09 February 2007

"Photo of the Year"

This image by Spencer Platt has been selected "Photo of the Year" in the World Press Photo annual competition. You can read the selection committee rationale here.

Young Lebanese drive through devastated neighborhood of
South Beirut, 15 August. © Spencer Platt, Getty Images.

I have to say that the competition is once again dominated by images of mayhem and disaster and despair - nearly all humanly caused. You can see the winning photographs in various categories here. I have nothing really to say about the contest or the winner. However, perhaps the most thought provoking set of images is this series - "Tourists on Tejita Beach Help Migrants, Tenerife, Spain, 30 July/3 August" taken by Spanish photographer Arturo Rodríguez. From what I can gather the Africans are illegal migrants seeking to cross in small boats to the Canary Islands as the first leg of a journey to Europe.

© Arturo Rodríguez/AP

The series prompts me to wonder what might happen on a beach in Florida if such an unexpected (actually the Canary Islands receive a large number of such migrants, so this event ought not be unexpected) arrival of, say Haitian migrants were washed ashore. Would Americans so readily interrupt their vacations?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I ask you to view http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/palmbeachpost/swf/mariel_5.swf ? Indeed, we did.

10 February, 2007 07:26  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Well, thanks for the comment! I can see why you might see similarities but I see very important differences too.

(1) The Mariel refugees were fleeing "communism!" and so were viewed (initially at least) as people we should welcome. (Until we realized that Castro had emptied the jails!)

(2) There is a large and (to my mind overly) powerful political community in South Florida that welcomed the boatlift, even if they might not welcome each particular refugee. What would've happened if the Cubans had been blown off course and arrived in Biloxi or Galvaston? So, we are not talking about tourists on vacation in this instance but a context where the reception of refugees was shaped by the existence of politically organized Florida residents welcoming contrymen.

(3) Cubans are not Haitians. By and large they are not Black. Look at the Dieguez family in the final photo of the slide show. Race is surely an important factor. If the event hada featured Haitians instead of Cubans, I suspect the response would've been completely different.

So, whihle I take your point, the analogy is far from perfect. Nevertheless your comment is food for thought.

10 February, 2007 09:38  
Blogger janinsanfran said...

Hmm -- looks like the jury has been had. My Lebanese friends say this was a stunt cooked up by an ad ajency.

10 February, 2007 13:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

janinsanfran's comment that this collection of photograps was instigated at the behest of an add agency is very interesting, and would add further to your debate concerning fashion photography ; however, I do not believe this to be the case - the images where heavily used in newspapers at the time of the event and were they to have been fabricated I believe there would have been a huge outcry. This would have been an even bigger story! And what would that say...

Sean - still reading, still enjoying!

11 February, 2007 04:47  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

S. I'm glad you are still stopping in. It is interesting to think of how rumors re; such machinations might start. I have no idea whether this picture is "authentic" or not. But, if we assume it is and that people continually say it was fabricated, what does that say for the credibility of the image? or images generally? And, if the reverse is so, and even though the image was a set up, people belive it, what would that say about credibility or credulousness among audiences? Just thinking out loud.

11 February, 2007 08:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... well, I am not to sure! My two pence worth...

For it to be authentic yet regarded as fabricated highlights a distrust of the visual image (which has always been present - as early cartoons, for example, indicate). This is even more so now that the digital image, its inherent possibilities, is the main method of production. Indeed, they have more in common as a process with illustration than photography proper(they are 'synthetic'. Okay, this is a term used by Virilio who's work I am currently 'attempting' to read! I think it is a neat summing up).

And/or it indicates the breaking down of genre within photography.it does look like a fashion shot. Actually - and little to do with fashion - it reminds me of Martin Parr's work.

If it is fabricated and everyone says its true - that's less of a surprise! As the 'evidence' advanced to justify the invasion of Iraq highlights.

Okay, maybe three whole pennies worth thre.

Best, Sean.

13 February, 2007 16:37  

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