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New perspectives on familiar issues – WPP judge Hideko Kataoka on the future of documentary photography

World Press Photo of the Year 2013: 26 February 2013, Djibouti City, Djibouti African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East © John Stanmeyer, USA, VII for National Geographic

Image © John Stanmeyer, US, VII for National Geographic

The same stories recur but, says Hideko Kataoka, globalisation and new ways of looking mean that photographers can still engage their audiences

This year’s World Press Photo winner surprised many – a quiet, thoughtful take on migration, it’s an oblique image rather than an action shot. Why was it selected? Because this year’s jury included alternative perspectives from beyond news agenda, says Hideko Kataoka, director of photography Newsweek Japan, and because everyone involved, from critics to documentary photographers and picture editors, wanted to find new ways to engage viewers with well-worn stories and issues.

“This is the second time I have judged [World Press Photo] and compared with the other time, there was more discussion,” she says. “In 2009, all of us were from the same kind of background, but this time the critics and curators had an amazing perspective. So I was stimulated and we had a different point of view. I was really happy to hear their points…

“But also from the documentary field, David Guttenfelder and other people from news backgrounds – people including me – really wanted to try to do something different to tell the stories. The stories go on [the same stories are repeated], and we felt that to use the pictures all the same, like an old-school kind of thing, [doesn’t] draw the attention of the reader and viewers. We have to keep saying the same kind of thing [so] we have to change the way we tell the stories.
“The stories are the same as anywhere because of globalisation – the picture of the year really tells us about globalisation. I come from Japan, so I have almost no relationship to Africa, but we still have migrants [in Japan] from China and Korea and so on. [With this picture] people can adapt really easily to this issue. This kind of picture, this kind of idea, is what our industry needs to do.”