Innocence Praised – World Press Multimedia Awards

March 15, 2012 · Posted in A-Roll · Comments Off on Innocence Praised – World Press Multimedia Awards 


World Press multimedia winner 2012

World Press Photo multimedia winning story "Afrikaner Blood"

The World Press Photo Multimedia Contest awards were announced today, judged from 300 entries by a panel of respectable folk, including Vincent Laforet, (ex of the New York Times,) Claudine Boeglin, (of the Thompson Reuters Foundation,) Jessica Dimmock, (winner of Magnum’s Inge Morath Award,) Keith Jenkins, (ex of the Washington Post and now senior multimedia guy at NPR,) Wing Jingchun, ( head of visual center for the Southern Metropolis Daily, one of China’s leading newspapers,) as well as Iatã Cannabrava, Poul Madsen, and Anna Zekria.  This is not like the Pulitzer Prizes, where the judges may not have any expertise in the category they’re judging.  These guys actually have some cred.

Here’s the World Press press release:


“DUTCH PRODUCTION ‘AFRIKANER BLOOD’ WINS FIRST PRIZE IN MULTIMEDIA CONTEST  – The international jury of the 2nd World Press Photo Multimedia Contest has given the First Prize to the production ‘Afrikaner Blood’ by Elles van Gelderen and Ilvy Njiokiktjien from the Netherlands. The multimedia production follows young white Afrikaner teenagers in South Africa who attend a holiday camp set up to teach them self-defense and how to combat a perceived black enemy.

The jury chair Vincent Laforet called ‘Afrikaner Blood’ “an incredibly well crafted and nuanced piece with a very cohesive structure and refined execution.” He added: “We as the jury appreciated the restraint that the authors demonstrated in the telling of this story. All of the multimedia elements and careful attention to detail served to push the narrative forward, as opposed to distracting from it.”

The judging was conducted at the World Press Photo office, where the jury viewed all the entries and discussed their merits over a period of four days. A total of 287 multimedia productions from 48 countries were entered in the contest, organized for the second time this year.

Managing director Michiel Munneke said: “This year, participation was open for photographers and producers and we are glad to have had such a broad field of entries from around the world. It is clear from the discussions with the jury that multimedia is continuously moving and developing and there are no set definitions yet. We are delighted that World Press Photo, through this contest, can contribute to the development of the medium and of the visual journalism profession.””


Although they’re working hard to change the perception, World Press awards have always been about the story – the biggest stories worldwide. Not necessarily about the storytelling. And when they started the multimedia category last year, they didn’t stray far from their still photo comfort zone. They took the “multimedia” term literally, requiring in the rules that still photography be combined with other media. “Each multimedia entry must include professional still photography in combination with (but not limited to) audio and visual elements such as video, animation, graphics, illustrations, sound and text.” So no video-only entries. Hey, it’s their sandbox, they make the rules. If one were to include video only, where do you draw the lines? There are lots of other TV and film contests out there.

But that requirement for still photos can make for some awkward moments in stories. Like this year’s winner, which is a mishmash of stills and video, but is none the less a compelling story. ‘Afrikaner Blood’ by Elles van Gelderen and Ilvy Njiokiktjien from the Netherlands was chosen as the best multimedia piece worldwide after days of judging by some of the best in the business.

I want to talk about why such a technically flawed piece can still win a contest like this. Of course, it’s the story. But it’s more than that. It goes beyond the wow factor in finding a good story. It’s about looking at a story with fresh eyes.

All three of these are different looks at things we’ve seen before. These pieces all have an innocence to the way the stories were done – none of them are slick nor particularly well-produced. But in all three of these stories you can see the glint of obsession in the author’s eyes. Innocent obsession, focusing on the story with the eyes of a newborn above all else, is an amazing and powerful thing to come across in a story.

The winning entry, about racist whites in South Africa, makes your skin crawl with disgust at the subjects, so it succeeds on the first and most important level: engagement.  But the actual storytelling has glaring problems with the way still photos are dropped into the video seemingly at random, breaking the flow and bringing it to a halt.  And it has perhaps the worst beginning of any prize-winning piece I’ve seen, though it gets better after 1:15 into it.  It finally gets compelling three minutes into it.   Vincent Laforet, the jury chair, praises the piece in a British Journal of Photography story, noting the “squirm factor,” and calling it not only powerful but nuanced.  I don’t think I’d have given it top prize but that “squirm factor,” seeing through the eyes of an innocent for the first time, is an amazingly powerful way to tell a story.

The second-place piece by Maisie Crow,  Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now is much better at basic storytelling and successfully combines killer still images (that are prize-winning quality by themselves) with video.  It’s a great piece.  Technically well done and it’s obvious the photographer dived deep into the story and worked it hard.  But the plodding string notes used to set the mood are a little like the overall impact of the piece: monotone and drab.  In almost any story, you need peaks and troughs, comic relief along with tragedy.  While there are some great moments in here, such as when the wife  is shocked at her husband’s revelations, the story doesn’t build and it doesn’t  crescendo – which, I suppose, is entirely appropriate for a story about the lingering effects of radiation.  Like the subjects, this story leaves us with an uncertain future.   I like this story very much but I would agree that it’s not a world-beating piece.  It’s too quiet and introspective.  But again, with the innocence of a child struggling to understand, it leaves one feeling like a first-time visitor might feel to these radiation-soaked towns, meeting people who know they will die but who are unwilling to flee.

The third-place piece by Jim Lo Scalzo, America’s Dead Sea, is a Kodachrome-colored look at a drying lake in California, complete with dead fish, dead trees, and dead trailers.  The pretty pictures make you forget to wrinkle your nose at the fish.  It’s a well-done piece, sort of in the style of California is a Place,  but without the nuanced storytelling and story arc that Zackary Canepari & Drea Cooper bring to the California is a Place stories.  But again, it’s a prize-winner because it looks at the subject with fresh eyes.

So the lesson to take away from this multimedia contest is this:  don’t get bored with your story.  Don’t lose your innocence.  Always look at your story with the wonder and delight of a child seeing something for the first time.

1st Prize

‘Afrikaner Blood’

By Elles van Gelder (videographer) and Ilvy Njiokiktjien (photographer), the Netherlands

2nd Prize

‘Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now’

By Maisie Crow, USA, photographer and videographer

Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now from VQR on Vimeo.

3rd Prize

‘America’s Dead Sea’

By James Lo Scalzo, USA, photographer

America’s Dead Sea from Jim Lo Scalzo on Vimeo.

  • Filthy Lucre: I don’t control what ads run here… caveat emptor