Thursday, January 11, 2007

The POYi and its Respect for Web Publishing

In the midst of my feverish attempts to post my imagery via the new World Press online interface, the agony over which was shared by other Lightstalker members, I was pleased (once I had managed to submit and then had a few rums) to see that POYi has been fairly creative this year in its recognition of web publishing as a legitimate outlet for our work. Not only do they include a category for Multimedia (as they did last year) but they also have created a new category for "Best Photo Column." They define the category thus:

"A regularly reoccurring, self-generated enterprise that uses a narrative style to blend words and images and reflects aspects of a community or lifestyle. The forum may be defined as either a photo column, photo journal, or photo blog. This should be an individual’s entry, not a team entry. The “entry” will consist of three (3) individual photo columns. This will allow the judges to examine the theme and consistency of the reoccurring column. The photojournalists must provide a brief “statement of purpose” for the column, appearing in the caption field of the first image. Judges also will weigh the quality of the text that accompanies the images. The column must be “published” in some form — either in print and online, or combined. Entries should be submitted in their original published form as either a .jpg or .pdf page from the print edition, or a URL link to the online edition. Independent and personal web sites will be considered as “published.” "

I had some questions about just what sort of column they might be looking for, since most photo blogs either run a photo a day, or talk about the industry, or comment on the art of photography, and none of those quite seem adequate. It appears that what they are looking for is something like Ryscard Kapuscinski meets photojournalism, and I am for one am pleased to see it. Throughout 2006 I was posting travel essays to my website (before I had bothered to look into blogging) and then started up Trozos de un Viralata to harbor Spanish language commentary on the culture and society of this little island I inhabit. Well, this little event has proved the catalyst for me to create a third blog and collate all my travel essays on that forum instead. More a Question than a Reply is going to harbor essays in Spanish and English on various journalistic themes, mostly related to my travels, and I hope to experiment more with the mixing of imagery and text.

What does this all mean? Well I view it as a development every bit as bracing as the appearance of fourth screen devices. It means that my attempt to take control of the means of production and distribution of my own material is now a reality and has been recognized as such by a leading industry organ. Essentially, POYi has given its imprimatur and these self-generated intiatives can now compete legitimately with content produced through traditional print media. But I am free of big media's priorities and protocols, free of desk jockeys, and free of interminable delays while an underpaid and overworked team strains to meet its deadlines. I am also free, as yet, of any remuneration for my labors, and that is something that has yet to be tackled.

When the Gutenberg bible was published (1455), the forms of mass communication were altered forever and the ecclessiastical establishment was initially quite worried about it, because it put the Word in the hands of the people. One could read and decipher it on one's own without sacerdotal mediation. This was one of the motive forces behind the Protestant Reformation (normally dated to coincide with the posting of Luther's 95 Theses in 1517). Now we are entering on yet another paradigmatic shift in communication that further consolidates the power we have over the word, and I am presently fairly excited about the opportunities and the challenges it presents us. ¡Venceremos!