The World Press Photo Exhibition opens

World Press Photo Exhibition
Rotary Club of Auckland Presentation
Lippincott Room

Smith & