The winners will be announced later today but here are a few thoughts about the third round (that's the pool from which the finalists were picked) in the portrait category, one in which I was very interested. The jury's discussions could be followed online.
I was amazed to see these to nearly similar images appear. When I saw this first I said wooow that's a good one. According to the caption, it shows a boy in front of his ruined home after his village was flooded in May. But like always, if something seems to be too good to be true then it usually is. Because here's the same boy again:
So what's the way to take? I'm not saying that this picture should have been the winner but have some doubts about the jury's argumentation - are press photographers not allowed to think out of the box when it comes to conveying a subject's character and profession? After all, the guest jurors were involved to add a more forward-looking spirit in terms of photographic creativity to this competition.
Same here: the portrait of an actress. What do actresses do? They play different characters. To me, this photograph shows just that.
One of the jurors added with a laugh, "I like the woman but not the picture". Hell of an argument...
Stop press: here are the winners of the portrait category."Can't be wiped off", by Viktor Veres
There were many technically better ones than Veres' winning photograph but it's definitely an image in which expressivity, emotions and impact overrule any technical issues. One of course need to know the context: it was taken after the red mud catastrophy in October when a spill of toxic waste devastated two villages, killing several people and turning the countryside into a minor version of Chernobyl. Too bad that for anyone who doesn't know the context this could be a woman who just had tomatoes thrown at her face. Anyway, for us in Hungary this image has the potential to become a photographic icon. Well deserved.
Just as a footnote: this image had no title and no caption whatsoever in the competition, they where added at a later stage - when it was, on paper at least, not allowed. It's also interesting that it barely made it into the third round, scoring only 3 of 7 possible points (even my own photograph which was later rejected got 5 at that stage). But as said: well deserved, imo.
Hope, by Akos Stiller
This in an image that simply had to win: the Dalai Lama giving an interview to journalists in the House of Parliament. Big news for Hungary, but the news for the rest of the world is that even His Holiness has hair in his nose. At least photo critics will have a good reference when they argue that photographing faces from below and leaving reflections in eyeglasses are not necessarily flaws in a photograph. (Or maybe not?)
Fate, by M. Istvan Kerekes
"Two years old Klári lives in Transsylvania, sharing a mud house with three sisters and her parents. They almost lost everything in the floods two years ago." At least that's in short what the caption says. Very heart-wrenching and all and maybe I'm stupid but I'd expect from a finalist of a press photography competition to tell the story with the image, not only the caption. (By the way, Stiller and Kerekes have been among the finalists in 2008 and 2009 too. It's a small country, you know... and it's of course merely a coincidence that the overall winner ("grand prize for best achievement"):...
I can't understand why the competition is still not divided into professional and amateur categories: the few dozen "big shots" could still pat each other on the back in the pro category and let us lesser mortals compete outside their hallowed circles.
The bottomline is: if I was an aspiring young press photographer looking at the finalists for inspiration and new ways of photojournalism to explore, at least in the portrait category, I'd have a very hard time finding it. But the most painful thing about this awards is that if you a pro and win yet another time, it doesn't really matter; if you're an amateur and win, it doesn't help you either. The whole thing just doesn't look as good on a photographer's CV as it should, and probably not because Hungarian photographers lack talent or skills. Pity.
Link to the result page: http://www.sajto-foto.hu/2010/dijazottak