What To Do With Your Free Time
In most of our viewing area, it is now officially the period of time arbitrarily known as "the weekend" (in French, "le weekend"). I would like to point out to you that customarily, you are supposed to have more "free time" on le weekend. "Free time" may be defined as time spent diddling at your computer doing things that you are not supposed to do in front of your computer during le week.
It's a perfect time, therefore, for you to check out this year's POY pictures (sorry, that's redundant, but I don't make the rules). Not only is this award site a helpful accumulation of some of the best authentic photography being done by people who get to do it all the time, but, by looking carefully and reading some captions, you can actually assimilate some modest knowledge of what's going on in the world, something which cannot be said of looking at a closeup of a strawberry or another picture of your cat.
Some cautions are in order, however.
First of all, we all know that bad things happen in the world. That they do so dependably is of use only to religious doomsayers, who can always predict dire consequences with the confidence that they will come true eventually (for instance, it was foretold that Tennessee would be punished by God for voting against Al Gore, and darned if God hasn't sent large numbers of highly destructive twisters to Tennessee this week to do just that). Virtually no one else actually likes it that bad things happen in the world with such appalling regularity. (No, certainly not photojournalists.) My recommendation therefore when looking at the POY photo-essays is not to click around within them in a haphazard or frenzied manner, or to try to view them all in one visit, but to look at them carefully just a few at a time—even if that means you don't get around to them all. (I'd suggest beginning with a very careful look at the superlative work of Magazine Photographer of the Year Tamas Dezso. That, folks, is photography. If you miss the man who fixes the bicycle spokes, you're looking too fast.) Otherwise, your sense of pity for the victims of the bad things that happen may go from being focused and specific and well up into being vague and general. And that is not what is wanted. Photojournalism is not generic, it is never generic, and it is not intended to be perceived as if it is.
Secondly, it may be helpful to keep in mind that small JPEGs online is not exactly how the pictures ought to be viewed. This is similar to the CD jewel-box effect, in which a small and inferior reproduction of proper album cover art is substituted on the front of the jewel-box as if it were equivalent. It's not. But I digress. The pictures you'll see were intended to be viewed in magazines, printed well on glossy paper, with captions that are easy to read. The POY site is only the CD jewel-box version. This is perhaps particularly true of Dezso's work. For instance, in the picture here of the young girl climbing on the ruins of her former home, I think it's important—or at least poignant—to be able to see the doghouse.
Anyway, I hope you can spend some time with a few of the photo essays this weekend, if you actually do have any of the aforementioned "free time"—it is known to be elusive.
Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON