Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s essay on the WPP jury process (“Unconcerned but not Indifferent”) is a provocative insight to a previously little-understood process, and is laced with important observations on the function and status of photojournalism.

To date, the debate on Foto8 has been focused on the contention (now seemingly reconciled) surrounding how the jury treated the single photo of a Thai prostitute. However, what their observation disclosed was not a problem with that particular photograph but the hypocritical way in which some images received more jury scrutiny than others.

Why ask about the photographer’s relation to her subject in this image – whether she had consent from the subject – but not pose the same questions to a host of other practitioners? For example, were Benjamin Lowy’s winning Iraq detainee images similarly grilled? And what about earlier winning images, such as (Nick) Ut Cong Huynh’s now iconic photo of the Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack that won the 1972 competition? Consent is an important issue in so far as it is one way of addressing the need to avoid (in Martha Rosler’s words) “revictimizing the victims” who are being photographed, but if the demand for consent was universally applied what images would we get to see and how many circumstances would go undisclosed? Is an individual relationship more important than collective understanding?

Broomberg and Chanarin’s assessment of the World Press Photo jury process was not the first public disclosure of these practices. At the WPP 50th anniversary celebrations in 2005, former jury member and secretary Adriaan Monshouwer gave a talk entitled “Winner Takes All” that reviewed previous decisions in light of his personal experience.1 According to Monshouwer the jury tended to operate within an established range of options: