Jury members Deborah Copaken and Cameron Spencer share experiences of selecting winning photos
Istanbul Photo Awards 2020, organized by Turkey's premier news source Anadolu Agency, has made a global impact, jury members said.
The winners for the annual event were announced last week.
Sponsored by Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines, the winners captured a melange of events worldwide in 2019 from protests in Hong Kong to demonstrations in Gaza.
The international jury convened on June 24-25 to decide on the first three winners in four categories: single news, story news, single sports and story sports.
Getty Images sports chief photographer Cameron Spencer and Deborah Copaken, photojournalist and author, evaluated the winning photographs and their contribution to visual news for Anadolu Agency.
Photo of the Year
Spencer thinks the winning photo, Hong Kong Protests by Yik Fei Lam, is very powerful and captures the essence of the unrest in the city state.
"Unrest in Hong Kong has been going on for so long, and this photo tells the story of the confrontation and excessive force used by the police. The protester is unarmed, but the focus of the picture is the gun pointed at him, rather than himself," he said.
The world would not have realized how big events in Hong Kong became if it was not for photojournalists capturing images, he added.
"The Photo of the Year reminded me of some of the best photography in Vietnam. The guy who's targeted looks blurry, but it is an intense moment. The elements of the image do not matter one by one, but the photographer captured a moment that is era-defining. It could be considered as era-defining for the US as well, with Black Lives Matter protests," according to Copaken.
Experience, composition key in photojournalism
While choosing the winners, the jury agreed that they wanted to see not only major stories in the world, but also the talent of the photographer.
"What differentiates the average person with a camera from a photojournalist is photojournalists see and compose things differently, and use light knowingly. In addition, nothing beats experience," said Spencer.
The job of a modern day photojournalist is to be the voice of the people and to document the truth with compassion, he added.
The second and third spot in single news went to photojournalists from Palestine.
"What makes them interesting is, they could be from any conflict zone in the world. So they are telling a bigger story than what they narrate," Copaken said.
She also discussed how the jury reached a decision.
"All of the jury came from different backgrounds, so we all had our biases. We pitch in our choices, but in democratic decision making, other factors come into play as well," Copaken commented.
One does not have to be a photojournalist to capture amazing moments, but of course technology enhanced photojournalism in general, she added.
"The best news images should have a beautiful composition, and capture a moment full of emotions. You need to balance out the composition and intensity of the emotion captured," she said.
In the Sports category, a good photograph either should be a great action shot that captures the defining moment or it should be a creative image that has some kind of artistic merit, according to Spencer.
In this year's single sports, Jakub Porzycki, bagged the first place with his entry, Gymnastics. The creativity and composition made this photo stand out, Spencer added.
The runner-up is a boxing match shot by Getty's Richard Heathcote.
"The impact of the punch is very hard to capture, and it is very tricky. There's luck involved, but also the skill of the photographer," he added.
Communication amongst the jury members is key while evaluating categories that are not your expertise. While looking at a sports photo, there might be some details that are not obvious to a war photographer, and that is where we received help from the experts and decided on the winners, Copaken, head of the jury, said.
Photographing a humanitarian crisis
Most of these photojournalists live in the areas they cover, so what they do is very personal for them. But for some others, it is different. A lot of photojournalists on the other hand, just go to the areas parachuting, and then go back to their ordinary lives. This creates a dissonance between the work and the photojournalist, according to Copaken.
"Without images, we wouldn't know what's going on in the world. In Vietnam war, without the photo of the young naked girl covered in napalm, we wouldn't have seen the reality, seriousness of it. Photographers' job is to show evil in the world in a way," she said.
Copaken covered the Soviet exit from Afghanistan. "I would go to the mountains, get sick, get a shrapnel wound and so on. It would take me months to get my film out and send it to agencies. I'd go to the airport, convince a passenger to take it with them - this is before 9/11.
"The agency people would take it from the airport, take it on their motorcycle, and get to agency. They edit, make copies, and send them to magazines. But now, two clicks are enough. This is good for the world, but bad for photojournalism. To earn a living, to follow photojournalism as a career will become harder," she said.
Contribution to global news
"Any time there's an award, and when they get publicity, people stop to look at images. This is a chance for people globally to say 'wow' looking at these images. For that reason, contests like these are important," said Copaken.
She said it is always difficult to decide upon a winner.
"For instance, the second place in story news, Yik Fei Lam’s Hong Kong protest photos, the photographer got in there and produced the work from beginning to the end. That was what the jury looked for specifically in story photos," she said.
"Istanbul Photo Awards is an important photographic contribution, you see photographers that are well-established and got great reputation. It is a testament to value that photographers place on this competition. There are works [in Istanbul Photo Awards] that are not necessarily represented in other competitions or on mainstream media, which I think is a great way in showcasing them," Spencer said.
Anadolu Agency software 'big help'
Performing the jury duty from home due to the pandemic was a challenge, but thanks to Anadolu Agency's specifically designed online selection platform, their job became so much easier, the jury said.
"The platform was seamless and quite amazing. Even when we meet in Istanbul next year hopefully, we can use the platform for choosing the images. The tech team worked really fast, they got it up and running in few weeks," said Copaken.
"Anadolu Agency's specifically designed software for the awards this year did a great job, the platform was very easy to scroll through, we could also zoom in on pictures and compare them with one another," Spencer said.