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Tim Hetherington, 1970-2011: A Farewell (2)

True witnessing — and bearing witness — can’t happen at some secure remove from reality. They require the presence of the observer at the event, Goya’s “Yo lo vi (I saw this)” from “The Disasters of War” to give their testimony force. Tim Hetherington’s passing reminds us of the price all too often paid by others for our ability to engage vicariously with the cruelest events of our times, and of our obligation to honor those who thus serve in our stead. […]

World Press Photo 2012 (b)

Time to rethink the whole World Press Photo project from the ground up. If they ever get serious about catching up with where “press photography” has gone since 1955, WPP might want to scrap the entire process of Academy Awards-style categories and prizes, and become instead a serious forum for discussion of information-based, issue-oriented imagery in the new media environment. […]

World Press Photo 2012 (a)

It’s not to much to ask of a western European NGO that it revitalize itself after half a century of same old same old. It’s in that spirit — hoping for signs of some tectonic shift, though not expecting any — that I accepted the invitation to attend the opening reception for World Press Photo 2012 in the Main Gallery of the Visitors’ Lobby at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan on August 15. […]

Whither World Press Photo? (2)

World Press Photo was founded in the Netherlands in 1955 — not coincidentally, the year in which Edward Steichen’s extravaganza, “The Family of Man,” made its debut as a traveling exhibit and a catalogue. That enormously influential show and book undoubtedly exerted a considerable influence on the way that the WPP exhibitions took form when they began. That influence can still be felt today; the individual images for the most part reiterate the classic tropes of that era, the show itself collects and sorts its contents into little more than a yearly variation on the Steichen model. […]

Whither World Press Photo? (1)

I’m not sure if anyone today expects press photography generally, or particular stories told in that form, to change the world; I certainly don’t. At the same time, because we become what we behold, I don’t think that anyone in the field doubts that press photography is a process of perception management, and thus shapes the world in important ways. Much of the decision-making is of course in the hands of management and capital. However, I find it hard to believe that photojournalists and their agencies and their editors are entirely hapless pawns in the hands of witless and/or malevolent but all-powerful publishing cartels. […]