Friday, January 30, 2009

Start of Year Rant

I guess you readers from outside of Germany have never heard of a photo competition called "Rückblende". Roughly speaking this is the German version of "Picture of the Year". Kind of. This year's winning image can be seen here.
Nothing wrong with that image. It is just not what you would expect to be the best of the best in one year's photojournalistic output. Yet it is a good indicator of the mediocrity of press photography in Germany (same is true for Austria). I only have guesses as to where that mediocrity originates from, so could someone please offer some profound analysis?!


lucian stanescu said...

the comics instead are very well done :) a country with humor?

Alexander Breitenbach said...

I do not know exactly myself what might be the cause of why pictures tend to be mediocre. That there is something "wrong" dawned on me when I visited the exhibition on "Paparazzi" at the Museum for Photography in Berlin last year. I happened to start viewing the photos on the wrong end of the line, that is from present day photographers down the line to the 40's. The more recent the photo, the more "mediocre" it seemed to me, just as if the photographers only raised their camera, aimed at the person of interest and then snapped the shutter whithout giving much thought to composition. When I got to Weegee's photos (1940's) I was stunned to see expressive composition in his photos that strongly supported the contents.

Now why is that? It cannot be the equipment. Modern sophisticated gear should actually leave the shooter with more time to think about composition because of its automated functions, whereas Weegee probably had to meter the light first, set the camera f-stop and focus before releasing the shutter.

I think it is the fact, that so much of our time is commercialized. People can shoot what they want with mediocre quality, as long as it is sensational it is salable - and this is at the expense of photographic craftsmanship.

JR said...

Your right, I've never heard of "Rückblende", but I'd also never thought German press photography was mediocre. The winning image is surprising and as you say nothing wrong with it as such. But a press conference?

I've seen outstanding work in publications like 'Stern' so I'm not sure about the mediocrity charge.
Possibly the answer lies in the same problem as we often have here in the UK. Not poor press photography, but poor use of photos in editorial publications.

Typical example... a friend gets sent by his newspaper to photograph the british troops training in Belize. He comes back with a fantastic set of photos. Troops wading through jungle pools with their rifles up above the water line, framed in hanging lianas with snakes,birds, etc.
What goes in the paper? A cut down head and shoulders pic of one of the soldiers, which could have been taken anywhere-even back at the barracks in the UK!