Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images
Is this OK?
Yes, I know it's not much of a picture, but is it OK?
After this gold medal match I positioned myself near the exit where the two teams would pass each other. Hoping for the happy athlete next to the sad athlete picture, which is an example of the deep thinking that I occasionally bring to my work.
I should have known better. Directly on my back was a hoard of twenty or so Dutch photographers yelling and screaming for the women to give them something like this image instead (who the heck brings a strobe to the Olympics anyways?).
To answer my own question, pictures like this are not OK. These women would not have done this without the photographers' requests. The sad part, or one of them, is that there's a good chance something better would have happened without the photographers setting this image up.
So, why would a photographer do this, let alone a whole mob's worth? They have to have some motivation to do so. I doubt many of them, coming from the land of the World Press Foundation thinks an image like this is any good.
They do this because they get rewarded for making these types of images. Just like Klavs Bo Christensen got rewarded for photoshopping some sizzle into his not so good images, photographers make the "kiss the medal" shot because that's how they keep their jobs.
They've been trained to do so by the people that pay them.
The people that pay them, the editors for whom they work, want them to make pictures like this, because that's what they are going to publish.
Another sad part, is it doesn't take long before these photographers stop even trying to make good pictures and just concentrate on the crap their editors want.
Personally, I blame them and their editors, and of course the publishers that pay them all.
Most of the publications you pick-up during the Olympics, are going to be printing a lot of stuff like this...
Kenneth Jarecke, Contact Press Images
Yeah, this is a moment that really needed to be captured and shared with the world. Just look at the emotion, the passion!
Why would anyone bother with buying or even looking at a publication filled with images like this?
I'll say it again, inferior content is the main thing killing your publication. I know it's a lot easier. I know it's what your bosses want (at every level all the way to the top), but it is killing you.
Now that I've mentioned World Press, I've got to talk about a couple of more things.
I consider World Press Photo the premier contest for the entire world. I think they set the standards that many of us follow and are at the forefront of training and education of photojournalistic standards around the world.
So why is this OK?
We can't use the W. Eugene Smith excuse anymore. Gene Smith (and others) were inventing a new language. A lot of the "grammatical" rules were not yet set. At this point, I think it's been established that "hand of god" burning is not OK. I mean, that Mongolian kid looks like he and his pony's been hanging around Chernobyl.
The wrestling story looks better suited to a Timex ad more than anything else.
Are these photographers being dishonest. No, not at all in my opinion. They aren't trying to deceive, they're trying to make interesting pictures. The sad part is (yes everything seems to be sad today), they didn't need to do any of this. The images were already strong, but they weakened them. They pretty near ruined them.
Photography and specifically photojournalism is a language. When you de-saturate, or burn, or vignette, too much (and this is the key, all of these are legitimate tools up to a point), you've destroyed the dialog with the viewer. You've twisted the common lexicon so much that it no longer has any meaning.
These photographers have been rewarded for destroying the language that we all depend on (as photographers).
Once again, these images didn't need or deserve this treatment. They were strong enough without the manipulation.
We got through the 1970's era of heavy burning, but that was nothing compared to the millions of interpretations available to photographers today.
These digital age problems started at two (sometimes) great magazines, with two somewhat legendary DOP's.
First a pyramid was moved to make a horizontal image work on the cover of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. Then two actors that couldn't be in the same place at the same time were photoshopped together for the cover of NEWSWEEK.
Both of these incidents happened ages ago. I think I was still in college (and I wasn't there too long) when the pyramids were moved. Yet somehow, we still haven't grown out of this. In fact, it is standard practice to give the photoshop head-pop to any cover image on any magazine anywhere. Even politicians, the guys that spend millions of dollars to manipulate their images for us.
How is that right?
The end result is that our (photographic) language is pretty much destroyed at this point.
I spent an hour this morning trying to determine if another World Press winner was overly shopped... good news, it wasn't! But still, I was suspicious.
When it comes to photography, a perfect image... isn't.
It's the flaws, the capturing of reality that make a picture great. No, I'm not saying you have to act like you're recording a crime scene, and I'm not saying you shouldn't decide how to interpret the color of a scene, or the contrast, or even what needs to be burned down a bit, but I am saying you've got to know when you've crossed the line.
When you cross that line, you've destroyed your ability to communicate with your audience. That's the bottom line. If you can't show people what you've seen in a truthful way, if you don't have that credibility, why pick up a camera in the first place?
None of us are going to be impressed with your photoshop skills.
Editors deserve much of the blame of course. They set the agenda through who they assign and reward. Ultimately photographers are (in most cases) just trying to please them.
A spot of good news here...
Peter Lindbergh for French Elle
The best magazine cover I've seen in a very long time.