‘It was really difficult to say one was the best because they were all so powerful,’ says acclaimed photojournalist Carol Guzy
There was such a wealth of quality choices at this year’s Istanbul Photo Awards that it was hard to pick the winners, said a member of the jury for the esteemed competition.
“We had so many, so many really strong pictures to choose from, it was really difficult to say (which) one was the best because they were all so powerful,” Carol Guzy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, told Anadolu.
On the Photo of the Year winner, showing a burned personnel carrier next to a lifeless soldier’s body in Ukraine, Guzy said the image by Sergey Kozlov of the German-based EPA agency “had the feel of an iconic image, almost nostalgic.”
“This just felt like a photo from a bygone era. It had that iconic feel to it that I think you know, everybody was moved by. The palette is very sort of monotone black and white with just this hint of red blood that that was extremely compelling, and I think left an indelible mark on our consciousness,” she said.
“But I also personally, I also felt that third place was a strong contender,” she added, speaking about Alkis Konstantinidis’ image of a woman in Ukraine mourning the death of her elderly father. “It was heart-wrenching emotion. It was a photo in Ukraine. You know, the civilian deaths. I feel like that is the story of Ukraine.”
She said that Ukraine was the top news story of 2022, and this affected the images submitted to the awards competition.
Guzy herself also went to Ukraine to document the war. “It was a hard decision to make to even cover the war for many reasons,” she explained. “Health issues for one thing, so I decided to cover features, not front line, though all of Ukraine is really a front line. There's nowhere that's safe. I experienced the civilian toll firsthand.”
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Choosing the winners
Guzy, a photojournalist with over four decades of experience, said that “content and moments are key” when making a decision on the winners of the contest.
“I can forgive technical quality that's not just right spot on for a picture that moves me. You know, the thing to reach someone on a visceral, personal, emotional level should always be the goal and provide some depth, especially with stories,” she said.
Guzy said that the viewer can be subjective and this should be kept in mind, adding: “Just because you didn't make first place doesn't mean your photo wasn't very powerful and deserving of merit in some way.”
She also advised photojournalists who want to enter the competition next year to “be more careful with captions.”
“I think it really can make a whole difference with the photo or the story … when we understand better the meaning behind it, and the importance of that image,” she explained.
Categories in the contest
Guzy said the contest covering a diverse world with additional categories in the news and sports categories is critically important.
“I personally feel that daily life, portrait, and nature photography (deserve) equally important coverage,” she said.
Such categories have “the ability to transcend that immediate spot news story, give us a deeper look at issues or sometimes just the gentle poetry of daily life. And the environment is of course critical to all life on Earth and paramount to our survival,” she added.
The first place winner in the Single Nature category, Brais Lorenzo’s, showing people in swimsuits watching nearby forest fires, was a juxtaposition between bathers and wildfire. “That was really compelling, it was very quirky image that was arresting in many ways,” said Guzy.
Bence Mate’s photo of birds was also a delightful image to look at, with Guzy saying: “I don't think we need to only focus on the problem but sometimes we just need to show that innate joy of the life experience.”
On the winning photo of a woman who cut her hair in solidarity with Iranian protesters, Rebirth, Guzy said: “It was deeply moving, and the other portraits were also incredibly evocative."
Guzy stressed the need to find a way to bring documentary photojournalism to the public, saying: “Anytime we can highlight such powerful coverage is critical to world understanding, and photojournalists also should be recognized for doing this outstanding work, whether it's in high- risk situations or their neighborhoods.”
She said that there's a great power in photojournalism, and photojournalists are the eyes of the world, adding: “It may not change the world that day, but it could incrementally change people's awareness, for an issue, create positive change, certainly open people's eyes.”
“But truth, truth is a loaded word. Whose truth? So we can't necessarily say we're always offering the truth, but it's our responsibility, I think, to try our very best to accurately portray any situation for others to judge,” she said.
However, she said, people are starting to lose trust in the media, and the rise of artificial intelligence may only make things worse.
“I think it's our responsibility to try to educate people about our role in providing coverage and a difference when it's done by trained professionals,” she said.
War, disaster photojournalism, advice for budding journalists
Guzy said that covering conflict and natural disasters comes with personal risks but also requires the emotional courage to witness atrocities and the profound suffering from man's frequent inhumanity.
“I think the goal is always to put a face on the number of casualties or issues that we're trying to explain, that can evoke empathy with viewers, and also, of course, raising awareness,” she said.
“But I think we need to find balance, and also highlight those moments of hope, which sometimes we forget to do as journalists, I think, in any dire situation, there are angels that rise above the chaos to help,” she added.
She also said that she came to Türkiye briefly after two earthquakes shook the country’s southeast this February, taking over 50,000 lives and flattening many areas.
“It felt like being in Armageddon. The one thing you can't photograph really is the scale, the number of people and the amount of cities that were affected – it was it was heart wrenching,” she said.
To young photojournalists, she advised against jumping into war zones without proper training as they would not only risk their own lives but also others who try to help them.
She said rookie journalists and photojournalists can learn more from doing feature stories.
“Journalism is not a job. I mean, for those of us who love it, it's a passion. It's our heart. It's our life, literally. If I can't be a visual storyteller, it's like you took the oxygen out of a room and I can't breathe,” she added.
This year’s Istanbul Photo Awards are supported by Nikon, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), and Turkish Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier.
All the winners can be seen by visiting istanbulphotoawards.com/winner/index