The Problem with Prizes

Over on the Reuters Photography Blog, Radu Sigheti takes on the question of why so many photojournalism contests are won by images of war and violence. A really good question, and Sigheti handles it nicely with these grass:

At some point after being in Croatia in the 90’s I stopped going to conflict zones, because I felt that it will become part of me. I felt that being horrified at what was going on I might take a gun instead of my camera someday. At another point in my life, I went again to cover conflicts and wars. I do not know why I did it again. I think that at the time I felt that I had learned enough. I could do it without feeling guilty that I was taking pictures of others’ pain, pictures which were published, thus being appreciated as good images, which told the story well. I felt the conflict would not affect me anymore.

But passing through some hot points of our world, I learned that this bloody merry-go-round is unstoppable. And it is still affecting me through all the pictures coming out of the conflicts I see today.

Instead of praising life, you realize how insignificant it is in front of a war, or simply in front of another person who holds a weapon in their hands. You slowly start to despise it. There is nothing you can do to stop this.

I am writing this because I hope that something can be done. We, as photographers, cannot stop a war. We, as photographers, cannot stop taking pictures of events as they happen. But a photo contest could decide what to do with those images of war. They should mention them; show them to the world, but in a different category. Not putting them as the “best”.

Mark E. Johnson

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