February 13, 2009

World Press Photo Awards/Your Turn: Now War Is Coming Into People’s Houses Because They Can’t Pay Their Mortgages

The winners of perhaps the most visible and prestigious photojournalism award were announced today. World Press Photo has named this image by Anthony Suau as the 2008 Photo of the Year.

The World Press Photo site offers this description and analysis from the jurors:

The picture shows an armed officer of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department moving through a home in Cleveland, Ohio, following eviction as a result of mortgage foreclosure. Officers have to ensure that the house is clear of weapons, and that the residents have moved out. The winning photograph, taken in March 2008, is part of a story commissioned by Time magazine. The story as a whole won Second Prize in the Daily Life category of the contest.

Jury chair MaryAnne Golon said: “The strength of the picture is in its opposites. It’s a double entendre. It looks like a classic conflict photograph, but it is simply the eviction of people from a house following foreclosure. Now war in its classic sense is coming into people’s houses because they can’t pay their mortgages.

Fellow juror Akinbode Akinbiyi commented: “It is a very ambiguous image. You have to go into it to find out what it is. Then all over the world people will be thinking ‘this is what is happening to all of us’.”

Juror Ayperi Ecer said: “We have something here which visually is both clear and complex…It’s not about issues – 2008 is the year of the end of a dominant economic system. We need a new language, to learn how to illustrate our lives.”

Of course, I’m interested in your reaction to the photo, and your response to the juror comments. For the sake of argument, I might ask the question: How much is this photo actually reflective of war? And to the extent it is, how much does war, and war photography, represent an accurate or effective lens through which to view the world-wide recession? And, especially relevant here at BNN, how effective is the ambiguity here, and where is it taking you?

(I’m going to keep this post at the top of the blog through Saturday evening to foster discussion.)

Suau’s original slideshow: “Tough Times In Cleveland” for TIME


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