Tuesday, 17 May 2011

POV: Leroy's Visa Pour L'Image Says....

Image © Alexandra Avakian. Courtesy British Journal of Photography

From The British Journal of Photography:

Jean-François Leroy, Visa Pour l'Image's director, believes it's essential to remind "people of the important role photojournalists play in keeping us informed," which, he says, will be reflected in this year's edition of the world's largest photojournalism festival.
"But don't expect to see projects on Tahrir Square. I've never received that many CDs about one particular event. I know that square by heart now. I could draw you a plan from memory. I've seen it all: Tahrir during the day, Tahrir at night, Tahrir and the dogs, Tahrir in the morning, Tahrir in the evening. So what? What's the point? What's the story?"
- Jean-François Leroy, Visa Pour l'Image's director

What's the story, he asks. What's the story in Tahrir??????

After guffawing at that er...statement, what can I say other than some people are visionaries, and others are myopic, provincial and silly...and past their useful shelf life?

In contrast, take a look at NOOR Images current involvement in Cairo, where Stanley Green and others are leading a photojournalism workshop.

Olivier Laurent of The British Journal of Photography conducted the interview, and has written this response (which I quote in its entirety for fairness) on my Facebook page:
" I conducted the interview with Jean-François Leroy, and in case things are not clear enough, Leroy did say that he would not show Tahrir Square-related stories (i.e. reportages that only focus on the events at Tahrir Square) because they lack incredible context over the entire Middle-East revolution movement. Instead, he chose to show Yuri Kozyrev's work, which includes images shot in Tahrir Square but put into a wider context thanks to the images he shot in Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, etc. To react to some of the comments here, I don't think he uttered "une connerie"** (I wish there were a perfect english equivalent to this word). In my opinion, he's quite right. I'm not saying that there hasn't been meaningful work coming out of Tahrir Square, but have these photographers submitted their work to Visa? A lot of the images I've seen coming out of that square were repetitive (in some cases, shot by three or four photographers at the exact same time) and lacked that overarching meaning - the true impact of this revolution on the Egyptian people. There's nothing wrong with a photographer parachuting in Cairo for such a story (and it's much needed to bring attention to the story) but at the end of the day, I find it more enriching when I look at these events through the lens of a photographer that truly understood these events. Laura El-Tantawy springs to mind, for example...
 One clarification though, we're talking, in this case, of the exhibitions presented at Visa. There's no doubt that countless of images from Tahrir Square will be shown during the evening projections there."
 ** To keep things succinct and brief, I still think it was "une connerie", and an unfortunate one at that.  It will be up to the attendees of the Visa Pour l'Image event as to whether ignoring a seminal and historical uprising in the Middle East (notwithstanding Yuri Kozyrev's wider work) was another "connerie", or not.