The Jury

The members of the competition jury were:

Anna Gripp Chief Editor of Photonews magazine
Annette Kulenkampff Publisher, Hatje Cantz Verlag
Ulrich Pohlmann Head of Collection, Fotomuseum, Munich Stadtmuseum
Bernhard Prinz Professor of Visual Communication, Kassel Art College
Thomas Seelig Curator of Collection, Fotomuseum, Winterthur

The jury’s statement:

The task of treating the written or spoken word photographically is a great challenge. The photographer does not have the possibilities of a writer to express thoughts verbally. Capturing language in an image is therefore an ambitious project.

The jury took a strict view of photographs which were too obvious in the way they included the written word. The reading of the text distracts the viewer from the actual image, and so the jury found the concentration on the visual image more appealing. The very frequent depiction of Braille was also regarded by the jury as a depiction of the written word. Body language, non-verbal communication and the presentation of the aesthetic sensual experience of language emerged as the preferred motifs.

Entirely new aspects were highlighted by the unconventional approach taken by some of the 3000-plus submissions. Despite some very different levels, it was not easy for the jury to ascribe the pictures to professional or amateur photographers.

Most of the photographers accessed the motif via individual situations and private scenarios: pictures working with sign language and body language, or situations and rituals in which people address each other using language. But some of the images were also dominated by rhetoric and power, books and writing, and language in the public arena.

The participants in the competition tended to interpret “the power of language” as an opportunity for empowerment and less as an instrument of power and suppression. The lack of depictions of language as a means of oppression, which the jury felt was perhaps a typically German association, highlights an alternative approach to the subject. The members of the jury suspected that, had it been restricted to Germany, the outcome of the competition would have been different.

Despite the international nature of the competition, there were numerous overlappings of topics. Virtually no special regional features could be distinguished. A sign of globalisation?

Language moulds our feelings, our perception and our memory from our early childhood. Families communicate using their own, very intimate “codes”. Language builds bridges to other cultures, but can also be an impediment. Language is an expression of our culture.

Goethe-Instituts worldwide prove that language exerts a strong attraction as a linking element. The pictures show that language and speaking is something humans cannot live without.
Anna Gripp, Annette Kulenkampff, Ulrich Pohlmann, Bernhard Prinz and Thomas Seelig