Thu, 05/19/2011 - 18:57
At the 2011 Awards Ceremony in Amsterdam's Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands, World Press Photo's patron, gave the closing speech in which he remembered Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. Our patron also reflected on how fast the news moves on and that this why reportage is such an essential part of photojournalism.
Speech by HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands:
I wish it were 2008. I stood on this podium and handed the prize to an unusually talented, very modest and incredibly dedicated photojournalist. We talked about the risks of his work embedded with US troops in Afghanistan, his relentless drive, but also how the prize had made the soldier an icon for anti-war protesters, much to his dismay. I wish it were 2008 when we met again in Brussels, but it is 2011. Three years of turmoil passed and took its heavy toll. Tim Hetherington should have been here as a jury member of the multimedia contest, but he chose to follow his passion for documenting the news. He and Chris Hondros, and their many colleagues that are no longer with us, risked their lives to bring us the news every day, driven by their uncompromising search for documenting the truth. They shed light on the reality of our world with its violence and injustice. We owe it to them not to turn a blind eye on the truth that they disclosed.
2010 was a year of economic recovery. At least that is what I thought, until I joined one of the World Press Photo jury sessions. The thousand of images tell many different stories. 2010 was also a gruesome year marred with natural and manmade disaster. The pictures speak for themselves.
The jury did a great job in sifting through over 100,000 images. It is a photographic library of a year of human and natural exhilaration and catastrophes. Of events widely covered, like the earthquake in Haiti versus the barely covered earthquake in Tibet; captured in an image by Guang Niu, showing Tibetan monks preparing for the mass cremation of earthquake victims on a mountaintop in Yushu county.
The selection also brings to life old customs like the freestyle wrestling in Bolivia - now also for women (by Daniele Tamagni from Italy). And relatively new social phenomena such as social networks, pictures showing people re-enacting the self-portraits they took for social networking site MySpace. And Michael Wolf's reportage of incidents around the world seen through the lens Google Street View.
Four months into 2011, it strikes me that 2010 is already so long ago. The tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in Japan present images we have never seen before. Unexpected brave civil unrest in North Africa and the Arab world, challenging abuse of power and corruption, and harnessing the unimaginable role of the internet. But also the fierce attacks on journalists, and the resulting shutdown of important objective information sources, as testified by World Press Photo winners Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Adarrio. This shows once again how vulnerable you are and how dependent we are on your courage to capture and present the news.
Whereas 2011 came with a bang, 2010 has left us with big scars like the earthquakes in Haiti and the aftermaths of many of the events portrayed here today. It is typical how a few months later we already forgot, moving to the next event.
Just to take an example closer to home, the centre of l'Aquila in Italy is still a ghost town after the 2009 earthquake, but the news has moved on. Also, the city of New Orleans has demographically transformed dramatically in the years after Katrina, of which we hear close to nothing.
This is why reportage is such an essential part of photojournalism, yet budgets have been cut consistently over the last years. Whilst we are bombarded with global spot news, we seem to have less time for the aftermath and the deep societal impacts these events have had.
This year's winning picture brings back reportage to the front seat of headline news. It touches us as a metaphor for barbarism. In that, it is universal, while at the same time it is an expression of a deep cultural divide that has dominated our politics for the last decade.
In Dutch we say 'if you damage your nose, your whole presence is damaged'. These acts of barbarism have disfigured whole cultures. It is the great skill of the South African photographer to turn this victim into an assertive woman, looking at the world and challenging us. Not showing her other mutilations, not seeking sensationalism, not blowing up the story.
In this context I would also like to commend Bibi Aisha for her courage to accept participating in this picture shoot and allowing her portrait to be published. We often forget that capturing an image and exposing someone can have severe and often unforeseen personal consequences.
Portraits rarely win big photojournalism prizes. One should wonder why. As this image will stick with us, puzzling its viewers for many years. It connects the events we see in the news with the scars it leaves on people and societies and, over time, its meaning will undoubtedly change.
Allow me therefore to compliment the jury with its choice and congratulate Jodi Bieber as the winner of the 2010 World Press Photo of the Year. Ms Bieber, may I invite you to come to the stage.