News Photography: my World Press award-part1


bc

Click on the link to watch Luka, Daniel and Eric's project on Yongzhi Chu's photo which was awarded the 1st prize singles in the nature category.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67ow4bhxorA&feature=youtu.be

bb

Click on the link to watch Luka, Daniel and Eric's project on Yongzhi Chu's photo which was awarded the 1st prize singles in the nature category.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67ow4bhxorA&feature=youtu.be


LAETITIA is paying tribute to Mads Nissen's picture in a letter to her grandmother...

Dear grandma,  

Sometimes in life I feel like you stumble upon picture which touch you and you will remember for a long time. A few weeks ago I went to the world press exhibition and I found one of these pictures. It’s called “Jon and Alex” and it won the world press award 2014. The photograph was shot by Mads Nissen, a Danish photographer. Since I know how much you loved photography I decided to tell you a little bit more about this picture, the subject, the message, the intentions of the photographer,…

To me this picture is very powerful. It is raw, it is simple. The picture itself is very minimalistic, we have a simple bedroom with a bed, the curtains are closed making the scene even more private and the two subjects are on the bed. The picture doesn’t reveal a lot of the subject’s body. One is laying down and the other one has his hand laid on his torso. This simple act shows the special connection that the two men share. The scene is very dark and the lighting creates a shadow on the left wall, it also highlights the face of the man on the left. The fact that the curtains are closed shows us that this love can’t be expressed in public, it is a private matter.

To me this picture is appealing on a lot of different levels. First of all, I think that the issue tackled is very important in our world. If you are not aware of what is happening in that specific country, if you don’t know the exact context, this picture can also be appealing because of its aesthetics. It is more than a news photo, it is a piece of art. The lighting and the positioning of the subjects expresses feelings and shares a message. It is a beautiful picture in itself. Of course this picture wouldn’t have won the prize if it were just an eye pleasing picture since it is the “world press” award. The story behind the picture is what brought it to win the prize. The event which it refers to is the homophobia in Russia. In June 2013 the homophobia moved from “the streets into the country’s legislation” because the State adopted an “anti-gay law” which forbids propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations”. This made it illegal to hold gay prides, to speak in favor of gay rights or to defend the fact that both hetero and homosexual relationships are equal. Of course this had a horrible impact on the LGBT community which was victim of continued attacks from religious and conservative groups

In the series that the Danish photographer took there are pictures of harassed victims, courtrooms where gay activists are interrogated, gay nightclubs… But I think that the fact that this picture won above all, shows that the photographer chose to fight violence with love. This picture stands in contrast with the hundreds of graphic images of protests or of violence but that is its strength. Showing this raw love is so much stronger because we realize how difficult it must be for the LGBT community. It is not the physical pain which hurts most but the psychological restriction. The fact that they can’t express their love publically. They can’t go out, hold hands, and kiss in public because it is illegal. The power of this picture is the love which radiates through, this moment is so private that we nearly feel as if we were intruding, interrupting a moment. I feel like both heterosexual and homosexual people can relate to this picture since it is more about love than about anything else.

Although this picture has been taken in a country where it is forbidden to be gay I think that the LGBT community all around the world can relate to this picture because although the big part of the world has grown to accept this community, there is still a long way to go for it to become “normal”. Mads Nissen wanted to illustrate the values he stands for, he is for equality and acceptance and I think this shines through this pictures because he managed to highlight a very powerful moment and to create a personal and raw moment. This picture would have never been published if he were working for a Russian magazine and he would most likely have been sued. Knowing that this picture is something that is forbidden somewhere in this world shows how ridiculous homophobia is because it is just an opposition to love.

This picture appealed to me directly. I didn’t know the story behind it and I didn’t know that it had won the prize. To me it was just a very beautiful and intriguing picture. The first time I looked at it, it made me smile because it felt like these two were really in love and were sharing a unique moment. When I looked at it for a longer period of time I began to feel pain, I think it is because of the pose they are striking and the expression and the men faces. There is a hint of pain in their body language, as if they knew that this moment couldn’t last forever although they wanted it to. I am not directly affected by the issue that the LGBT community has to go through but I will forever be against homophobia. I know you were always fighting for the equality of love too.

