Friday, 14 November 2008

World Press Photo 08 @CCCB, Barcelona

©Tim Hetherington

The only international event of its kind, the winners of the annual World Press Photo Contest, which celebrates the best in press photography from all around the world, are now on display at the CCCB. Open to all professional photographers, the competition awards first, second and third prizes in ten themed categories for pictures stories and single images, as well as the prestigious overall prize for the World Press Photo of the Year.

The top prize for 2008, which is given to the single photograph regarded as encapsulating an event, situation or issue of journalistic significance, went to British photographer, Tim Hetherington for his beautiful yet haunting image of a US soldier resting on the embankment of a bunker in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. The valley was the epicentre of the US fight against militant Islam in Afghanistan, and scene of some of the deadliest combat in the region. Hetherington´s photograph bears witness to the intense emotional and psychological pressure that this man was under; its slightly painterly look manages to seduce the eye while the distinctly humanitarian focus ensures that its message remains clear and relevant.

Photographs can always be read as signifying something more than what appears in the frame and as jury chairman Nick Knight asserts, “The image shows the exhaustion of a man-and the exhaustion of a nation.” He adds that, “We are all connected to this. It´s a picture of a man at the end of a line.” Judging and awarding photography as well as art for that matter will forever be a contentious issue though; How can 12 people possibly reach a consensus? And what criteria can they use to just nominate one image? Nevertheless, despite the meaningless idea of a winner, Tim Hetherington´s image challenges preconceptions of war photography and World Press Photo continues to not only reflect and analyze our world but also the world of images and the place where these two worlds come together.

World Press Photo 08
18th November-14th December