Index World Press Photo
January 2006 | Edition Three     

Newspaper and magazine readers in the developed world have taken high-quality photography for granted for many years.

But the widespread use of photographic illustration is a relatively new innovation in China where editors and consumers of the print media are now recognizing the power of pictures.

At the forefront of this revolution is the Nan Fang Du Shi Daily, a newspaper based in Guangzhou and circulated mainly in the Pearl River Delta in southern China.

Shiao-Lan Yi, a photo editor with the paper who took part in the visual literacy workshop at the World Press Photo 50th anniversary celebrations in 2005, explains how photographic images became a key element of its editorial policy.

"Nan Fang Du Shi Daily was originally a weekly, first published in March 1995. It was A2 size and had eight pages. It was not until January 1996 that it became a daily when the paper's size changed to A3.

For a very long time, the newspaper had no department to manage its visual aspects. There were no photo editors and no particular pages set aside for photography alone.

Photographers were given assignments by the manager of the news collecting department. And photos could only be across a maximum of three columns.

Editors decided which photos to publish and how they should be used. People assumed photos were there only to explain text and fill spaces.

It was in 2000 that the vice-chief-editor decided for the first time to use half-page photos on every day's front page to accompany the most important or best visual story.

He noticed that a good picture would pass information to readers much more effectively than a thousand words - and pictures caught readers' attention. In the same year, the newspaper also started to have a two-page photo feature called Witness, which is still published today.

The decision to use a half-page photo on the front immediately made the newspaper stand out from many of its competitors. Most of the other papers did not realize the importance of such images. Since then, the Nan Fang Du Shi Daily has become a leader in using images in newspaper-publishing in China.

In 2001, more photos and graphics were used in news and feature pages, re-inforcing the impression to readers that Nan Fang Du Shi Daily was a publication at the forefront of illustrating news with images.

Then, in May 2004, a photo department was set up. It now includes photographers, photo editors and layout specialists. We call it the “vision center” of the newspaper. It was also the first time the newspaper had the position of photo editor.

There is also a chief photo editor whose responsibility it is to set out policy, such as the minimum size of photos and their level of quality.

Since then, photos have become increasingly prominent in major news stories and reports such as the account of the old airport moving and features like Witness 2004 and the Other World in Guangzhou.

Now, using big photos in news pages and having photo features is a trend in many large city newspapers in China and the photo department is a leading place in the newspaper's headquarters.

Nan Fang Du Shi Daily is still leading this trend and photographers, as a result, are attracted to come and work for it.

In a recent photo contest of seven pioneering newspapers, the Nan Fang Du Shi Daily photo department won four 4 prizes."

Nan Fang Du Shi Daily (Chinese)

An example of how Nan Fang Du Shi Daily is using photography and graphic imagery in its pages.

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Shiao-Lan Yi

Copyright © 2006, all rights reserved by the photographers