World Press Photo’s 2004 Exhibition of Best Photojournalism Opens in New York
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JEFFREY BROWN: A woman mourning her loss after the tsunami. Taken by Indian photojournalist Arko Datta, the image has been named photo of the year in the annual World Press Photo contest and as part of an exhibition of the best photojournalism of 2004.
The exhibition, now opening at the United Nations, will travel to 40 countries during the coming year. Its many stunning images include tragic moments from the strife in Kashmir, triumph in last year’s Athens Olympics, the struggle of American soldiers in Iraq and that of some of their grievously wounded comrades now come home.
World Press Photo is a nonprofit foundation based in the Netherlands, and this is its 50th anniversary exhibition.
Joining us from the U.N. is the organization’s managing director Michiel Munneke. And welcome to you. As you look at some of the images in this exhibition, how do the judges define what makes a great news photo?
MICHIEL MUNNEKE: Well, I think the jury basically uses two sets of criteria.
The first one is the technical quality of the photograph. Is the photograph beautifully composed? Is the use of color adequate?
And the second set of criteria deals with the news value. At the same time, you have to take into account that the jury members do come from different kinds of professional backgrounds and cultural backgrounds, which also means that for someone within the jury, actually the journalistic criteria prevails on top of, let’s say, the aesthetic value of the photographs. And for the others it can just be the other way around.
JEFFREY BROWN: Are there some that stand out for you as favorites this year?
MICHIEL MUNNEKE: Well, there are a couple of photographs which I think are particularly strong, especially the series on… that was taken by a U.S.-based photographer, Nina Berman, where she’s actually showing the casualties or the American soldiers as victims of the war in Iraq, but at their homes here in the U.S.
It’s such a moving document of what is going on and how these people are trying to come to terms with the casualties and the psychological trauma that they are facing.
JEFFREY BROWN: The chairman of the jury this year noted that many photographers he said went back to shooting medium format film as opposed to digital images, which are arising everywhere now.
Is there an ongoing debate in your profession about the use of new technologies?
MICHIEL MUNNEKE: Well, I think for the real hard-core news photography you don’t have a choice. It’s all about speed; you have to compete. The photographers working for the big wire services, I think they don’t have a choice in that sense. But, what you see happening — also in the case with Nina Berman — is also that people are looking for alternatives, for different angles.
I know a lot of photographers working for the wires, but at the same time carrying their own personal camera with them to work on personal long-term projects, aside from the news they have to produce around the hour.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some of the most important photographs of the last year of course were those taken by amateurs. I’m thinking specifically of those at Abu Ghraib.
Now, for those of you who are professional journalists, how do you view this challenge from a world where anybody basically can take photographs and disseminate them immediately via the Internet?
MICHIEL MUNNEKE: I think it brings a huge responsibility to the editors because I think it’s at the same time these are kind of snapshots and I think the audience deserves, or the readership, deserves a very kind of well-balanced review or report on things that are going on across globe.
So, I think that’s still the duty and responsibility of news reporting. It’s more, I think, the in-depth stories that are more trustworthy.
I think the audience really should know how a certain photograph or how a certain report actually came alive, how it is being produced, although we do not kind of deny the effect or the impact these photographs had.
But so far, within the competition, there’s no room for amateur photography.
JEFFREY BROWN: And why in our world, finally, that seems to move faster and faster and more and more movement, why do you think these images still have the power that they do?
MICHIEL MUNNEKE: Well, I think it’s particularly because — simply because of that, as you were referring to the speed and the movement, all the images that people do remember — whether it is Vietnam or whether it is the student standing in front of the tank on Tiananmen Square, whether the picture in Abu Ghraib — all these frozen moments in time, they will stay with the people.
It will be burned in the mind and despite of the speed that the other, let’s say, media, is using I think it is, just because it’s a frozen moment, that sticks to the people’s memory.
JEFFREY BROWN: Okay, Michiel Munneke of World Press Photo, thank you very much for joining us.
MICHIEL MUNNEKE: You’re welcome.