woensdag 15 mei 2013

Global and National Icons Martijn Kleppe World Press Photo Awards Days april 27 2013 Photography

Raising the flag on Iwo Jima

A Lego recreation of Joe Rosenthal's 1945 photograph "Raising the flag on Iwo Jima". One of the most published photographs in history.

Martijn Kleppe : During the World Press Photo Awards Days, I was invited to give a keynote on my research about iconic photographs. You will find the text below (sorry, it is quite a long-read..), including my slides and links to the photographs I referred to. As always, any comments or suggestions are very welcome.
 What are iconic photographs?
It is a term that is very often and (maybe too) easy coined. Jurys like here at World Press Photo often search for new iconic photographs or want to believe they found one. And it is often asked to the jury members during the many interviews they give after the announcement of the new winning image: will the new World Press Photo of the Year be an iconic photograph?
But the term ‘iconic photograph’ is not only coined at photo contests. It happens as well after big news events. The day after the Boston bombings it became eminent that two photographs were used very often by all sorts of media outlets throughout the whole world. One horrifying picture of a victim who lost his legs and the other one by John Tlumacki of the Boston Globe shows the scene seconds after the first explosion. One runner has fallen down and three police officers react by pulling out their guns.
As somebody who is interested in the way historical events will be remembered visually, I am also intrigued which photos are used most often.It really looks like this photo could play an important role in the visual remembrance of the Boston Bombings. See for example the cover of Sports Illustrated. Is this photo already iconic? Maybe we could say it was an icon the days after the bombings, given the large publication rate. But in my description, an iconic photograph needs to be published very often over a longer period of time. So for me it is just too soon to state this photo is an icon of the Boston bombings.
Furthermore, when talking about iconic photographs I think we should ask (at least) two questions:
- Whose icon is it? Or in other words: For who is the photo an icon? For the citizens of Boston, or the US, or the whole world?
- And for which story is the photo an icon?
Even a seemingly straight forwarded news event such as the Boston Bombings  tell different stories and at this moment in time we simply do not know which story will be dominant in the public remembrance of the attacks (if it will be remembered off course). Will it be the explosion that was caught on tape and gives a horrifying feeling, comparable with 9/11 when the second airplane hit the World Trade Center? Or will we remember Boston by the hunt for the two suspects, leaving the city locked down? Both stories are different and can be visualised differently.
So when talking about photographs these aspects are crucial: whose icon is it & which story does it visualise? And maybe the myth or power of an iconic photo is that they can serve several stories for several people.
Unfortunately there is no recipe for an iconic photograph. It is a question that is often asked to me but it is just simply not there. Sorry for those photographers who came to my talk expecting I would tell the ingredients to produce a successful iconic picture but unfortunately, and as you probably all know, it is just not that simple. However, it is possible to distinguish some features when analysing the most well-known iconic photographs. In the first chapter of my book Canonieke Icoonfoto’s, I distinguish features around three levels: production, distribution and reception. However, for reasons of time I limit myself here to five features.  

This is the text of Martijn Kleppe during the Awards Days of World Press Photo, Saturday 27 April 2013, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

V.J. Day Times Square

A Lego recreation of Alfred Eisenstaedt's 1945 photograph "V.J. Day Times Square".

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