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Visa Pour l'Image founder attacks "boring, meaningless" entries for this year's festival

30 May 2007 - EPUK

Jean-François Leroy, director and founder of the annual Visa Pour l’Image photojournalism festival, has made an outspoken attack on contemporary photojournalists, describing them as talentless and unimaginative.

In his editorial for the launch of this year’s festival, the 19th since it was established in 1989, Leroy has launched a tirade on what he sees as the growing trend away from reportage and towards portraiture.

“Photographers these days seem to have forgotten how to take photographs of the homeless, of activists, fighters, soldiers, victims of rape or child abuse, rural communities, boxers, prostitutes, transsexuals, orphans, migrants, drug addicts or any other category – social, professional, cultural, religious or political”, he writes. “So what do they do ? They do portraits”

Visa Pour l’Image founder and director Jean-François Leroy pictured at the press conference for this year’s forthcoming festival. Picture: David Brabyn

The former Sipa photojournalist and World Press Photo judge, who has long argued against news values which place celebrity ahead of tragedy, claims that 150 of this year’s 185,000 Visa pour l’Image entries were portraits of the homeless in his home town of Paris.

“No imagination…How boring it is !”

Leroy, previously quoted as condemning as “boring” any picture story about “happy people living in a rich country”, writes: “We are tired of having to look at [portraits] and of having to display the appropriate reaction – sympathy and/or enthusiasm – as we sift through these collections that look like they came out of a ID photobooth.”

Also on this story…

Read Leroy’s outburst in full. Click here

Sqweegee: “Isn’t there a moral issue with a logic which seems to say that portraiture only belongs to the rich and famous? “ More here

“Posed photos – or even worse, imitation passport-style photos that are utterly meaningless. No thought goes into them at all. No imagination…How boring it is !”

However, writing only last year in Digital Journalist, Leroy said that he was “confident in the future” of photojournalism. “We have heard over and over again, every year, that photojournalism is dying, that it has been overtaken by television, and other media. Every year we have had to proclaim the opposite, making the message loud and clear.”

Leroy, a well-respected figure in international photojournalism, is no stranger to controversy. At the 2002 festival, after an altercation between war photographer James Nachtwey who wanted to display images he was almost killed taking on September 11th 2001, Leroy deleted Nachtwey’s nomination from that year’s Visa d’Or award.

And last year, he continued his long campaign of wanting to reshape news agendas in an open letter to French newspaper editors, in which he condemning the coverage given to Zidane’s World-Cup head-butt compared to the Israel-Lebanon conflict.

The annual event, held in Perpignan, has built up an international reputation, and remains one few international events devoted to photojournalism. Last year’s festival drew an audience of 3,500 people: photographs from the event can be seen here.

“At Visa pour l’Image, we were always anti-celebrity…It’s time we admit we were mistaken” he writes in his editorial. “At least photographers who do portraits of celebrities have some talent”.

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