The root canal

25 02 2008

Don’t take me wrong. I am a big fan of the Pictures of the Year International. They always have a great jury, a great taste and amazing photographers that, for the most part, I had never heard of before. Well, one cannot read all the newspaper of America everyday.

It is a great vehicle for local photographers to be known worldwide but : Their website is the worst I have ever seen. It looks like it was created by a 14 year as a school project on HTML . It is soooooooo painful to navigate and understand what you are looking at, it worse than a root canal.

For example, I am looking at the Second Place in Science/ Natural History Story . A great story on Whale hunting in Indonesia. A job extremely well done, with a the right combination of the grabbing images and informative one. Hardly any need for caption. Twelve that sums it up perfectly. I look for the photographer’s name. None. no where.

story here

I change browser thinking maybe it my fault. Still nothing. I look at other prize recipient. Nothing. No photographers name . Aaaaargh. Not only it took me two hours to navigate but I didn’t even found what I was looking for.

Can someone please help these guys design a site ? Anyone ?

dark, blurry, slightly incomprehensible and borderline boring

8 02 2008

The World Press awards has revealed its winners for 2008. As expected, the picture of Britney Spears having her head shaved off won for the best image of Arts and entertainment. Or did not. Once again, The World Press has shown its complete disrespect for the world of news in favor of an overly intellectualized vision of the world. A bit as if the judges, once gathered in a room, behind closed doors, had said: “lets kill photojournalism a little bit more this year”

The photojournalism intelligentsia has voted. A closed group of overly self adoring and painfully egocentric intellectuals whose vision of a news photography is closer to the likes of ICP than the masses. They look for the creative touch, the Holga/lensbaby effect, the “je ne sais quoi” that makes a news photograph a work of art. They over think photography to an excess and seem to look for the Picasso rather than the human touch. They do not believe that an news image can be good, if doesn’t carry the touch of a creative artifact.

This years big winner is a blurry image of a tired soldier. Although not taken in a combat situation, and probably because of low light, it is slightly blurry. I don’t care for such poorly taken image. What is so wrong about reality that it has to be altered and given the highest prize in photojournalism ?

Sadly enough, we see the same intelligentsia controlling most of the major prizes worldwide and spitting out the same type of winners. These judges are all friends with each other and spend the rest of the year over analyzing images as if they where reading a Kafka novel. It has to be dark, blurry, slightly incomprehensible and borderline boring.

No wonder photojournalism is dying. Once again, the sports images of this year seem to be the real winners. Amazing images of incredible situation. The rest is dark, so dark. Not just dark subjects, but simply slightly underexposed or taken with low light. The less you see, the more you can imagine. The image is good for what is not there, so you can fill in the blanks yourself. Even the Nature category is full of blood and sadness because a happy image, according to these judges, cannot be a good image.

Lets no forget that politics, for example, has no place in the World Press. We marvel at the John F Kennedy images in the Oval office yet there is not one image of world leaders in action. Between the French election last year, the changing of guards in England and the US election, you cannot tell me there was no great images.

It is a little bit as if, outside of Africa ( Kenya, mostly), Afghanistan and Iraq, the rest of the world stood still. Or, maybe it was not favorable for a nice moody b&w panoramic Holga image. You can almost hear the judges discuss the lightness of being, quoting “The human condition”, while sipping their warm cappuccinos.” This image is so Nietzscheen, isn’t it?”

Certainly not a good year for the World Press. Even more, because, once again, they refused to acknowledge multimedia, one of the most powerful tool of today’s photojournalism. Or, in a socially driven internet, they do not have a people’s choice, where image consumers could vote.

No, they prefer to remain in photojournalism Medieval ages, taking comfort in congratulating themselves for picking the least interesting images possible as to prove there is more to photojournalism than the reporting of the news. If anything, this, and other awards of it kind, are killing photojournalism. They create the false impression that this is the standard to achieve.

If you have time to waste and have really nothing else to do, here are the winners :

World Press

PS: At least I was right about John Moore’s images who, by the way, truly deserved this prize.

Google hates Photography

13 12 2007

Do no evil, they said. Google is one of the worst tool for photography ever to appear on the internet.

Think about it. It makes a mockery of IPTC standards by completely ignoring it . Instead of searching within the carefully inputed metatags of images, Google images only displays image results based on the text and links surrounding an image. It ignores images that have been correctly keyworded, allowing for a better introduction of an effective Orphan legislation. These thumbnails you see, generated by Google, not only rip all metadata but also destroys the original file name of the photograph, creating an orphan duplicate. Instead of being a catalyst for even better informed images, it does quite the opposite by showing that it is more than ok to ignore relevant information.

With this process, it has pushed to the surface some of the worst images I have personally seen. Since there is no quality control, we suddenly see photography at its worst, with the top images challenging each other for the most horrible composition to the most appealing quality. It is as if someone had pushed the dirt out of the bottom of a lake to make it reach the surface.

It has helped the concept of stealing. With no enforcement of copyright information, and being an unofficial infringer itself, Google perpetuates the idea that images are for free and can be used with no regards to copyrights. It literally grabs images from other sites, properly licensed or not and displays as is, with no regards to where and how to contact its owner.

It doesn’t even search the thousand of professional image database worldwide from photo agencies or photographers, completely ignoring the best of the best. Search for Corbis, Getty Images or any photo agency and you see for yourself. For an untrained individual, it seems that this is it, the whole offering of image on a particular subject.

It is not an agent of discovery but an agent of banality. Since it ranks images the same way it ranks website, by looking at how many time an image has been linked too, thus seen, it bubbles the images most used, not the best. For someone looking to find some creative novelty, there is no inspiration. Quality, in Google engine eyes, is a factor of longevity and popularity. Quite the opposite of what a good photo editor should look for.

Finally, a photograph, for Google, is the same as graphics, logo or anything saved as a jpeg. A 5 year old drawing could easily compete with great photography. Or some banner. Terrifying.

The scariest part is that most photo editors will admit they use Google image to find images. It pushes photo professional to twist and bend their websites to be Google friendly while not being so much people friendly. It makes our industry’s effort to have intelligent search engines producing the strongest relevancy almost meaningless. And it spits in the face of creative photographers by putting their work next to unqualified snappers.

Although there is no law against misrepresenting an art or profession, Google should however be summoned to question its usefulness and purpose. Who and what really benefits from the Google Image search. Because it is certainly not the photo industry.

A big unrelated PS : Brian Storm and Jessica Dimmock have created one of the strongest multimedia yet. When two great talent collide. Not easy to watch but impossible to ever forget . see it here