World Press Photo of the Year Winners - 2008
February 14, 2009 1:44 PM   Subscribe

World Press Photo of the Year winners.

About the winning shot by Anthony Suau for Time Magazine, World Press Photo Jury Chair MaryAnne Golon remarked, it was the feeling of the jury that the image represented the "single most important issue in the world today, which is the slow collapse of the economies worldwide... At first you think it's a war image, and then you realize it's a different kind of war. It's an economic war."
posted by terranova (53 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Already? It's only February!

*sees title*

Oh.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:46 PM on February 14, 2009


I'm trying to come up with a reason why a sheriff would need to clear a house, gun drawn, after a foreclosure. And this is coming from someone who works with law enforcement and usually supports the things they do.
posted by DMan at 2:11 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The guns and bailouts are aimed at the wrong people is all.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:12 PM on February 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wonder what the story was with the five people lying in a bed together.
posted by marble at 2:14 PM on February 14, 2009


Unimpressed. But I am unsophisticated.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:19 PM on February 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


World Press Photo Winner Struggling to Find Work
posted by bradbane at 2:20 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the owner of the property "walked away" as they say, and it had been abandoned for months before the bank finally foreclosed. The drawn gun is for meth-addled squatters no doubt. Probably unnecessary.

Many of these photos are excellent, but the one of the leopard is truly amazing. I can't exactly tell why.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 2:23 PM on February 14, 2009


On a more positive note, I am pretty impressed with most of the pictures. As an amateur photographer, the composition in a lot of those is pretty impressive. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time, but it really does take the right person to capture a shot that evokes the intended feelings. And most of them leave me wanting to know more about the story. I think my favorite might be the one of the coast guard ship looking out at the refugee boat--I wonder how the photog got the distant boat to be as well-lit as it is.
posted by DMan at 2:26 PM on February 14, 2009


This is probably a much better site for viewing the winners, including others not mentioned in the OP link.

I wonder what the story was with the five people lying in a bed together.

It would seem the photograph you're interested in is a working-class family from Troy in the state of New York.
posted by Sova at 2:28 PM on February 14, 2009


I knew someone who visited Auschwitz. Since he was raised Conservative, I assumed he must have been drawn there by a special sense of pilgrimage. But when I asked him if the experience had given him whatever he'd been hoping for, he couldn't seem to make sense of the question. As best I could tell, he just kinda went. This made no sense to me.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:30 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some duds in there; lots of awesome, and yay for Callie Shell! (Why she was't named official photog puzzles me to no end...)
posted by progosk at 2:59 PM on February 14, 2009


Joe Beese, I was going to link to that photo -- that disturbed me the most out of all of them, even the ones with visible carnage, etc. The matching tracksuits, the matching cameras and pose with cameras up to the eye. It really illustrated the banality of, well, not evil, I suppose. I just don't know what kind of person would go to a concentration camp and take tourist photos, like it was nothing. Like they could as well have been at Carlsbad Caverns.
posted by sugarfish at 3:01 PM on February 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


If they made it to Buchenwald as well, they could buy a souvenir at the gift shop.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:05 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really? You can't think of any reason why someone would want to visit a place possessing rich historical significance?

Well, maybe at least you could think of a few reasons why a tour group would prefer it's members to wear matching outfits.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:29 PM on February 14, 2009


Perhaps, brocktoon, you missed the second half of my sentence: take tourist photos, like it was nothing.

I'd guess I'm not the only person who found some sort of ironic meaning in the picture, seeing as it's on this list in the first place.
posted by sugarfish at 3:37 PM on February 14, 2009


I liked most of them, for varying reasons. There's definitely a surfeit of sadness in this year's batch.
posted by jamstigator at 3:54 PM on February 14, 2009


My ex-boss was the son of a concentration camp survivor. She went back some years ago and took lots of pictures so she could bring them back to show her grandchildren the places she'd been telling them stories about.

I guess that was pretty fuckin' uncouth of her, huh?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:03 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


As I was looking through these, I figured they must have been announced a while back; I had already seen more than half of them somewhere before. Then I realized that a large number of them have showed up at The Big Picture (previously on MetaFilter).

I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to see photo of the year winners before they're announced (and at a decent resolution, at that), put The Big Picture in your RSS reader.
posted by whatnotever at 4:15 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This one made me uncomfortably aware of the fact that screen actors who are holding a loved one who has just been killed in a senseless act of violence are probably not over-acting.

