Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images
Haiti doesn't have much to offer its own people, but it does have two important things that photographers can appreciate.
1) There's a constant stream of personal hardships happening there, that normally a would-be contest winner would have to travel all the way to Africa to capture.
2) They have an abundance of great light.
Which brings us to this image by Danish photographer Klavs Bo Christensen.
Klavs Bo Christensen
This is how Klavs interpreted his image (above).
Below is the original raw image.
Klavs Bo Christensen
Yes in my opinion Klavs went a little heavy on the shopping here, which is a big problem. Let's give him credit though. He didn't have to share his raw files, and he's gotten a worldwide beating for it in return.
If you read the story, you'll see the judges of the Danish Pictures of The Year contest requested the files (plus the files of two other photographers).
Originally, I decided to ignore this. Not because it didn't need to be talked about (it does), but because I felt that at a certain point it became an exercise in beating up one photographer.
I do believe it's an important responsibility of photography judges to call attention to and start debates in regard to journalistic standards and practices, but I was also a little concerned that there could have been some personal motives behind this. I'm not overly knowledgeable in the subtle political dealings of the Danish photojournalism scene, but I had the feeling there might have been some payback happening here.
It could be, that Klavs was getting a lot of work, that others weren't.
That said, this story keeps floating around and I think, OK, the truth is I've been provoked into commenting at this point.
So here are a few points that should be made;
1) Regardless of anything else, this isn't much of a photo to begin with. Like I said above, Haiti has plenty of good light and more than its fair share of strife. As a photographer, you need to look, see and then capture GREAT images. Klavs, from what I can see, didn't do any of these things. He never gave himself a chance to do great work.
There was no looking or seeing or experiencing anything, just grabbing a file as a starting point to be photoshopped later. This is a con job. Fancy colors and selective contrast to trick the viewer into thinking they're seeing something insightful.
2) The judges knew this image (and others) had problems. I'm not sure who is paying for Klavs' photo adventures, but why didn't they (see this was overly manipulated)? Somewhere there must be an editor that not only likes this kind of stuff, but pays for it to be made.
That seems like an even bigger problem to me, that there's a publication willing to reward a photographer for this kind of work.
It's not the internet that is killing editorial photography, but the lack of quality content. This is a prime example.
Evidently, Klavs isn't working in color anymore, just black and white. Which I guess means that Klavs is still working as a journalist, and neither he nor his editors have learned any lessons here.
It's not the color, or the hyper-color for that matter, it's the lack of content. The lack of seeing. Black and white is just the next trick for this pony and isn't going to fix the real problem. The willingness of publications and editors to ignore great photography (yes there's plenty still being made) for instantly forgettable garbage.
Sadly, I'm not sure there are too many editors left working today that can tell the difference.