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November 2008

A pick of some of the world’s best young photographic talent was in Amsterdam from 8 to 13 November for World Press Photo’s 15th annual Joop Swart Masterclass. Named after a former chairman of the foundation, the Masterclass presents up-and-coming photojournalists with a unique opportunity to tackle gritty problems facing the profession, and to focus on their own work and personal development whilst getting expert feedback from photographic 'masters'.

Twelve finalists, selected from 132 nominees worldwide, came face-to-face with six highly respected and experienced photographic industry practitioners for a series of presentations, discussions and individual sessions over the six days of the event.

This year’s finalists were Peter van Agtmael (Netherlands/USA), Martina Bacigalupo (Italy), Massimo Berruti (Italy), Andrew Biraj (Bangladesh), Michael Christopher Brown (USA), Agnès Dherbeys (France), Iñaki Domingo (Spain), Philipp Ebeling (Germany), Clémence De Limburg (Belgium), David Magnusson (Sweden), Jehad Nga (Libya/USA), and James Pomerantz (USA/UK).

© Falk Eumann

Canon Ambassador Ziv Koren, foreground, joins in the debate during the recent Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam.

The six ‘masters’ brought a range of skills to the table. They were Ziv Koren (Israel, award-winning photojournalist and Canon Ambassador), Chris Boot (UK, publisher and editor), Jon Jones (UK, deputy picture editor of The Times), Maggie Steber (USA, photojournalist and picture editor) Barbara Stauss (Switzerland, picture editor of CPN and Mare magazines), and Hugh Pinney (UK, director of photography for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Getty Images).

In the months leading up to the class, each participant prepared a photo essay on the theme ‘Balance’. These essays formed the core of intensive discussions during the week, and an edit of each photographer’s photos has been published in the new World Press Photo book ‘Balance’. The book is for sale, and a gallery of the Balance photographs they shot can be viewed online by clicking here.

“Balance proved to be an interesting and prophetic theme,” said Maggie Steber at a public lecture that rounded up the week’s activities. “The participants were all looking for some balance in their lives.” In addition to discussing wider issues, such as the influence of multimedia on photojournalism and the need to stand out in a highly competitive market, participants had the chance to closely examine the direction of their own careers.

“It’s been one of the defining moments of my life,” exclaimed Agnès Dherbeys afterwards. “A constructive destruction of my conviction!”