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World Press Photo Awards Days 2015: setting the standard

World Press Photo Awards Days 2015: setting the standard

© Bas de Meijer/Hollandse Hoogte for
World Press Photo

April 2015

Celebrating its 60th year in 2015, the World Press Photo Awards Days were held at the Compagnietheater in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from 24-25 April 2015. CPN Editor David Corfield reports on two days of awards, discussion and debate...

Opening the Awards Days and the first of the round table discussions, on Current Industry Standards in Post-Processing, World Press Photo Managing Director Lars Boering was joined by Thomas Borberg (photo editor in chief, Politiken), Alessia Glaviano (senior photo editor, Vogue Italia and L'Uomo Vogue), Santiago Lyon (vice president and director of photography, The Associated Press) and award-winning photojournalist Pete Muller. The session was curated by Francis Hodgson, professor in the culture of photography at Brighton University and photography critic of the Financial Times.

© David Corfield

World Press Photo Managing Director, Lars Boering, holds up a copy of the report ‘The Integrity of the Image’, written by David Campbell, at the World Press Photo Awards Days in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 24 April 2015.

Awards and accolades

The main focus of this year’s Awards Days were the presentations given in the Compagnietheater by various Award winners. A wide variety of projects were shown and discussed, showing the diversity and breadth of the World Press Photo Contest.

Winner of the Tim Hetherington Grant in 2013, Frenchman Olivier Jobard returned to present his project ‘Dream of a Rain of Perfume’ to much acclaim, citing the grant for its invaluable financial help which enabled him to go deep undercover for long periods of time with the subjects – migrant workers from Afghanistan looking for a new life in Europe. So in-depth was Jobard’s project that he disguised himself as an Afghan to avoid detection as a journalist.

Third prizewinner in the Portraits (Stories) category was Italian photographer Paolo Verzone (Agence VU) for his portraits of young cadets in some of Europe’s most prestigious military academies. He raised a smile at the end of his presentation with the final portrait. After a series of compelling stills the last image started as a still and became a film. His subjects in the final image – cadets of the Koninklijke Militaire Academie (Royal Military Academy), Breda, the Netherlands – held still for the moment, before suddenly breaking pose and walking away. A murmur of laughter and applause signalled the subtle success of this stills-to-film multimedia moment…

Multimedia was very much in evidence during the Awards Days. Winners of this year’s World Press Photo Multimedia Contest Interactive Documentary Award were Topaz Adizes (Director/Writer) and Nathan Phillips (Creative Director/Writer) from the USA, with their web-documentary called ‘{The And}’. Commenting on the winning piece, Multimedia Contest jury chair Marianne Lévy-Leblond (Head of Web Productions and Transmedia Projects, ARTE France) said: “This production stands out because you get moved by it and it is made with tools you can only find on the net. ‘Scrolly-telling’ pieces have been very present the last couple of years. This winner is trying to find its own devices to tell its story.”

The multimedia duo showcased the documentary and demonstrated its interactive nature by asking members of the audience to stand up and take part, much to their amusement.

Final Sem Presser lecture

© Bas de Meijer/Hollandse Hoogte for World Press Photo

Anton Corbijn gave the Sem Presser lecture, held at the Compagnietheater, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on 24 April 2015.

The Sem Presser lecture, for many years a highpoint of the Awards Days, closed in 2015 and saw its final year out in great style. In a packed auditorium, world-renowned photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn relived his formative years in photography in the north of Holland and showcased some of his early images as well as his most iconic from around the world, demonstrating a career as one of the world’s finest portrait photographers specialising in musicians and celebrities.

A lover of traditional film photography, Corbijn declared his passion for Kodak’s venerable Tri-X black & white emulsion, praising it and crediting its unique style and tone for giving his images the look he has become famous for.

In 2011 Corbijn was awarded the highest Dutch cultural award, the ‘Prince Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prijs’, for his contribution and influence in the world of the arts. And this year is set to be a busy one for him, with several large museums celebrating his long career.

