There is a certain kind of photograph where you feel, having looked at it closely, that you know the photographer a little. I have visited several WPOTY exhibitions now and the photographs leave me with exactly the opposite feeling. The photographers have obviously put a lot into them: time, effort, equipment, travel, patience, persistence and ingenuity. But there is nothing personal about the result. With a small number of exceptions, they are technically superb yet clinical to the point of monotone.
I wonder why the text panels always tell you exactly what kit was used for each shot (including strobes, drones, speedlights and more this year – including a powered paraglider). I wonder about the environmental impact of flying half way across the world to take these photos, as some photographers do. I wonder why all but a handful of the photographers are from developed countries. I wonder about the exhibition’s ambient music and the little dramatised texts that go with each shot. I think about colonial-era photography and the way that another kind of wild was pinned down by that.
The visitors’ book is a litany of superlatives. This is a truly popular exhibition but to me it is not so much a celebration of nature as of technology.