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Violence In Photo Contests: How Much Is Too Much?

The winners of the World Press Photo contest were announced a few weeks ago and, as always, it has stirred some interesting conversation. On one hand, the winning photograph this year was, in a sense, surprisingly innocuous — at least in light of past winners, which tend to be morbid or grotesque. In this video, jury chair Ayperi Karabuda Ecer explains the decision.

Women shout on a rooftop in protest to the presidential election results, Tehran, Iran, 24 June (Pietro Masturzo, Italy) hide caption

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The rest of the winners weren't so quiet. Of course it's the photojournalist's job to present challenging scenes, or things we might otherwise never see. But with photo after photo of bloodshed, death, destruction, violence, gore and tears, one can't help but wonder: how much is too much?

A few stories this year were particularly difficult. (Note: these links contain graphic content.) Farah Abdi Warsameh's photos of a man being stoned to death in Somalia won 2nd prize in the general news division, while Walter Astrada's series of a bloodbath in Madagascar was the 1st place winner in the spot news division. The stories are awful — and important to know about — but is that level of graphic content necessary? Perhaps. I don't know.

This is actually why the winning photograph is an interesting one. It's quiet, distant and dark; it shows the origins of a much bigger story, but it doesn't showcase violence or tragedy. The perspective is somewhat removed and detached, and, in order to understand the picture, it's important to know the context. Ecer hints that this was a departure from the contest's past. You can view more photos from this rooftop series on the photographer's Web site. Below are more winners from this year's contest.

Despite the contest's generally dark tone, a few lighter stories stood out:

Take a look at the photos and leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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