Storytelling and news images beyond the cut and thrust of the action came to the fore in this year's World Press Photo
“We really felt like, ‘Let’s be inclusive,'” says Donald Weber, photographer and member of the World Press Photo jury this year (pictured above, at the left end of the second row up). “We wanted to find and take in all of those who tell stories, regardless of how they tell them or where they come from… We debated who we are as photographers, what we are saying, and how we are saying it. I was not necessarily looking for where we are now, but what we can be, and how we can get there. That was the debate, and we were all somewhere on that spectrum, and the Picture of the Year [Mads Nissen’s image of Jon and Alex, a gay couple during an intimate moment in St Petersburg, Russia] is a perfect example of that. It shows that you don’t necessarily have to go around the world to a war zone, you can walk across the street and take a domestic scene. It’s about storytelling and finding the right voice for the subject.”
Nissen’s image also depicts a scene that anyone can relate to, he adds, something that’s a factor in some of the other winning images this year. Sergei Ilnitsky’s image, which won first prize in the General News Singles, was taken after a mortar attack in Ukraine but shows a kitchen table rather than images of wounded civilians. Tomas van Houtryve’s series, Blue Sky Days, meanwhile, which won third prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories, broaches the issue of drone attacks by showing the kind of gatherings that are targeted and photographing them with an airborne camera, but doing so in the US rather than, for example, Pakistan.
Glenna Gordon’s Traces of the Abducted Schoolgirls, Nigeria, meanwhile, which won second prize in the General News Stories, shows three school uniforms rather than anything direct. “Ilnitsky’s image caused some debate but we liked the photograph and we liked the fact that it showed something universal or domestic, that it showed that these issues could affect you. We wondered, do you always need to see a bloody body? Or, is there room for stories that work on a more intellectual level, as well as more visceral images?
“Glenna Gordon’s image is the perfect example of how can you show an [apparently] unphotographable story,” Weber adds. “How do we talk about Boko Haram when we can’t take a picture of them? Gordon found another, very elegant, way around it.”
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