I have always made myself believe that they are. I don't think I can lie to myself about that anymore.

That picture did what it should do.
posted by nosila at 4:16 PM on February 14, 2009



Perhaps, brocktoon, you missed the second half of my sentence: take tourist photos, like it was nothing.

I'd guess I'm not the only person who found some sort of ironic meaning in the picture, seeing as it's on this list in the first place.


Meant to add this: you can't see their faces. Chances are, it wasn't nothing to the tracksuit duo. (Though I can't see their faces either.)
posted by nosila at 4:17 PM on February 14, 2009


This is kind of a muddled argument, I think; I'm taking Joe Beese to be blinking a bit not at the idea of going and taking photos of but of going and taking photos as if one were strolling through Disneyworld. There is something a little bit jarring about straight-up blase tourism in a place like that—it's not like you need a direct personal connection to the place or to be on some sort of spirit quest to go and take photos or whatever, but it's weird when it becomes just some line item on a vacationer's itinerary.

"Should we go to the Toothpick Museum today, or the concentration camp? I hear the camp is nice this time of year, maybe that..."

I visited the camp at Dachau a few years back when I was in Munich for Oktoberfest. It was a pretty ugly day, cold and windy and trying to rain off and on, and the crowd was mostly somber folks making their way slowly around the site and through the museum inside, but there was also a rowdy group of high school students. That was weird in its own way, but at the same time there was something gratifying about seeing that kind of nutty, youthful vitality bouncing around like an antidote to the history of the place.
posted by cortex at 4:20 PM on February 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well put, cortex. Though I presume (and hope) you meant "antidote."
posted by joe lisboa at 4:22 PM on February 14, 2009


Holy shit, I totally misread your comment, sir. Thought you said "anecdote." Weirdness. Ignore and move on.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:22 PM on February 14, 2009


I totally abused my administrative powers to fix that, hoping I was fast enough not to be noticed. Damn and blast; my revisionism is revealed.
posted by cortex at 4:24 PM on February 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry for the accidental call-out of your superpowers, then, sir. But thank you a thousand times over for assuring me I haven't lost my mind. Yet.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:27 PM on February 14, 2009


Metafilter: my revisionism is revealed
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 4:49 PM on February 14, 2009


I love the picture of the family in bed. Mom and pop there look like they've always earned their bread by the sweat of their brow, but the photo reveals a great tenderness.
posted by Mister_A at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2009


I visited the camp at Dachau about 30 years ago: despite having 2 SLRs and 20 rolls of film, I didn't take a single photo, because it just seemed *wrong* to do so to my sensibilities at the time. Today, I'd take the photographs. I'm not sure what that says about me.
posted by pjern at 4:54 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can see all the winning photographs in context at the World Press Photo website. Some of the shots, like the one of the family sleeping, are part of larger photo-essays and make more sense in context.
posted by embrangled at 4:56 PM on February 14, 2009


cortex: " I'm taking Joe Beese to be blinking a bit not at the idea of going and taking photos of but of going and taking photos as if one were strolling through Disneyworld."

Not to get all Sontag or anything, but I question whether it's possible for a tourist to take pictures at a death camp without "Disney-fying" the experience to some irreducible and objectionable extent - whether they're dressed in a matching tracksuit or not.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:07 PM on February 14, 2009


So, cortex--when the new comment error fixing pony arrives for the rest of us, can we call it "Anti-dope"?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:10 PM on February 14, 2009


Wow I found the kenyan photo (number five) really confusing. I thought it was a sporting event until I scrolled down.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:20 PM on February 14, 2009


w-g p,

After the whole Alex Rodriguez mess, MeFi is finally implementing an anti-doping policy. I know for sure that some of the prolific posters on the site are using.
posted by lukemeister at 5:45 PM on February 14, 2009


That portrait of Dennis Hopper just looked so fucking stupid in the middle of all those great photos. Sorry, but that just made me angry for some reason.
posted by orme at 5:45 PM on February 14, 2009


That stomach on the right is not really totally flat.
posted by longsleeves at 5:48 PM on February 14, 2009


This is a Nesting Doll phenomenon: a professional photographer at an arguably sacred crime scene decides whether or not to photograph amateur photographers at the arguably sacred crime scene (who may silently ponder this same question). He does. They do. I'd wager that professional photographers must make this same decision (to shoot or not to shoot) thousands of times in their careers when they face death, destruction, brutality, and naked human wretchedness. They shoot to show us. Amateurs shoot to remember.

