Every year for the last fifty years, a professional jury of the World Press Photo Foundation has selected one photograph as winner of the "World Press Photo of the Year" competition. Some of these images have had such an impact on society that they have become symbols of their time - true historical icons.
LOOKING FOR AN ICON examines the process by which photos become icons, revealing that once a photo is published, social forces are at work beyond the photographer's control. The film focuses on four World Press Photo winners, including Eddie Adams's 1968 photo of the public execution of a Viet Cong prisoner, an anonymous photographer's last image of Salvador Allende during the 1973 coup, Charlie Cole's 1989 photo of a lone student confronting tanks in Tiananmen Square, and David Turnley's 1991 photo of a grieving soldier during the first Gulf War.
The film details the story behind each of those world-famous images, featuring interviews with the photographers, and showing additional images from the contact sheets. LOOKING FOR AN ICON also features interviews with other photographers, photo editors, critics, educators, historians and members of the World Press Photo jury.
The commentary by these photojournalists and other professionals offer insights into the social process by which a photo becomes iconic, the visual motifs they illustrate, the public's voyeuristic fascination with horrific images, and how such images shape historical memory.
"Compelling... a fascinating overview... Understanding iconic imagery is of immeasurable importance in understanding ourselves."—Amy Ione, Leonardo On-Line Reviews
2008 Best Educational Film Award, International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) Montreal
2007 DocPoint Film Festival
2005 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam
"Much more than the story of four photographs... It is also an exploration of the meaning and importance of photojournalism itself."—CBC News
"Well-researched, easy to follow, and highly recommended as a teaching tool for cultural studies, journalism, or communication-related courses."— Educational Media Reviews Online
"A fascinating examination of the overwhelming power of the image in the modern historical record; this is highly recommended."Video Librarian
"Like a mini-academic course in photojournalism... will be of great interest to history as well as media buffs."The Hollywood Reporter
*** (Three Stars) "This short but ambitious documentary provokes considerable thought."Slant Magazine