2010's World photographer Award winner has a blackly comic edge
A certain amount of photography goes beyond simply technically impressive or artistically stunning into something more contentious. The winner of this year’s Iris d’Or at the Sony World Photography awards depicted a trio of lambs looking into their potential future, as three of their kin are hung from meat hooks after being skinned. As an entrant into the Photojournalism and Documentary category the images, entitled ‘Hidden Death’, certainly have the potential to be controversial purely due to the subject matter.
Taking images within an abattoir isn’t going to turn up anything other than a gruesome end product so the photographer, Tommaso Ausili, must be applauded for creating something verging on the darkly comic. The three animals looking upon their fate has a touch of the gallows humor about it in almost equal measures to the gruesomeness of the subject matter, giving the viewer a removed vantage point from the horror of the situation, adding a certain amount of whimsy to it.
Perhaps my sense of humor, or world view, colours my perception of the image to some extent. But in the same sense the photographer clearly doesn’t want us to be horrified or the skinned animals would have been shown in closer detail. There is an amount of social commentary relating to the sheep simply roaming amongst mutilated remains without thought of distress to the animal etc. As mentioned before, an abattoir isn’t a particularly happy place, and the appearance of the animals in this state shouldn’t really be of any surprise, even if the surrounding conditions look suitably grimy and unhygienic.
As photojournalism is all about context, I think Tommaso Ausili has achieved some truly impressive work here in elevating this image beyond the potential trappings of the subject matter.