Article Danielle Neri.
Somewhere in Amsterdam every year a jury of 19 international judges are responsible with the impossible task of determining the finalists and ultimate winners of the World Press Photo awards. The jurors, including chairman Gary Knight, this year had to sift through over 90,000 entries from more than 5,000 photographers where Knight was forced to raise the question, “Should there be a hierarchy of issues for the World Press Photo awards, and if so what should they be?”
The question was raised because of the controversial idea that the jury was placing an importance on certain issues over others, like why photo entries displaying domestic violence in the United States would be more highly praised then gang violence in South America. This is a question the spectator might ask as they are visiting the exhibit this year, yet what is important to remember is that the exhibition is solely based of the aesthetic of the photographs. The competition itself is sectioned off into categories such as contemporary issues, daily life, spot and general news, observed and staged portraits, sports and nature.
The news and contemporary issues entries can leave the viewer feeling like they have just watched a particularly depressing nine hours of CNN with images including scenes from war zones in Syria, the Boston Marathon bombings, mental “hospitals” in Kenya and the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. However, these haunting images are not going to leave you feeling de-sensitised like the news media outlet because each photo has a level of humanism that can rattle you emotionally and make you want to learn more about the issues. Yet, other categories can present charming, touching and hilarious photojournalism including the sexual preferences of a breed of monkey called Bonobos, young girls going out to a school dance in Gaza, women’s football teams playing in lingerie and body builders posing with their mothers in Egypt.
The two levels of the exhibition are separated by the World Press selections on the ground floor and the exhibits Quebec based sponsors on the second where each sponsor has created a smaller exhibit to showcase their strengths. Such as RDI, Montreal Nightlife and the highlight being the Oxfam Quebec Exhibition by photographer William Daniels who captured images from how Oxfam is benefitting the worlds most underdeveloped countries. There is also a sign-up sheet in the exhibit if you would like to contribute to Oxfam’s cause.
The exhibition includes an artist’s statement on the label beside each photo, however if you’re looking to learn more you can download the free 2014 World Press Photo Exhibition Guide App which provides audio commentary in nine languages as well as bonus information on the photos and photographers that are not found in the exhibition.
This is a great exhibit that comes to Montreal every year so I recommend not being afraid of your feelings and taking the time to experience this exceptional showcase of photojournalism and the beauty that it has to inspire interest, empathy and understanding from the audience straight to the photographs subject no matter where they are in the world.
The World Press Photo Exhibition takes place at Bonsecours Market (325 rue de la Commune East) until September 28, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays until midnight, 12$/10$ for students.