entrants – with a focus on news photography was also notable. The respondents were largely male, Caucasian, highly educated and aged 30-49. It also showed that while one third of the photographers have an income of 10,000 USD or less per year, two thirds are happy with their choice of profession.

Multimedia gaining pace

On the use of multimedia as a treatment for reporting, Lars Boering, Managing Director of the World Press Photo Foundation, said: “The media landscape is in constant flux and the future is not fixed. While that creates enormous pressures for many, it also offers incredible opportunities to reporters and storytellers to explore and innovate.”

The winners of the World Press Photo Multimedia Contest were announced on 23 April, with Boering adding: “The winners of the multimedia contest are exceptional productions that will truly inspire us. All of the nominees in the multimedia contest brought us great stories, and the overall winners show us what is beautiful, powerful and possible.”

The contest entries were judged online for the first time this year, with Canon Explorer Magnus Wennman’s Fatima’s Drawings winning the Short Form category, with Long Form first place going to ‘The Surrender’, a fascinating film about South Korean Stephen Kim being charged under the Espionage Act in 2010 for leaking classified information.

© Paolo Pellegrin/The New York Times Magazine

Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin’s compelling images of refugees won him first place in the Immersive Storytelling category in this year’s Multimedia Contest

Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin’s images of refugees won the Immersive Storytelling category, while ‘The Displaced’ picked up the first prize in the Innovative Storytelling category. You can discover all the winning productions here.

‘What is the state of video journalism’ demonstrated a willingness to shake off a dusty perception of multimedia. Brian Storm, founder of Mediastorm and Jury Chair of the multimedia’s contest’s Long Form category, was eager to let go of the word ‘multimedia’ altogether. Storm insisted that photographers and videographers alike are storytellers at their core, and that audiences do not mind how many mediums are involved before once they press the play button. Storm also asserted that stills photographers and videographers are not interchangeable; their differing talents and workflow dictates that one storyteller cannot be both at the same time, as has been believed in the industry for some time now. While Storm likened photography to hunting in that photographers must be active to get a shot, he compared film with fishing in that documentarists must cast a rod and wait. Storm emphasized that instead of being the jack-of-all-trades master of none, filmmakers must collaborate and “embrace someone who is equally talented in a space of your weakness.”

Joel Ronez, the chair of the multimedia contest’s ‘Innovative Storytelling’ category, outlined in the ‘What is the state of Multimedia’ talk that “the main four trends this year are: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, conversation and platform.” It is notable that his favourite web story of the year ‘Madeleine Project’ was carried out by a single journalist who took readers on journey via Twitter to solve a mystery she found in her basement.

The Joop Swart Masterclass

The 2016 Joop Swart Masterclass (JSM) participants were also announced during the Awards Days. This September the following 12 photographers from 11 different nationalities will take part in JSM in Amsterdam: Aapo Huhta (Finland), Abdolla Heidari (Iran), Amanda Mustard (USA), Hicham Gardaf (Morocco), Jana Romanova (Russia), Line Ørnes Søndergaard (Norway), Luisa Dörr (Brazil), Mariya Kozhanova (Russia), Prasiit Sthapit (Nepal), Samsul Alam Helal (Bangladesh), Sébastien Van Malleghem (Belgium), Tomasz Lazar (Poland).

In conclusion

Summing up this year’s Awards Days, World Press Photo Foundation Managing Director Lars Boering told CPN: “The Awards Days brought the visual journalism community together for some fantastic discussions and networking. It’s vital for the World Press Photo Foundation to be both leading and listening to our community, and the weekend was just a taste of things to come.”

Founded in 1955, the World Press Photo Foundation is an independent, non-profit organisation based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The foundation receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and is sponsored worldwide by Canon.