BEIRUT: It would be hard to keep track of the number of photographs, and photo-like digital images, that grab your attention daily. Much as advertisers would like to rule your retinas, most times fine photojournalism still trumps everything else. For 24 years now, the International Festival of Photojournalism has gathered photographers from around the globe in the southern French town of Perpignan, providing a platform for accomplished photographers and the work they’ve made over the past year.
For its 25th year, set to run from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, this event, organized by Visa pour l’Image-Perpignan, has programmed a range of cultural events that include photo exhibitions, film screenings – such as one night focusing on movies about the situation in Egypt during the Arab Spring – and photography awards.
Among these events is the Visa D’Or, a cluster of photo competitions that award the best reportage published between Sept. 2012 and Aug. 2013. The contest falls into several categories: the Visa D’Or News, Visa D’Or Daily Press, Magazine, Red Cross International Committee, France 24-RFI web-documentary and a Visa D’Or prize that honors Figaro Magazine.
This year’s jury is comprised of photo editors from a range of respected publications – including The Sunday Times’ Monica Allende, Dennis Dimick from National Geographic Magazine and the Guardian’s Jim Powell.
The Visa D’Or Daily Press prize awards the best photos to appear in international news publications. Among this year’s contestants is Hasan Shaaban, the sole Lebanese photographer in the competition, who happens to be a staff photographer at The Daily Star newspaper. The photo series selected for the Visa D’Or is captured in the wake of an Oct. 2012 bombing in Beirut’s residential neighborhood of Ashrafieh.
“Once you capture [the shot],” Shaaban remarked before leaving for Perpignan, “you cannot do it again.”
There is always a degree of luck involved in capturing strong images like these, and the photographer explained that he happened to be on site when the explosion happened.
“I was 100 meters away,” he recalled. “I was the first on the scene. In an event like this, you stop thinking about everything [else] ... You have to share your pictures as much as you can.”
Shaaban will be competing with other outstanding photographers from such periodicals as France’s 20 Minutes, Belgium’s De Standaard, Spain’s El Periodico De Catalunya, the U.S.’ International Herald Tribune and Canada’s The Globe and Mail.
The Daily Press Award will be announced on Sept. 4, with the winner receiving a prize of 8,000 euros ($10,698). All competition photos remain on show for the duration of the festival.
Two days later the winner of the Visa D’Or Magazine prize will be announced. The nominees are Abir Abdallah for “Piege Mortal” (Lethal Trap), taken in Bangladesh, Eric Bouvet’s “Burning Man,” Samuel James’ Nigerian-set “Cosmos” and Noriko Hayashi’s “Le Mariage au Kirghizistan: une Institution pas tres Sainte” (Marriage in Kirghizstan: a not-so-holy Institution.) The prize winner will also be awarded 8,000 euros.
The News nominees are photographers for Agence France Presse, Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images’ work for Le Monde newspaper.
The Visa D’Or CICR (Red Cross International Committee) prize singles out photos focusing on the work of medical teams at emergency sites. Sebastiano Tomada has already won the prize for his work on the wounded in Aleppo and on the difficulty of building emergency infrastructure in conflict-ridden Syria.
In acknowledgement of the important role played by online imaging, Web documentaries will also play an important part in this year’s Perpignan Festival and the prize will be awarded on the basis of original subject matter and technique with new technologies.
“ Visa pour L’Image” will be staged from Aug. 31-Sept. 15, in various locations around the French town of Perpignan. For more information, see www.visapourlimage.com.