The Risk of An Early Spring
It’s that time of the year again. Around the last week of April, as the pendulum of World Press Photo reaches the point of swinging towards its annual Awards Days, the ‘perpetuum mobile’ of photojournalism comes close to a halt. All winners will be there, during the festive weekend, to present themselves and their work. All but one.
“Rémi Ochlik was born in Lorraine in eastern France in 1983 […] He was killed when a shell hit the building where he and other journalists were working in Homs, Syria, on 22 February 2012.” The text in between the brackets defines his life as a photojournalist.
Remi’s career started around age 20, as he went to Haiti to photograph the riots and conflict surrounding the fall of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In 2005 he started his own photography agency, IP3 Press. And now he is dead, at age 28. Just a week after being awarded a World Press Photo for his series on the conflict in Libya. A mortal industrial accident.
Another year in pictures, business as usual. The homepage of World Press Photo leaves no traces of tears or sorrow. Just dry facts. Even the link to his website is still there, as if nothing really happened. It is part of the game, perhaps, but it just feels awkward. At stake here is not the pain of others, but ours – the people celebrating photojournalism. At the same time, as never before, we can also feel the limits of our compassion. Being savvy news consumers, we all know: the pendulum only swings so far.
Maybe that is the real conflict. Sure, during the Awards Days, we can expect a tribute. As there was one last year, for Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. As there will be for all other brave young men and women who sacrificed. We applaud their courage and their strength, and their mission to protect the eye on the world against cataract. And yet, when their remains – the images that sum up their accomplishments – are projected on the wall, we just stare and reminisce. For, what else are we supposed to do?!
Mourning during a festivity. Commemorating those that lost their lives at work while celebrating the profession. Around the last week of April, all winners but one will be in Amsterdam, dressed up and drinking champagne along the canal. Salute, Remi, sorry you can’t make it.