POYi reaction

I watched the newspaper feature picture story category. There was a host of good work and things I wish had been discussed more. Some of this judging is quite confusing until the final rounds when the judges are hashing out the places. I would have liked to hear was was wrong with a few of the stories that were thrown out. (A story on migrant farm workers comes to mind, as does a quirky piece on Santa Clause School) I guess that is just the way judging goes.

One thing I noticed was that redundancy in the edit is not tolerated. Those seem to be the first to go. This redundancy hurt what eventually became the third place winner. Had there been one less sleeping soldier picture I think it would have placed first instead of third. One of the judges said as much aloud.

One complaint that the judges voiced about two stories that made it to the final round (one on Amish in Southern Colorado & another on Haiti) was the lack of intimacy. With the Amish story there was no intimacy in the photos, no exploration of the relationships between the subjects. There were no photos inside any of the Amish houses. Granted this would be tough to do given the subject matter, but the judges felt the story was all about process – what the Amish community did instead of who they were.

Contrasting this was the eventual third place winner “A Grunt’s Life” by Damon Winter of the New York Times. One judged remarked that it looked like the photos had been taken by a fellow soldier because they were so intimate and access so complete. This project is the one that has created some controversy since they were shot with an iPhone using the Hipstamatic App. This in turn led to a response from Winter and eventually a chat discussion on Poynter.

I won’t rehash it all, but I think what it comes down to is the iPhone & Hipstamatic App is only a tool that Winter decided to use. When I saw them on screen during the judging I knew there was something up with them. The vignetting and desaturated colors. I just figured he shot them on a Holga or Diana or some other “toy” camera and then did a bunch of post processing work. The imagery behind the technique is solid and that is what counts. Winter claims he wouldn’t be able to make those photos with his pro camera because the soldiers would scatter as soon as he lifted it. The iPhone kept them at ease and produced the results he was after. I don’t think much noise would have been made had he done this with an above mentioned “toy” camera. Why does it matter that it’s an iPhone?

On the adoption of the Chinese albino boys, the judges only complaint was that there was no interaction with the public. I’m not sure the photographer can be held responsible for the family deciding to home school these boys. Plus there was one photo at summer camp. Perhaps that didn’t show enough public.

The story that won, the aftermath of a stray bullet that hit a child, wasn’t really discussed much. Either positively or negatively. It was just kind of nominated for first and then voted on. It is Barbara Davidson’s work for The Los Angeles Times, I believe (names still haven’t been posted for all the categories). Her work was solid, and highly awarded, throughout the contest.


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February 2011
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