As 2020 brought a society-altering worldwide disruption, press photographers were able to document the monumental changes in every aspect of that “new normal.” The Boston Press Photographers Association (BPPA) has shared the award-winning images from its annual 2020 Pictures of the Year Contest.
On May 24 2021, the BBPA, which is the oldest press and television photographers association in the United States, debuted its first outdoor exhibition in the organization’s 95-year history, produced in collaboration with Photoville, a New York-based non-profit organization that works to promote a wider understanding and increased access to the art of photography for all.
The event also received additional support provided by GBH and GBH News, which sponsored the politics category, and Gene Yoon, who contributed to the exhibition’s graphic design.
While the organization has hosted this competition in the past, this is the first time that the winners have been exhibited.
“For the first time ever, the Boston Press Photographers Association is showcasing the award-winning images from their annual Pictures of the Year Contest in two outdoor exhibitions,” the organization says.
The exhibit showcased award-winning images from the annual 2020 Pictures of the Year Contest in Copley Square, Boston, from May 24 through June 6, with over 100 photographs and stories by 40 photographers, who represented a range of news organizations, including Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Getty Images, Polaris Images, Reuters, WBUR, and independent photographers.
The exhibition is now followed by a showing in Judge Gourdin Park in Nubian Square, Boston, from June 7 through to June 20, 2021, with images publicly accessible and displayed on ten separate six-foot by six-foot “photo cubes.”
The association reflected on the past year as one that nobody could have predicted. It brought a presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic, and renewed protests for racial and social equality, which the BBPA news photographers captured while putting themselves at risk “to tell the stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.”
As illness spread and deaths mounted, individuals opened up their intimate lives so these photojournalists could show the larger public the impact of COVID-19 with unflinching and empathetic candor. The pandemic disproportionately affected Black, brown and immigrant communities, which brought an old and ugly reality back to the forefront. Racial injustice is not new, but this year brought it into sharp focus.
As uncomfortable as these images might be for the public to see and understand, BPPA believes that it is important to bring these stories to the forefront to preserve and share them.
Boston Globe staff photographer Jessica Rinaldi, the winner of the “Photographer of the Year” title and the “Pandemic” category, and Thomson Reuters senior staff photographer Brian Snyder, the winner of “Best in Show” and “News Picture Story”, joined Jim Braude, a lawyer, and Boston TV and radio personality, to discuss the difficulties of photojournalism during the past year.
On “Lunch Hour Live,” GBH contributor Sue O’Connell further discussed this photography contest and the stories behind the impactful documentary and news photos with Snyder and GBH’s Director of Photography Meredith Nierman, also touching on how photojournalists work and the thought process during moments of shooting complex stories unfolding right in front of them.
Photojournalism to this day remains a dangerous job as it sheds light on current events and conflicts worldwide, with Musée reporting 51 photojournalists missing, imprisoned, or killed on assignment for their work in 2018.
O’Connell pointed out to the audience that some photojournalists were given personal protection equipment — something that the members of public may not necessarily associate with the profession of news photography — such as bullet-proof vests, and underwent training on how to safely work to be able to go out and deliver their stories, with Snyder explaining how he had to adapt to health and safety precautions during COVID-19, which brought additional challenges of its own.
A full list of all contest categories and their respective winners and finalists can be found on BPPA’s website.
Image credits: All photos individually credited and provided courtesy of BPPA.