When one looks very closely at the photo, one can imagine it in many ways:
the tourists, in blood red, appear to be saluting reverentially in tandem. And is the older man a survivor?
Or is the photo more ominous -- the tourists, in gaudy red quasi-military outfits, stand in an offensive "shooting position"; in this set-up, the camp once again is overpowered by uniformed individuals who shoot.
Lastly, the photo can merely suggest time passage: a vibrant present clashes with a very somber past.

What was photographer Roger Cremers trying to achieve? Visit his online portfolio, where he has included a study of tourist behaviors at concentration camps.
posted by terranova at 5:58 PM on February 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


sugarfish: "Joe Beese, I was going to link to that photo -- that disturbed me the most out of all of them, even the ones with visible carnage, etc. The matching tracksuits, the matching cameras and pose with cameras up to the eye. It really illustrated the banality of, well, not evil, I suppose. I just don't know what kind of person would go to a concentration camp and take tourist photos, like it was nothing. Like they could as well have been at Carlsbad Caverns."

How can you tell that they're taking "tourist photos"? What makes them uncouth and Roger Cremers worthy of acclaim?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:58 PM on February 14, 2009


I'm somewhat baffled by the criticism of the tracksuited amateur photographers at Auschwitz. First of all, it strikes me as rather elitist; I suspect that if they were dressed in tasteful, dark colors they wouldn't receive so much derision. It smacks a bit of "who let the riff-raff in to take pictures at this hallowed site?"

Second, its worth remembering that the dividing line between a scene of incomprehensible human tragedy and a mere "tourist" site is - for better or worse - rather tenuous. 50,000 soldiers were killed or injured at Gettysburg; it's now a national park. Half a million people and millions of animals died in gladiatorial combat at the Roman Colosseum; it's now one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world. Before passing judgment on the Auschwitz tourists, think a few moments about how many photos you've taken in places that are famous for tragic reasons.
posted by googly at 7:21 PM on February 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


First, I didn't use the word uncouth. I said the photo disturbed me, which last I checked was a perfectly valid reaction to a piece of artwork. You're right, I don't know they're taking tourist photos. In absence of any other information, I have to guess the photographer's intent. Call me a cynic, though -- if they were concentration camp survivors, I'd think the caption would say so, since that would make a big difference in viewers' perception of the image. Maybe I'm wrong.

Perhaps I should have used Cortex's example of Disneyland rather than Carlsbad Caverns, which isn't necessarily a universal touchstone for tourism. I'm coming at this from the perspective of a (very) amateur photographer, who has caught herself more than once with a camera in front of her face instead of actually experiencing something, which certainly colors my reaction.

Also, I can't believe that I have to make clear that of course I don't think it's inappropriate if a camp survivor takes photos. I just think historical tourism can be creepy. Which, you know, is my prerogative.

On preview, for God's sake. My criticism of the tracksuits has nothing to do with class. The very fact that the tracksuits are matching adds to the disturbing tenor of the photo, for me.
posted by sugarfish at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2009


But, but ... they're wearing track suits which means they're likely German. So it's poignant. Or something.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2009


see also the infinitely lamer wordpress photo of the day.
posted by yonation at 7:49 PM on February 14, 2009


What was photographer Roger Cremers trying to achieve? Visit his online portfolio, where he has included a study of tourist behaviors at concentration camps.

Thanks for that - it's a provocative photo-essay. I'd say the judges missed the boat by not using this one. But while I'm sure my first impulse would be to cringe if I ever saw these folks at a former camp, I still think it's way too easy to take their behavior as insulting without knowing more about the people and what was happening. For all we know they just got done helping one of their group through a cathartic emotional breakdown and are sharing a moment of well-earned camaraderie. *shrug* Could happen.

Being shocked that people act relatively "normally" at some points during a visit to a concentration camp is kinda juvenile. We don't have a clue what's really going on here, or even here. It's more than a bit unfair to judge the people by those tiny captured moments, and I like to think raising that question was one of the photographer's intentions.
posted by mediareport at 8:47 PM on February 14, 2009


Oh, and this. Great shot.
posted by mediareport at 8:49 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


So surreal to see 16th century warfare waged in the 21st century while dressed in Enyce and RocaWear uniforms.
posted by netbros at 8:56 PM on February 14, 2009


So, this is the first time you've been challenged about a statement you've made on the internet? Please, don't sound so shocked, it's bad drama.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:21 PM on February 14, 2009


> This one made me uncomfortably aware of the fact that screen actors who are holding a loved one who has just been killed in a senseless act of violence are probably not over-acting.

