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World Press Photo’s chair of the ‘People’ jury on looking for strong concepts

Image © Kazuma Obara, Japan, 2015 - from the story Exposure, which won first prize in the People stories category in the 2016 WPP.

Away from the main news agenda, the stories in the People category can be shot in a conceptual way, argues founder of The Ravestijn Gallery Narda van t' Veer.

“This is the only category where you can have a concept for the photography,” says Narda van t’ Veer, founder of the Dutch photo agency UNIT C.M.A and creator of the Amsterdam-based Ravestijn Gallery, and chair of the People category jury in the 2016 World Press Photo competition.

“The other categories – the spot news, general news and so on – are mainly about urgent matters. We were interested in series which, though they might be about urgent matters, could also be considered in a conceptual way, in the way that they’re photographed. That is why we chose Exposure by Kazuma Obara.”

Kazuma Obara’s image, which won first Prize in the People stories category, traces the life of a girl born in Kiev just after the Chernobyl disaster.

The image was shot on 30-year-old colour film found five kilometres from the abandoned nuclear power plant, and the faded, patchy, grey images eloquently evoke a life also been blighted by the disaster.

“It is a beautifully illustrated story,” van t’ Veer tells BJP, “and has a very strong concept”.

This conceptual approach is “a new, contemporary way to tell a story”, van t’ Veer says, adding the news-driven categories are about more urgent, brutal issues, and are therefore usually shot in a more direct manner.

But, she adds, while the People category offers photographers the chance to show stories shot differently, and maybe off the main news agenda, they can also highlight ongoing and still vital issues. “I was reading something about radioactive material in the paper only this morning,” she points out. “It’s still very important.”

Narda van t’ Veer also spoke with World Press Photo about judging the People category – after the jury had made its recommendations, and before the final jury picked the winner.

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