Photojournalism contest Pictures of the Year International to launch Asian spin-off

A photo shot by Nicole Tung won 2nd place for the News Picture Story in POY 76.
A photo shot by Nicole Tung won 2nd place for the News Picture Story in POY 76.PHOTO: NICOLE TUNG

SINGAPORE - The prestigious Pictures of the Year International (POYi) contest attracts more than 40,000 entries from nearly 100 countries every year.

But some areas like Asia are still under-represented, says Mr Lynden Steele, the director of POYi. This is why he is starting an Asian offshoot of the competition to shine a spotlight on photojournalists working in this region.

First created in 1944 at the Missouri School of Journalism to recognise the best works in photojournalism, POYi counts renowned photojournalists like Steve McCurry and James Nachtwey as some of its past awardees.

Mr Steele, an alumnus of the University of Missouri (MU) in the United States, got the idea to start an Asian offshoot of the competition after attending the judging session for its Latin American leg last year and seeing the "amazing representation of photographers" throughout Latin America.

"The breadth of works was so inspiring and I wanted to bring that focus on local journalism to POY Asia." says Mr Steele, who is also the co-director of the Asian spin-off.

In the light of the coronavirus pandemic, POY Asia will have specific categories focused on telling stories related to Covid-19.

Photography, Mr Steele says, is important in preserving memories of the lives we are living during the current pandemic.

He adds: "As we move on from this year and as our lives progress, there are going to be small details about what we are experiencing right now during the pandemic that we will forget."

"Preserving these memories through photos will help us remember why this was such a significant period in all our lives."

POY Asia, which will be launched in February 2021, will be helmed by photographers and editors based in Asia, including Singaporean photographer Tay Kay Chin.

Tay, the co-director and one of the founding advisers of POY Asia, notes that this competition "has the best of both worlds" with the backing of POYi combined with Asian professionals fronting the programme.

POY Asia would mean "greater access and wider recognition for Asian photographers", says Tay, a judge for POYi this year and also a MU alumnus.

He says: "There are many talented Asian photographers that I know, and some will eventually get the global recognition that they deserve. However, the road to reach the pinnacle will be a very tough one."

"It won't be easy and I am under no illusions that POY Asia alone will help, but we have to try our best."

A photo shot by Wang He won 3rd place for the Feature Picture Story category in POY 75. PHOTO: WANG HE