Every year in January the halls of the World Press Photo in Amsterdam is a hive coming out of hibernation. Fueled by thai and indonesian food and Grolsch beer, an army of photographers and students takes on the monumental task of sorting through the 85,000 images from the year before.
The World Press Photo competition is THE competition in photojournalism photography. Being free to enter it currently receives over 85,000 images and 4500+ photographers. The best of the best (and plenty of the worst) floats through cyber space to land on one of the 16 computer screens at World Press where it will be checked and cataloged. The whole process takes over 3 weeks. Afterwards, the jury will arrive and begin selecting the World Press Photo winners of 2008. Such a venue where you can see so many incredible photographers and their work throughout the year doesn’t exist anywhere else. Nachtwey, Pellegrin, Nicklen, Sinclair, Moore, Platon, these names and many others float around the room with awe and amazement.
It is a unique opportunity to rediscover the events of 2008 and discover new ones. It is inspiring and shocking, funny and thought provoking. I reckon that I have seen all of the Beijing Olympics, more angles of Obama then I thought possible, accurate and devastating images of Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in China, I have seen countless cats and many farm animals, the odd kids party and graphic war images.
Inspiring are the people that put their bodies and lives on the line to fight for their beliefs, think Kenya. And I have been amazed by the photographers covering untold stories and striving to help those without the means. I have also been shocked by the amount of liberal toning and digital manipulation on ‘photojournalistic’ images. It seems to me that many photojournalists try to incorporate the techniques of darkroom masters such as Ansel Adams without any respect for the zone system or taste.
Excessive digital manipulation was a comment that came from the jury last year. We will see what the jury, chaired by MaryAnn Golon, will have to say this year when they announce the winner on February 13.