By: Debra Gersh Hernandez
First-prize photograph in the White House News
Photographers Association competition creates a stir sp.
APPARENTLY, THERE ARE some people in Washington who believe that no nudes is good nudes.
A first-prize photograph in the White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) competition nearly was eliminated from display and from the association’s published compilation of winning shots, because it featured a naked man.
The photo was taken by Washington Times photographer Kenneth Lambert at last summer’s Woodstock festival. It shows a long-haired naked man sitting in a lawn chair, looking askance at a nearby clothed young woman who is giving him a sardonic look.
Lambert’s shot, entitled “Everything Old Is Nude Again,” was awarded first prize in the features/color category and, as such, was to join other award winners in a Library of Congress exhibit, in the WHNPA yearbook, and in an Oval Office ceremony with President Bill Clinton honoring the winners.
But association president Ken Blaylock, a video engineer at ABC News, said the photo was inappropriate and would not be included in the exhibit or the book.
A few days later, Blaylock was overruled by the full association board, which conceded that the material might be offensive but deemed it news material, and voted to treat it like any other prize winner.
Although, for reasons of taste, the photograph did not run in the Washington Times, the WHNPA allows nonpublished photos to be entered in the annual competition.
Blaylock, who did not return E&P’s call for comment, was quoted as saying his decision was a question of taste ? not censorship ? and that the photograph offended some people, including him. He also said it reflected poorly on the association and wondered why, if the Washington Times did not run the photo, it should be in the WHNPA magazine.
Lambert said he would not allow the photograph to be displayed or be included in the professional photographers’ awards book if it were cropped or censored.
The Washington Post ran the photo with a black box over the man’s genitals, but Lambert said he had no problem with that, since it was being used to illustrate a story about the controversy and wouldn’t have been used otherwise.
Frustrated when he took the photo, because he knew he couldn’t use his best shot of the weekend in the paper, Lambert still wanted people to see the picture, so he entered it in the contest.
“This was tough,” he said. “We couldn’t run that photo in our newspaper, but I still thought it was intriguing. I wanted to get this photo seen, unaltered and uncropped . . . .
“Good photojournalism doesn’t do anyone any good by sitting in a file or in a portfolio. The public has got to see it,” he added.
Lambert said that before entering the competition, he scanned the rules and found no prohibition regarding nudity. In fact, in the previous contest, one award-winning photo reportedly showed two shirtless women kissing.
“I know there are far more photographs of breasts that seem to be published than penises, or even vaginas, maybe. I just figured that nudity is nudity,” Lambert said.
“This photo was telling the truth about an event. It was trying to show a different aspect of Woodstock ? the cynical side,” he explained.
Lambert said he wanted to demonstrate how this Woodstock was different from, not similar to, the original festival.
“I think the photograph is about her sort of cynical expression and the fact that he’s the only one who’s naked. The other kids are not into it. She turned around and made that face.
“They’re eyeing each other sort of cynically,” Lambert said.
Lambert said that he got tremendous support from editors at the Washington Times, where he has worked for a little more than three years, even though the photograph was not run in the paper.
Washington Times photo editor Glen Stubbe said when he first heard there was a discussion not to run Lambert’s photo in the annual awards book, he was really angry.
According to Stubbe ? who was at the awards’ judging and said the photo was chosen for first place right from the start ? editor in chief Wesley Pruden said if the photo were published anywhere, it must include a caption stating that the Times did not publish it for reasons of taste.
However, Pruden supported exhibiting the photo and including it in the awards book.
Managing editor Josette Shiner explained that the Times is “a family newspaper. We wouldn’t want to leave a misperception that this was a photo we published in the newspaper. Most contests . . . only judge published work. I don’t think it’s widely known that in this [competition] not all the photographs have been published.”
However, Shiner supported publication of the photo in a professional book distributed to professional photographers. The Library of Congress, she added, would have to make its own decision about whether to display it.
“Everyone has different standards,” she said. “This is a professional contest. The Library of Congress has its own audience.”
Shiner noted that the paper ran a number of other “excellent” photographs by Lambert from the Woodstock festival.
“This is not a gag photo. It’s not voyeuristic. It tells the story of Woodstock in the ’90s. Unfortunately, part of that story prohibited us from running it,” Shiner said.
“Once the organization decided it was a first-place winner, if it met their standards, they should stand behind it. I am very pleased that the WHNPA has resolved this in a way all people can respect,” she added.
?( This photograph by Washington Times photographer Kenneth Lambert, taken at last summer’s Woodstock festival, won first prize in the White House News Photographers Association competition, but nearly was eliminated from display and from the association’s published compilation of winning shots. The photograph was not reprinted by the Washington Times for the reasons of taste.) [Photo & Caption]