Two French students were awarded the annual Grand Prix du Photoreportage Etudiant last week to honor a photographic story that presented images documenting the precarious lives of students today and the things they must do in order to survive and succeed.
The only catch is that the entire story was a fake.
And during the award ceremony, the two “winners”–Guillaume Chauvin and Remi Huberr, art students at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs of Strasbourg–instead of claiming their trophy and prize money, stood on stage and revealed their hoax. The images were not photojournalism but staged images featuring many of their peers. I’d have love to been a fly on the wall in that auditorium. Ouch.
From Horses Think blog:
The winners claimed that the idea was hatched a year ago when they looked at all the work students were competing with for the 2008 prize. They realized that the “world view of this work was limited and seemed more like vacation photographs as opposed to photojournalism. The photographs depicted small children with big wet eyes in order to illustrate the misery abroad.” Speaking to Le Figaro, Guillaume Chauvin confided that they “wanted to enter the contest in order to show the codes used too often in photojournalism and to prove that something real could be translated into something staged.”
Is this genius? Is this mocking an industry that can’t tell true plight from a staged…[click the 'continue reading' link below]
set of pictures? What have they done?
I think what they’ve done is not to make brilliant photojournalism, but to make brilliant art. There was certainly a significant price to be paid for that art, or perhaps many prices: the reputation of the award, the reputation of the judges, even their own reputations perhaps–and only time will tell–but they’ve surely made some brilliant statements about the nature of such imagery, called into question the cliched nature of the traditional canons recognizing that work, and made us all pause, even if just for a moment, to consider what photojournalism really is. By blending genres (PJ + perhaps advertising photography?) and creating staged images that were stunning enough to win a Grand Prize (hard work in it’s own right), I’d argue that they’ve achieved their end goal. And they’ve done so in an incredibly creative way. Subversive and meta.
It sure worked on me. I dunno about you, but if I hired artists for a living, I’d want those guys’ brains and talents on my team. Of course they might stab you in the back in the name of art, but they’re clearly good at finding a point and making it clearly.
Genius or just plain disrespectful in an arena that has no room for shenanigans?