The Times of Malta Picture Annual 2012 – review

 Dear Readers,

All the Annuals in my collection
All the Annuals in my collection

I was planning to write this review few months ago (in December 2012 to be exact) but I kept on pushing it away in time. Partly because my life tends to get hectic on work – home – health – survival line, partly because I didn’t know what to say. It may sound peculiar, after all reviews are about books being summarized and presented to the potential reader. Hardly a rocket science, especially if you are running a blog.

But truth be told, it doesn’t matter how many pages of text you had delivered in your life. Some topics will be either so complex or personal or simply hard to approach, that they will leave you blank for a long while.

It is easy to be a critic these days. Anybody can be and everybody is doing it on the Internet. People shout about things, believing themselves to be right to tell others what to like and what to hate. And often what they represent is criticism of the lowest lows.

I have no interest to join a clique. Perhaps I am stubborn, but I want to write about things I care about. Things that I am passionate about.

Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2006
Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2006

“Photojournalism is a service industry. It provides awareness”

 Those who know me, will vouch that I can be one-track minded, obsessed even. Start me on photography and I turn monothematic. I can go on for hours. I have been dabbling in the medium for a while now; I don’t leave the house without my Canon camera. I devour any bit of information regarding photography: movies, documentaries, books, articles. I never seem to have enough.

 I have a huge respect for photographers because it is not an easy career path. I admire their bravery, their selflessness, their dedication and contribution to society. As an aspiring student of the medium, I can at times idolize them. I put certain photographers on pedestals.  One of the issues with this review was that I know personally people behind The Times of Malta Picture Annual and some of them I even call friends. It’s hard to be objective then.

There are four main photographers at The Times of Malta/The Sunday Times:  Darrin Zammit – Lupi (who also acts as an editor for the Picture Annual books), Chris Sant Fournier, Matthew Mirabelli (he was Picture Annual acting editor in 2008) and Jason Borg. Recently, Paul Spiteri Lucas, Mark Zammit Cordina and Paul Zammit Cutajar had joined the team on more or less regular basis.

Over the course of six years this bunch of photographers has been working long hours for months on end. There were times when they came home to sleep at 5 am; they have missed time with their families. Occasionally, they been so tired that they could hardly talk but still were able to deliver. They have won highest industry honours; some of them have been beaten or threatened while on the job.

Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2008
Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2008

These aspects of photojournalist’s work are often overlooked when you see the glossy, beautifully printed picture book. All the sacrifice, long working hours, lack of any personal time and sometimes danger encountered in this field of work cannot be translated and put into the final product. Photos and stories that photographers document take a central stage and what happens to the photographer is not that important.

Photographers are observers, for most of the time they are invisible. And as James Nachtwey put it, photojournalism is a service industry; it provides society with awareness.

Sorry haven’t been in touch, am so bogged down in a big project at work”

 I have met all four Times of Malta photographers in October 2006 during a very boring journalism course. We have been teaching the teacher but it proved to be a fantastic networking exercise, at least for yours truly.  In the weeks afterwards, I have been trying to get some criticism of my photos and sent an email to Darrin Zammit – Lupi asking for advice.  He didn’t have time to offer tips but told me something much more interesting. His first message was as follows:

“Sorry haven’t been in touch, been so bogged down in a big project at work, all I’m managing to squeeze in is work and few hours sleep every night. A project which, I’ve no doubt, you’ll find very interesting once it’s launched next month.”

Curiosity killed the cat. I began to ask him more and more questions, poor Darrin must have felt interrogated.  Yet his next email offered some answers:

“Project is a photography book; being published first or second week of December…you should start seeing adverts for it from next week. Editing a photo book has been a lot tougher than I imagined, but what a fabulous experience it’s been”.

This was the first time I ever heard about the Picture Annual.  When the book came out in December 2006, it blew me away. It was 192 pages, offered several categories (news, daily life, people in the news, sports), had international news photos section and only costed 16 EUR. Each photo was printed separately on one page on a high quality paper. It felt more like an art-book than your usual photography publication. There was a fantastic introduction by Victor Aquilina in the beginning of the book explaining the idea behind the it. Mr. Aquilina is the former editor of The Times of Malta and a true force behind the whole project.

Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2009
Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2009

The Picture Annual was received very well by the readers and general public. I could tell you few jaws hit the floor in the community because people would’t believe it was possible for a small Island like Malta to have a proper photojournalistic publication.  It turned out to be a first book in an ongoing series. The project now established itself as an award winning publication. With seven books on the market, the latest one was issued in December 2012.

Yes, the one I will finally review, so read on.

“Here’s my EUR 27, what do I get?”

When I was buying my copy of Picture Annual 2012, the person next to me uttered this question to the seller.  “A bloody good book” – was the reply and it can serve for a review if you have no time to read my story – telling. You get a great quality of a publication that can stand proudly on your shelf or act as a great gift. Great value for your hard – earned cash, if I have to say that.

