2017 has not, comparatively, been a quiet year, and refuses to go gently into the good night. It has left us with, amongst a whole host of traumas; Cold War-like paranoia, a strange Twitter culture of sexists and supremacists, a disquieting list of news events from within the UK, and Weinstein and company are now being named, unwrapping the glitz from that monolithic Hollywood sign to reveal the competing male genitals that dominate the entertainment business. So it is no surprise, then, that the 2017 British Press Photographers’ Association Award has so many images that are more than the everyday newspaper front page.
Politics is what the majority of the Assignments 2017 entries cover. The UK, in the last year, has seen its political stage in a state of floundering disrepair, beginning with David Cameron’s vote for Brexit, one that left him ostensibly disappointed, and jobless. Theresa May then found herself with a new job, and the ease with which she has consecutively made matters worse is admittedly impressive. In a shot caught by Stefan Rousseau, May is seen giving her best, real laugh in the company of the working classes as she campaigns for the general election. A number of images of May enjoying herself have circulated and, without fail, they are always received with a certain amount of discomfort.
An entry by Matt Cardy of Jeremy Corbyn reading to children at a school in Bristol is interesting for the same reason as Rousseau’s: a politician, trying their best not look like a politician. See, they can enjoy themselves, they are human. Corbyn, however, is peculiarly human for a politician, and so Cardy’s photo holds none of the surprise that Rousseau’s does of May. As he has proved, primarily in a positive light, sometimes not, Corbyn is not a polished character, and thus, there is no awkwardness in him acting like a child in the company of children.
A political figure in itself and May’s personal albatross (one which she carries with little effort and for no reason, continued to shoot), Grenfell Tower has become a symbol of almost every reason why the public struggle to trust the government. Its fire became a signal, a cry for help and a dramatic warning, and while the Queen, whose support from the people trickles away every year, visited the victims of the fire, Theresa May, Queen of the Sinking Ship, approached the scene of the crime with security. Guilhem Baker’s photograph, taken from the base of Grenfell Tower and while the fires were at their peak, is without a doubt the most significant image of the Assignments collection, and as part of the narrative that is Grenfell Tower, deserves to be displayed at Number 10 as a constant reminder to succeeding Prime Ministers.