Kay-Chin Tay: As an Asian who was educated in the West, I have a special interest on how photojournalism practice in Asia is perceived and received in other parts of the world. What became more and more obvious to me is the fact that there is an imbalance of information. Often, Asian photographers can be doing great work and yet they will be unknown to folks outside of Asia. It is rather annoying to me that while I know a lot about Western photographers, I know relatively little about imagemakers in my own backyard. I personally believe that this gulf can be and needs to be closed. As a student in Missouri, I volunteered at POYI and have witnessed firsthand how success at POYI can lead to bigger things and I hope this platform can be replicated. Hopefully, POY Asia can help to address the imbalance.
How POY Asia was created is a very short story. When I was in Columbia to judge POYI in February 2020, Lynden broached the idea and I said yes without even thinking. What followed was a flurry of activities behind the scene. I think we were very lucky that POYI has a long history and tradition so a lot of the foundation was already laid long ago. All we had to do was to repurpose them for our new adventure. The toughest thing was getting more people to join us but once we found the right people, everything just went very fast.
Lynden Steele: Like Kay-Chin, I first encountered POY as a student. It was such a powerful experience. I still remember very clearly the first time I sat down in Tucker Forum to watch. I was captivated and skipped my classes… I couldn’t imagine a better teacher than seeing experts debate the journalistic qualities of the images and stories. I had never seen anything like it. While I did go back to my classes (and saved my grade), the experience stayed with me.
In 2019 I attended POY’s sister program, POY Latin America (POY Latam) in Quito, Ecuador. POY Latam is only for photographers who live and work in Spanish-speaking countries. It featured categories specifically designed to reflect the issues, culture and people who live in Latin America. Watching the judges discuss the work had the similar, profound effect on me as when I first watched POY. I saw stories that shared stories from Latin America that do not reach POY. It simultaneously revealed POY’s limitations and a path forward.
POY Asia follows the inspiration of POY Latam. Realizing the POY’s limitations of a broad program, POY Asia can share important stories from an Asian perspective.