With love,

Laetitia

CATHERINE awarded the first prize to LU Guang (Development and Pollution Long-Term Projects, third prize stories). She composed an interview between Mr.Jonas, journalist working for the New York Times, and Mr.Miller, professor of journalism at Leeds Trinity University.

-Why would you have chosen this picture for 1st place at the World Press Picture Award?

I would have chosen this picture because it is about a very important and serious matter.  The picture is overwhelming, it’s about pollution and the death of children at the same time, and these 2 topics are linked in one single shot.

-What do you praise above anything else?

Well personally I think the aesthetics and personal motivation are quite important but not as much as the topic. A beautiful picture can be a photograph of anything, but what makes it World Press Picture Award material is what story hides behind it.

-What do you think are the news elements in this picture?

For one, the photograph denounces the excess of pollution which brings unhealthy babies to this world. Do you know what happens to those babies? They are abandoned by their families, and die. So pollution literally kills babies. Plus, if you look at the picture, you will see that it’s on the country side, not in the city. Why do villager, who work hard in their fields, pay for what city life does? 

-How did you feel the first time you saw this picture?   

At first I got angry. I was angry of the consequences of our mistakes. Because of what we created, innocent little lives are taken. But then I felt sad and ashamed, I thought <<How can no one care? How selfish are we? >> The truth of the matter is that we are too much wrapped around our perfect little world and we won`t let anything get in the way of that, not even dying children.

-Do you think the photographer achieved his goal? Does his view come out in the picture?

I think so, at first sight we may not understand what this photo is about. All we see is an old man digging a grave for a baby. But if we look into it we comprehend the photographers view, we understand why he took precisely this picture and what made him do it.

-Do you think we can say progress is at fault here?

Definitely. Progress means technical development, which gave us factories, which are the main source of pollution in China. But I’m not saying that factories shouldn’t exist, if we didn’t have factories we would probably be in the Middle Ages right now. I think we just crossed the line, that’s all, if only we made a little effort to pollute less and take care of the environment and people in general, Earth would be a much better place to live in.  

LILIAN is providing background information on Mads Nissen's first prize picture and is commenting on the brutality the LGBT community has to face in Russia.

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

“It is an historic time for the image… the winning image needs to be aesthetic, to have impact, and to have the potential to become iconic. This photo is aesthetically powerful, and it has humanity.” ~ Michelle McNally, part of the World Press Award jury

What is it like to live with forbidden love in Russia?

In June 2013, an anti-gay law was adopted which bans the spreading of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”  among minors as well as media organisations. This law makes it illegal to hold any gay pride events, speak in defense of gay rights, or voice that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. Parents can’t even tell their own children that it’s alright to be gay. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals or trangenders (LGBTs) are facing legal and social discrimination. Around 88 percent of Russia’s population has an anti-gay view and supports the anti-gay law according to an estimation made in June 2014 by the VTsIOM poll. LGBTs are attacked by a violent “hate crime” coming from religious and national conservative groups. This law leads to a sharp inscrease in anti-gay violence.

Mads Nissen has seen violent attacks from homophobic groups while being in Russia. The extent of these violent attacks is extreme : gays are being kidnapped and tortured for hours while being filmed. The material is afterwards released on social media. These assailants are often young ultra-nationalists, very religious or authoritarian with national socialistic views. They even use social media and dating websites to identify gay teenagers. Mads Nissen witnessed in Saint Peterburg an attack on Pavel Lebedev, a 23 year old man with homosexual orientation. It  was just after the anti-gay law was released in June 2013. Pavel was asked aggressively if he was homosexual.  After he disclosed his orientation, he was beaten up and insulted. Seeing such an act of hate and violence extremely shocked and horrified Mads Nissen and marked a turning point in his life. Being the witness, Mads Nissen felt his own human rights violated and felt the urge to respond. He then decided to make an in-depth investigation about homophobia in Russia.

Mads Nissen has documented the violence of the anti-gay attacks, the culprits hatred and the homosexuals oppression (see the joined photographs), but he felt that there was something missing. In an interwiev he said: “I realized my work is not about politics or religion, nor this new anti-gay law. It's just about two humans who are in love with each other. Two humans who are attracted to each other regardless of gender.”

