Photographer and chair of the jury Ed Kashi (standing), with judges Kang Kyang-ran (anchor and CEO of the Frontline News Service in South Korea), and Claudine Boeglin (multimedia content director of the Thomson Reuters Foundation in France), at the World Press Photo HQ in Amsterdam. Image copyright BJP.
World Press Photo is an internationally-recognised arbiter of stills press photography but this year, in recognition of the changing face of photojournalism, it held its first multimedia competition. "It's very exciting," World Press Photo managing director Michiel Munneke told BJP at the judging, held in World Press' Amsterdam office on 18 and 19 March. "It's something recognising developments that have been going on for a few years now, but we also hope to be able to help establish things that will be used as standards in the future. So many things are still undefined, I hope we will be able to contribute to that."
[Read Winners announced in World Press Photo's Multimedia contest for details about this year's inaugural competition]
Unlike World Press Photo's main competition, which is open to any professional photographer and receives more than 100,000 images per year, this competition was open only to a select group of 50 pieces, picked out for consideration by a 25-strong nomination panel. World Press was forced to run the competition this way for practical reasons, said Munneke, but he said he'll be looking at how they organise things in future. "We felt that this time, because it's the first one, we needed to work through nomination to make it comfortable and manageable," he says.
"At least we knew how many pieces we would get, and we could aim at the highest quality possible. But by doing it like that I have to admit, it had to do with getting the right submissions in. We're very well-known in the conventional, photojournalistic world, but now we have to reach out to documentary makers, and even people who design games, a group we know very little of. That was a challenge for us, but so far I'm very happy with what I've seen. We're very open - this is the first time, we're here to learn, so reflections and observations from the judges are very welcome so that we can move forward over the next couple of years."
"The creepy thing about it is that no matter what we decide today, it could all be completely different by next year," agreed photographer and filmmaker Ed Kashi, who chaired the judging panel. "There's a slipperiness because in a sense it's a form that's new and which is shaping itself. But the importance and vlaue of this exercise [the competition] is that we can continue to establish some definitions."
"We're in the midst of an industrial revolution," added Gideon Mendel. "It's two continents colliding [still and video], and we don't really understand what's going on. But it feels like the first wave has already crashed - multimedia is almost a dead term today."
World Press Photo's multimedia contest was divided into two different categories, one celebrating linear story telling which combines stills and moving footage, the other looking at sites which combine photography, video and other elements and allow visitors to plot their own path through the information. As Mendel pointed out, these two categories actually recognise very different forms, and for him it's the user-controlled presentations that are most cutting-edge. "We're looking at the website and the journey itself," he said. "I find that really exciting in terms of media."
For Kashi the key change is the addition of sound, which allows photojournalists to speak to the subjects and - for better or worse - add soundtracks to their work. "We're looking at this wierd, hybrid form, and we can play with it," he told BJP. "But photography has always been the stepchild of technology. It was part of the industrial revolution in the 1830s, and it makes sense that now, as we move into the digital revolution, it would be heavily impacted. Stills and great video - in a sense there's something organic about this evolution."
Both Kashi and Gideon added that they're still committed to stills photography, though, and for Munneke, the photographic element of the multimedia entries remains key. "We didn't specify a minimum number of photographs that had to be included, but we did say photography should play a significant role," he said. "Since we're World Press Photo, we owe that to our heritage, but we're not too strict on it [for the future]. We'll see where it moves."
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