By Ayan Meer
IN THE time of democratised streams of media production and Facebook photographers, spaces for photojournalism have been steadily declining. An independent organisation founded by four journalists, the Media Foundation of India (MFI) set out to create a platform for photojournalists through a national photography contest. “We started from the disenchantment with the media in the past decade,” says poet and art curator Ranjit Hoskote, who is also the chairman of the MFI, “and tried to reflect on the relationship between the image and what constitutes news.” Putting together a jury of three renowned lensmen — Kevin Frayer, chief photographer at the Associated Press, South Asia, and award-winning photographers Arko Datta and Pablo Bartholomew — the MFI rewarded a wide palette of work, offering Rs 75,000 to the winner of the ‘Picture of the Year’.
This year, Mandar Deodhar, a photographer with India Today, captured the gripping image of a man struggling amid the fumes of a fire that ravaged a South Mumbai market. From the top of a building, he painted the memorable picture of a man surrounded by chaos. “He is at the threshold of being a victim,” says Hoskote, “yet tries to survive.” Receiving the award for this depiction of ordinary heroism, Deodhar emphasises that the prize “encourages him to work harder”. The MFI Yes Bank Photo Contest is an opportunity for photojournalists to offer an artistic gaze to news, extensively covered by the media yet “hidden in plain sight”, as Hoskote puts it.