06 September 2013

Uptake: Jurich on Aranda and his Critics, Including Me

Fatima & Zayad, Yemen, 2011. Photograph © Samuel Aranda/Corbis.

The nice folks* at afterimage sent me a copy of their Summer 2013 issue (40:5) which contains an essay "What Do Subjects Want?" by Joscelyn Jurich. The essay assesses the critical response to the World Press Photo designation of Samuel Aranda's image (above) as Photo of the Year for 2011. Among the critical commentaries Jurich discusses is my initial, quite negative post on the WPP jury decision. I have followed up on that assessment - prompted mostly by well-deserved push back from Nina Berman, who served on the WPP jury - especially here, but here too.

My immediate response to the Jurich essay [pdf here]  is that what the 'subjects want,' what their personal feelings are, is largely beside the point in this instance. The essay concludes with reports that Fatima Al-Qaws, the now-not-anonymous woman in Aranda's photograph, is heartened by and proud of the way Aranda depicts her. That is a second order effect. Welcome, perhaps, yet even that is something to be discussed. But the award from WPP was for Aranda's putative success at addressing his primary audience - readers of The New York Times and other (primarily) western outlets. Jurich seems more sanguine than me about the impact the image may have had on that audience. My complaints about the image and the prize designation address that matter and what I continue to see as their de-politicizing thrust.
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* Thanks Lucia! I hope you are well.

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