February 12, 2012

War Photography Scrum: Kozyrev, McManus and BBC's Wordless World Press Commentary

Perhaps the cleverest commentary on the World Press Photo awards, and particularly, Yuri Kozyrev’s artful, hyperkinetic and widely-admired shot of Libyan fighters in Ras Lanuf, was made by the BBC in its World Press winners photo gallery. If simply seduced by the physical parallels (I see this dance choreography-like photo editing a lot in the Charlotte Observer’s Daily Edit), the BBC presents Yuri’s first prize in Spot News and Ray McManus’ second prize in Sports Singles back-to-back, #2 and #3 in their photo gallery, immediately following the top prize winner.

Without uttering a word, the juxtaposition puts in motion two of the most significant critiques I’ve had of war photography over the past ten years, which are: 1.) the dangers of characterizing war as sport — or entertainment; and 2.) the danger of putting aesthetics on an equal (or greater) footing with journalism at a point-in-time in which stylish treatment of conflict can be all too rewarding.

(photo 1: Yuri Kozyrev caption: On Revolution Road: 11 March 2011. Rebels in Ras Lanuf, Libya. For weeks, rebels held out against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with the hope that the world would come to their aid. Defiance faded as the dictator’s planes and tanks began to retake what had been dubbed Free Libya. photo 2: Roy McManus caption: Scrum Half: Action from a rugby match between Old Belvedere and Blackrock played in heavy rain in Dublin, Ireland.)

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Michael Shaw
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