But it is a bit lame.  I would waste several great resources if I was just concentrating on value for money.  For example, do you know how the Picture Annual is made? How the images are selected, how the editor works?

Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2010
Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2010

Scroll down and see the link below. It will take you to an article for 2009 edition. The movie there is actually a three minute description about the production stage of the Picture Annual by Editor Darrin Zammit – Lupi. There is nothing better than to hear it from the main source:

Also, in the press there have been two great reviews that deal with the historic and aesthetic aspects of press photography.  If you have some time to spare, it is a very interesting read.

By Kenneth Zammit-Tabona:

And by Patrick Fenech (a great photog himself):

Let me also make note that this year The Times Picture Annual 2011 edition was awarded second place in the non-fiction category of this year’s National Book Award. The video below is in Maltese but if you want to see the editor sweating it out in a suit just scroll to 1:06 😉

Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2011
Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2011

Right, praises and additional reading aside, time for statistics 🙂

The Times Picture Annual 2012 is 192 pages long (if you don’t count the cover), filled with 150 images printed on a 150 gsm silk matte paper (same type of paper used for publishing art books if you ask). So from the start you get a very good quality paper, beautiful and detailed printing.

The book is divided into several categories such as: news, people in the news, daily life, arts and entertainment, sports and foreign news. The last section consists of images from Reuters and AFP photographers (although Darrin Zammit – Lupi is featured there with his photo of drowned cruise liner Costa Concordia).

Pictures cover the period between November 11, 2011 and November 10, 2012.

It has been a very hectic year: floods (in the Birkirkara area), political meetings (5+5 Dialogue Summit), state funerals (former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, former President Vincent Tabone), murders (Duncan Zammitt who was killed in front of his newly born twins on New Years Day) and rock concerts (annual Isle of MTV concert in Floriana).  Life in Malta is never dull and the photos tell the extraordinary story of life that unfolds on a daily basis.

Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2012
Cover of The Times Picture Annual 2012

Some pages will make you weep. Photo on the page 40 shows Former President Vincent Tabone celebrating his 70th wedding anniversary with his wife Mary on November 23, 2011. Page 41 shows the coffin of Mr Tabone being taken out of church on March 15th 2012. Life and death in just four months. Both images have been captured by the same photographer.

Some pages will make you smile, like the photo of Charles Cremona (on page 81) who waves a big Maltese flag to greet cruise liners visiting the island from the roof of his house (he has since became an unofficial institution).

There is an aww – factor on page 94 that displays a photo of two young boys and a pug. The best picture ever to show why you need to have a pet.

And the action and drama is portrayed on page 156 during a football match between Italy and Malta on September 12, 2012.

A true roller-coaster of emotions, it can make your head spin.

Is there something I don’t like in the book, you may ask. Not in particular, however I wish some things were added. I have mentioned before that over the years, the team of photographers has been enlarged. The staff photogs have been joined by regulars and freelancers and the book shows it.  There are some good shots by Natalino Fenech or Ian Pace for example in the Picture Annual and it would be very cool to learn something about the photographers. A small bio in the contributor’s column would go a long way I believe, especially since the four staff photographers enjoy large bios in the book.

The foreigner news section mostly consists of Reuters and AFP photographers. It would be fantastic thing if it was opened to include AP, Noor or VII or other agencies. I know it may be not possible technically but just imagine how diverse it would be.

Last but also very important – 2006 and 2007 editions are out of print. Perhaps it is time to think about re-runs?

If you want to buy yourself a copy of The Times Picture Annual, please scroll down to the online shop:

You may also follow The Times Picture Annual on Facebook:

By following, you will be able to also see the newspaper’s Picture of the Week feature. It’s a good exercise, trying to guess which image will make it to the Picture Annual for 2013.


Flyer for Darrin Zammit - Lupi talk about Libyan conflict
Flyer for Darrin Zammit – Lupi talk about Libyan conflict

All right, readers. Hands up if you are still paying attention. There’s something you should know and you don’t want to miss it.  The editor of Picture Annual, Darrin Zammit Lupi will be having a talk on his coverage of Libyan conflict for members of MIPP on 30th April 2013 at Corinthia San Gorg Hotel in St Julians. If you ever wanted to become a member of MIPP but never had the right incentive, now you do. This will not only be a great occasion to meet one of the best photojournalists on this island, but  you can actually see up close and personal  how journalists cover a major story for a number of months. Darrin is not a war shooter, so there will be no corpses or blood (sorry to disappoint!) but he has some amazing stories to tell and you can learn a lot.

Please scroll down to the even page on Facebook:

Or see the newest MIPP newsletter for details:

MIPP  newsletter (April 2013) showcasing the `Libyan Conflict` talk by Darrin Zammit Lupi
MIPP newsletter (April 2013) showcasing the `Libyan Conflict` talk by Darrin Zammit Lupi

Below you will find all the resources you may want to follow up the work of Darrin Zammit – Lupi:

Thank you for your attention (I did warn you I could go on forever on my favourite subject!)


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