Right place, right time

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 July, 1996, 12:00am

A student once asked a famous photographer the secret of great news pictures. 'F8 and be there,' he said. The story has since become legendary among photo-journalists as it captures many of the basic tenets of the job in just four words.

It reminds photographers that it is not technology that makes the shot great - F8 being a rough and ready camera exposure - but being in the right place at the right time.

A photo-journalist's job is to seek out that decisive moment, that single fraction of a second that will give readers an insight and understanding of a news event that the more filtered medium of text cannot.

Each year the World Press Photo Foundation publishes a collection of some of the greatest of these moments in their World Press Photo Yearbook (Thames & Hudson). The annual shows the best images of many of the past year's biggest news events, as well as some of the not-so-big occasions.

The Photo of the Year was taken by Lucian Perkins of The Washington Post. The image was taken in Chechnya as Perkins was returning to the town of Grozny. He said that he was struck by the image of the young boy with his face pressed against the rear window of the bus. The look of despair and the hands that seem to be trying to reach out to someone tell so much about the situation of the people caught in the crossfire of the war in Chechnya.

The second major prize is the Children's Award selected by an international jury of schoolchildren from about 300 photographs. This year they selected David Turnley's image of a elderly woman in despair as the most powerful image of the past 12 months. Turnley photographed the woman, one of the many refugees from Srebrenica, at a refugee centre in Tuzla.

Other powerful images come from Eric Bouvet who spent two weeks with a Russian special forces unit as they infiltrated Chechnya, torturing and executing prisoners as they went.

And in the daily news section, Peter Ginter offers a look at the changing face of Cuba. His image captures a young couple dancing sensuously in the run-down lobby of an old hotel, while a portrait of Che Guevara, hero of the Cuban revolution, looks away from them towards the wall.