Director's editorial

Vyacheslav Veremiy • Andrea Rocchelli • Andrei Mironov • Igor Kornelyuk • Anton Voloshin • Anatoly Klyan • Andrei Stenin • Serhiy Nikolayev • Pavel Sheremet • Vadym Komarov • Yevhenii Sakun • Roman Nezhyborets • Brent Renaud • Maks Levin • Oleksandra Kuvshynova • Pierre Zakrzewski • Oksana Baulina • Mantas Kverdaravicius • Vira Hyrych • Oleksandr Makhov.

Since 2014, the Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded the deaths of twenty journalists in Ukraine, twenty at the time of writing this editorial. Eight years have gone by since Crimea was annexed and fighting broke out in the separatist regions of the Donbas – eight years of war being waged in eastern Europe.

But Ukraine is not the only country where journalists are losing their lives. Since the beginning of the year, far from headline news stories, some ten reporters have been killed in cold blood in Mexico. And no one could forget the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, shot in the head, reportedly by Israeli forces. But this year Ukraine has been the main focus. So what should a festival of photojournalism such as Visa pour l’Image do in response to such an event?

In September last year, pictures were screened at Campo Santo showing Afghans fleeing the return of the Taliban, scrambling over planes on the tarmac at Kabul airport. Who could have thought then that such images would be swept from world headlines? No one perhaps, but certainly we had not imagined the prospect. This year we will obviously be featuring Ukraine, giving the story the coverage it deserves, but we shall not be restricting the program to one single event, no matter how important it is.

What’s more, this latest war has highlighted, yet again, so many of the issues confronting professional photographers, while also uncovering new developments in photography. Key reports have presented the news in the midst of the confusion of war, with substantial input from members of the visual investigation team of The New York Times, working together with their reporters in the field and presenting incontrovertible evidence to contradict the “fake news” spread by Russia on the Bucha massacre. And they have provided evidence of atrocities being committed on both sides, confirming the authenticity of a video showing Ukrainian soldiers executing a Russian soldier.

Such developments should not be seen as yet one more nail in the coffin of “conventional” photojournalism, but rather as an additional tool in the news ecosystem providing even stronger backing for stories reported in still pictures and which, here at Visa pour l’Image, is what we have been acclaiming and encouraging for so many years.

Looking inside the ecosystem, credit must be given to the exemplary and essential work done by the news agencies (AFP, AP, Reuters, Getty and more). Their networks of reporters, fixers and sources, their logistics and know-how make it possible for media around the world to present day-to-day coverage of the war. In September, we will have the privilege of presenting these pictures, exhibited on the walls in Perpignan and on the giant screen at Campo Santo for all our visitors to see.

Jean-François Leroy
May 12, 2022