Joop Swart Masterclass participants announced

During the Awards Days, World Press Photo announced the names of the 12 young photographers who will participate in the 22nd annual Joop Swart Masterclass. The participating photographers will, under guidance of six industry experts, discuss all aspects of their work, as well as their role as photographers.

The chosen 12 photographers – nine men and three women of ten different nationalities – will join the 2015 Joop Swart Masterclass, to be held beginning of November in Amsterdam. They are: Eman Bedir Helal, (Egypt), István Bielik (Hungary), Alejandro Cegarra, (Venezuela), Victor Dragonetti (Brazil) Édouard Elias (France), Capucine Granier-Deferre (France), Noriko Hayashi (Japan), Arash Khamooshi (Iran), Evgeny Makarov (Germany), Guy Martin (United Kingdom), Wissam Nassar (Palestinian Territories) and Christian Werner (Germany).

In preparation for the masterclass meeting in November, the participants will prepare a themed photo essay, this year revolving around the theme of “Invisible”. The essays will be discussed with the experts and edited for an online publication made possible by Viewbook.

Canon Workshop a big success

Taking place over the two days was a special low-light workshop given by Canon Ambassador and top photojournalist Ziv Koren, Magdalena Herrera (director of photography, Geo, France) and Berend Janssens (Professional Imaging Service Consultant, Canon Netherlands).

© Bas de Meijer/Hollandse Hoogte for World Press Photo

Canon Ambassador Ziv Koren demonstrates the EOS 5D Mark III DSLR to students at the Canon low-light photography workshop at the World Press Photo Awards Days in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 24 April 2015.

The course consisted of two face-to-face meetings of two hours each, and an overnight assignment. On 24 April, the participants received an introduction to storytelling with the aim of producing a story idea and a work plan, as well as a (technical) presentation on low light photography. During the night of 24 April, the participants went on to produce a photo story and their photo edits were discussed and edited with the trainers in a second face-to-face meeting on 25 April.

Canon offered professional equipment on a loan basis, which included EOS 5D Mark III DSLRs and a choice of 24mm, 28mm or 35mm L-series lenses for the duration of the workshop. In addition, participants also gained access to the 2015 World Press Photo Awards Days.

Commenting on the workshop, Ziv Koren told CPN: “The EOS 5D Mark III is such an incredible camera and is capable of amazing images. I was pleased to offer my help by showing and encouraging the participants how to work in low- light conditions and how to use the camera to its maximum advantage.”

The Awards Ceremony: a time to celebrate and reflect

Concluding two full days of presentations, discussion and learning, the finale of the weekend took place at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in downtown Amsterdam. There, World Press Photo patron, HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, addressed the guests and said in his speech: “In the data deluge of today we need smart, sensitive and capable storytellers to provide perspective, context and nuance. The trained eye of professional photojournalists cannot be replaced by the mass of images of those taking snap shots.”

© Bas de Meijer/Hollandse Hoogte for World Press Photo

World Press Photo of the Year winner Mads Nissen delivers his speech, at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in downtown Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 25 April 2015.

Inviting the World Press Photo of the Year winner to the stage, Denmark’s Mads Nissen – a photographer for the Danish daily newspaper Politiken – received a standing ovation. Citing his mentor, the late Per Folkver (the newspaper’s former photo editor), Nissen said: “Per told me that a photographer should never try to please. The biggest risk for a photographer, he said, is when we are trying to please the audience. Instead we need to challenge. Challenge how we see each other, the world and ourselves.”

Sixty years of excellence

World Press Photo organised a well-managed programme of events in which attendees could learn, appreciate and gain professional insight and advice. The atmosphere during the Awards Days was one of optimism. As award-winning photojournalist Pete Muller (Prime for National Geographic/The Washington Post) concluded at the end of the Awards Ceremony: “This was, perhaps, one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far. An extraordinary few days at World Press Photo with some of the most talented, thoughtful and dynamic people in photography. I’m feeling so positive about the industry and all that lies ahead.”

  • World Press Photo receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and is sponsored worldwide by Canon.