Yeah, that one made me pause. I'm still thinking about it.
posted by archagon at 9:46 PM on February 14, 2009


Displaying all the top photos of the year with such abbreviated back-story strips out the context of the moment. Without the story, they feel like a Best Of gallery, fit for quick digestion. The photos were beautiful and impressive, but incomplete by themselves. If the article about the first photo (police with weapon drawn in a disheveled foreclosed house) even had a comment that the couple who owned the house no longer lived there, and weapon was noted as missing because a holster was found empty, there would be no discussion of unjust police actions. But that would slow the viewer down, and possibly ruin some of the shocking juxtaposition that makes the initial viewing so potent.

As for visiting monuments to war, what sort of actions are suitable? All shows of sorrow and remorse? Some joy or relief that the event is now passed? No one can find interest in small things?
posted by filthy light thief at 9:51 PM on February 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Definitely don't miss the winners gallery embrangled linked to at the main World Press Photo site. You'll notice that some of the photos that the Telegraph featured to aren't the first-place winners (the Dennis Hopper portrait, and the office guy with the coffee cup, for example), and, as mentioned, you can also view the accompanying photos when the winner was part of a photo essay.
posted by taz at 1:37 AM on February 15, 2009


This one impressed me, but I wanted more context, so I tracked down the photographers website. I'm glad I did. Brenda Kenneally's site has one of the most powerful expositions of systemic poverty and drug abuse I've ever seen. Highly recommended.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:37 PM on February 15, 2009


In my experience, personal reactions to Auschwitz vary widely. It's a short day trip from Krakow, so it's a logistically easy visit for a lot of tourists/travelers and a lot take advantage of that.

I went by myself. I knew some other people going that day, but I knew that I'd want to be alone. I didn't talk to anyone at all while I was there. I don't think I spoke to anyone that evening after I got home, either. I wanted to retreat into myself, to process everything I was seeing, everything I was feeling. It was a hot summer day, and yet I wanted to cover every inch of my body, especially my head.

It was interesting, too, to see the reactions of others. Most people were there in groups - families, tour groups, groups of backpackers. Some families were walking in silence, not looking at each other. Others were reading the explanatory placards to each other in similar tones to as if they'd been in the Battle Creek Kellogg's Museum. "Oh, yes, pounds and pounds of human hair, isn't that nice." The group I especially remember was a tour group of Israeli high school students. They had Israeli flags on poles that they were waving in the air, singing. They were running around the grounds, laughing, making out on the steps of the barracks buildings.

The thing is, all of this seemed okay. What should a normal person's reaction to Auschwitz be? How does one react to piles of kids' shoes, knowing that the kids who wore them were killed en masse? How should one react to the walls of photos of people taken not that long ago, who were all murdered on that ground?

It's difficult to guess what's going on in someone's head as they're processing something like that. It's difficult to understand why they do what they do. Are they making small talk to allow social interaction to flow around them, giving them internal space to process what they're feeling? Is it overwhelming for them, and they need to create distraction? Do they want the emotional distance from the experience that is granted by a camera?

All this said, the photo of the tourists at Auschwitz was not my favorite of the group. I'm so glad that someone has made a photo essay of people's reactions to the site, it's a really interesting theme to explore, but this photo didn't capture anything special for me. Many of the photographs in this collection made me hurt, or gasp. Many allow you to experience, for a brief moment, a slice of someone else's reality. This one made me 'meh'. If I could have chosen one from his excellent online portfolio that terranova linked above, I would have chosen this for the facial expressions, or this, which presents a total contrast from the photos we are used to seeing of people arriving at Auschwitz with suitcases.
posted by mosessis at 2:17 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, could someone provide some more context for the photo from Kenya? Is there perhaps a way to see the original from a story it accompanied? I still don't really understand what's happening in that scene.
posted by mosessis at 2:24 PM on February 15, 2009


Found the Kenya photo in a set of others, along with an article, on Time.
posted by mosessis at 2:41 PM on February 15, 2009


Not completely sure if they're related, but I believe this Metafilter is what the Kenya tribal warfare picture is about.
posted by exhilaration at 3:17 PM on February 16, 2009


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