Brutality counts

José Víc­tor Sala­zar Bal­za (28) cat­ches fire amid vio­lent clas­hes with riot poli­ce during a pro­test against Pre­si­dent Nicolás Madu­ro, in Cara­cas, Vene­zue­la. Pho­to by Ronal­do Sche­midt

So, we have the win­ners of the 61st World Press Pho­to Con­test. They were sel­ec­ted from 73,044 images taken by 4,548 pho­to­graph­ers from 125 dif­fe­rent count­ries.

First – none of the pho­tos is bad or sil­ly, art­sy-fart­sy or pre­ten­tious, of cour­se. Some are out­stan­ding. Like the winner’s pho­tos I’d say. Not least becau­se of the detail on the wall.

And yet all in all I am not all that hap­py with the sel­ec­tion. Becau­se, on a second thought: Once again the jury fell for the dra­ma­tic visu­al effect, the coar­se stro­ke – fire, blood, vio­lence and dead bodies, peo­p­le being burnt, stab­bed, shot, hacked to death, run over by a truck…

I know – the world is in such a bad shape. The­re is no shorta­ge of bru­ta­li­ty and corp­ses. And each of the­se dra­stic pho­tos gets me. Some more than others. And I have seen A LOT of the­se in my many years as desk edi­tor and with my own eyes.

But I fear that the gene­ral click­bai­ting that we have seen for years now in online-media in gene­ral is also influen­cing jour­na­li­stic pho­to­gra­phy more and more. In a pro­ba­b­ly not so good way. That is my con­cern.

Per­so­nal­ly I’d like it a litt­le more subt­le, with an extra lay­er of thought. No need for the base­ball bat all the time.

And the­re are seve­ral of tho­se slight­ly dif­fe­rent pho­tos in that 2018 con­test.

It is just that they did not win. Or in the cate­go­ries that usual­ly get less atten­ti­on.

First row: Burnt. Over­run. Shot. Second row: Shot. Over­run. Burnt.

Per­haps part of the pro­blem is that we expe­ri­ence a tsu­na­mi of images every sin­gle day in the so cal­led social media. Unless we refu­se to and lea­ve tho­se rele­van­ce-simu­la­tors – like I did months ago.

Thus it might be nor­mal that tho­se who seek atten­ti­on – in times whe­re not­hing gets atten­ti­on unless it is extre­me – use the most dra­stic mate­ri­al they can find. And of cour­se a good deal of such mate­ri­al is sent to con­tests as well.

From that point of view the choices for the World Press Pho­to Con­test are not­hing but a sym­ptom for a seve­re visu­al and social defor­ma­ti­on in a broa­der sen­se.

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