Wednesday, February 24, 2010

POYi Issue Reporting Picture Story category

For those of you who don't know, the Pictures of the Year International photography competition is going on right now here at the University of Missouri. Many of my journalism classes have let out so that we can go attend the judging. For three weeks, the best photos from around the world will be showcased in different categories and judged by some of the top photographers and editors in the field. I took an evening during my editing shift at the Columbia Missourian to watch the semi finals and finals of the Issue Reporting Picture Story category. It's naturally a pretty heavy category and many of the photographs were pretty graphic.

First, during a semi-final edit, Pablo Corral Vega spoke out against a story where the style pushed the story more than the content of the photo. The photographer either shot a DX lens on a full frame or, more likely, over vignetted the photos in Photoshop. The students of the Missouri School of Journalism, who are subjects and slaves to two major photo competitions each year, call this "Wignetting" - it's a stylistic aspect that seems to appear on the winners podium in nearly any photography competition, and I agree with Pablo here - it's wrong. Photographers often change the emotion in their photos using this over-vignetting technique. Pablo hit it on the head when he pointed out that yes, the photos were dark, had dark subject matter, and raw emotion, yet the content was very weak. There was very very little interaction or human intimacy. It was voted out in the last round and I don't believe it should deserve anything higher than an award of excellence on the basis of purposeful over-vignetting.

The winning story was an amazing conceptual piece on Beauty. It spanned several countries and touched a huge issue, which I think is why it got first place. The judges really debated the story heavily, pointing out very specific flaws and stregnths, but I think what hit them most was the stories ability to touch a very important issue (which is what the Category is supposed to be about) while presenting several spectacular photos. They also talked about how a good story doesn't have to take place halfway across the world - it can be in your backyard - but this stories ability to make it feel like it was happening down the street, while looking at beauty as an underlying theme in every culture, really brought it to light. I think it was a great choice. While I question the overall judging dynamic of this weeks judges, I really enjoyed watching them debate a very complex and heavy category.

Click on over to the website to launch the live feed and watch a few categories sometime. It really is spectacular to see what the best of the best in the Photography world are up to.

Also - I'll have an update in the coming week on my new project surrounding a canoe maker here in Columbia - A great guy and unique character.

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