I blogged just yesterday about some of the challenges of producing audio-slideshows, combining still photography, audio and video. I didn’t realise that, by coincidence, the World Press Photo awards would today be announcing the winners of the 2012 ‘multimedia’ category, but I’m very happy about the timing. I saw that the winners had been announced earlier this afternoon, and had a quick glance at the BJP’s article, but have now just sat down to watch the first, second and third placed entries. And now I’m blown away.
The winning piece, Afrikaner Blood by Elles van Gelderen and Ilvy Njiokiktjien from The Netherlands is an extraordinary photo-film. Uncomfortable, powerful and disturbing, it tells the story of a group of teenage Afrikaner boys in South Africa being trained in self-defence by a self-confessed racist. It makes for uncomfortable but compelling viewing, and superbly combines a range of fantastically edited photographs, video, portraits and interviews.
In second place, Maisie Crow‘s Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now, is a heartbreaking, affectionate look at some of the former citizens of Pripyat, the city evacuated after the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986. Beautiful shot in stills and video, it’s a slightly more conventional take on storytelling, using quite a bit of archive video footage (although just not too much). Twenty-six years on from the disaster, it brilliantly and sympathetically tells the story of how many of the people affected simply can’t move on.
Finally, James Lo Scalzo’s America’s Dead Sea, also uses a bit of archive footage and soundtrack to playful effect. Lo Scalzo contrasts the archive footage of the post world war optimism of the 1950s American dream with the reality half a century later. His photos of what is now the ghost town of Salton City, once billed as a seaside resort in the Arizona desert, have a filmic, post-apocalyptic feel to them. They look more like what you imagine the aftermath of Chernobyl to look like, not the American southwest.
Although I love this last piece – it’s short, beautifully shot and edited, and slighlty tongue-in-cheek, I suppose some may see it as a controversial choice, because the one thing it definitely isn’t is a hard-hitting, journalistic piece for which the World Press Photo is renowned. Does this matter? Maybe, maybe not. A debate for another time perhaps.
It’s a shame that there were no pieces focussing on development issues amongst the finalists. I’d be interested to know if any such pieces made it onto the shortlist – does anyone know? But that aside, these are three fantastic pieces – Afrikaner Blood and Half-Lives in particular are just incredibly moving and incredibly well-produced. Congratulations to all the winners. This is only the second year of the multimedia category in the World Press Photo. I know some have concerns about the judging and selection process. I don’t know enough about that to express a view. I just think that the quality of the work selected this year sets a high bar for anyone wanting to produce audio-slideshows or multimedia pieces to aim for. It bodes well for the future.