WPP-winning image "a staged murder for the press" says jury chair

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“It’s a great news picture in the traditional way, and obviously the photographer himself demonstrated an extraordinary amount of composure to get it,” says Stuart Franklin, chair of the 2017 World Press Photo jury, of the winning image this year – which shows Mevlut Mert Altintas shouting after shooting Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, at an art gallery in Ankara, Turkey.
“But it is a staged murder for the press in a press conference, so there will be questions. It is a premeditated, staged murder at a press conference, which arguably you could put in the same envelope as the beheading of a prisoner in Raqqa [Syria]. I think that’s the dilemma one has about the picture.”
And, continues Franklin, while he can’t go into detail about the judging process, “I can tell you, I didn’t vote for the photograph because of that dilemma”. “It is the moral issue that is a concern for me, personally,” he adds.
For Franklin, Burhan Ozbilici’s series made a worthy Spot News winner, and he adds that “he did his job, taking a lot of risk, and showing great presence of mind”. But, he says: “Personally, when I look at this work, 80,000 pictures, I try to find images that can inspire change and shine a light on injustice. I feel it’s a wasted opportunity.
“For the press to show it does seem to reaffirm that uncomfortable compact between the murderer and publicity, and I felt uncomfortable about that aspect of it personally,” he went on to say. “Though I have great respect for the photographer”.
Franklin’s comments are unusual for a WPP chair but, while he says he respects the jury’s decision, he adds that it’s important to speak up. “I think it’s important to be transparent,” he says, later adding: “It’s important to have the debate.”

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy