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hazy shade of winter

A few weeks ago, my friend Andy Adams at Flak Photo put out a call for winter photos. I just spent a fascinating hour looking through some nominations that came in. There are remarkable and beautiful photos here.

Two faves:
Bejamin Wirtz Siegel
Chibi Lai

And yet: I'm troubled by the entries as a whole. Over and over and over again, these photographers are portraying winter as snowy, bleak and desolate. Or beautiful and desolate. Or icy and desolate. Snow. Fog. Gray. Trees. Ice. There is a sameness to many entries that soon becomes numbing.

Take the photos of empty, snowy roads. I counted at least 8 of them. Ashley Lebedev's version was my favorite, but you know, it is still another empty snowy road.

Yes, there are notable exceptions that show originality:
- Miniatures by Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz
- Bizarre Christmas trees by William Lamson and Peter Riesett and Ben Huff.
- This shot by Rachel Hulin.
But sadly they are too few and far between.

As a photojournalist, maybe I'm just missing the point. Why create photos that are neither informative nor beautiful nor interesting nor entertaining nor surprising nor emotive? I mean no one offense, but I generally aspire to at least one of these criteria in a photo.

In my work, I seek to create beautiful or troubling images that tell a story. The best photoreportage is both aesthetic and narrative. Take for example, Damon Winter's snowy Central Park photo in today's New York Times.

But back to the monotonous desolation. What if winter, perhaps, means a little bit more?

I mean, where are the kids playing in the snow?

Where are the people dying of exposure?

Where are the people, period? Except for some ethnographic portraits of reindeer herders, the Flak entries are often devoid of life.

And if it's desolation you want, why not go all the way? Where are photos of the long dark nights?

I'm not saying my photos are any better than those entered, but at least I hope they show more variety.

Tomorrow Andy reveals his favorite winter shots on Flak Photo and I'll be eager to see his choices.

(All above photos are mine from Chernobyl.)

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