Then he met Jon and Alex in Saint Petersburg and got invited to their home, where this picture was taken. Mads Nissen is a documentary photographer for the Danish daily newspaper Politiken born on the 17th of November 1979. He graduated in 2007 with a degree in photojournalism from The Danish School of journalism. He won the World Press Photo competition for the year 2014 in the category Contemporary Issues with his photograph of Jon and Alex. After he got the prize, he immediately called the couple to warn them to be precautious about negative reactions. Jon and Alex’s photograph is beating a huge amount of competition: 97,912 images were submitted to the World Press Picture by 5,692 press photographers, photojournalists, and documentary photographers from 131 countries. Mads Nissen’s subjectivity is shown in his pictures; it is clear that he supports the LGTBs rights and wants to achieve a counterforce to the oppression.

Power and Freedom of the press as a crucial part of democracy

Russia’s freedom of press is restricted due to the law introduced in June 2013. Most of Russian media won’t print this image.  Alex and Jon’s photograph will be shown in Russia and St. Petersburg as part of the traveling World Press Photo exhibition, but visitors under 18 aren’t allowed.

From Russia, to Amsterdam, to Shanghai, to Johannesburg, this image is creating a debate about the rights of the LGBTs. This highlights the importance and the power of this photograph. Jon and Alex’s picture has won the World Press Award, but they have also received a prize of greater importance: the chance that their picture might have an impact in the world and in their country. The photograph encourages gay rights activists and gives them hope that someday they might not have to be burdened by oppression anymore. It has also become an iconic photo. The World Press Pictures all have the one main goal to affect visitor’s emotions and to raise their awareness about some world issues or events. I felt touched by the exhibition and I think that the photographers have really mastered their work. It felt like most of them spoke to us and told us their own story. This definitely shows the power of photography. 

Why did I choose this picture?

The photograph has already won the first prize in the category Contemporary issues. I nevertheless decided to choose it as my world press picture award, because of the love it shows. During the exhibition, I saw pictures representing a great variety of themes. They showed sickness, fear, happiness, athletes’ success, pollution in China, death… as well as many other feelings and moments of deep meaning. This picture of Alex and Jon struck out by their love. Being the observer you are able to be part of it in a certain way. Mads Nissen has created a unique atmosphere by playing with the lights and shadows. The scene seems to be lit by candlelight and behind the drawn curtains lays Saint Petersburg. Mads Nissen masters the art of photography with the picture’s setting: its artistic style reminds the Baroque movement and brings the couple’s intimacy across. Alex and Jon’s bodies are in shadows, while one rests his hands on the other’s chest and stares at him lovingly, it is unclear where their embrace starts and ends. The two persons’ love is becoming one. I also chose this picture because it is a statement against the discrimination of homosexuals in Russia and all over the world. I believe that everybody has the right to love and to be loved no matter their sexual orientation.  Therefore there is no law or organization that could possibly stop people from expressing their love for each other. There will be always people standing up for themselves, for their personality and their opinions in spite of the consequences it might bear with them. I think this photograph also reminds people that the liberty of expression isn’t ensured everywhere in the world and that some people are living in oppression. A law like the one that was established in Russia can only lead to an increase of violence and hate among the population. People tend to forget that we all live together and that love is essential in everyone’s life. While we live we should be kind to one and other and respect each other. I believe that we all are equal and that everyone should be treated the same. I am also shocked that Russia has this radical policy regarding homosexuals, while gay marriage has been legalized in the United States just five months ago. Mads Nissen shows in the joined photographs the violence homosexuals experience in Russia. I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of this brutality.


NUMA, PAMINA and SELINE chose to award the first prize to Massimo Sestini's picture on the refugee theme: Rescue Operation. Click on the link to read their review in their column Life and Arts.


CONSTANTIN and PHILIPP chose Jerome Sessini's series of photographs entitled CRIME WITHOUT PUNISHMENT. The journalist covered the crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine in July 2014. Click on the links below to listen to their report and to watch their powerpoint presentation on the series.

KYRA created an ART COLUMN which conducted an interview of LU Gang who won the 3rd prize in Long Term Projects for his series on the effects of Chinese industrialisation.



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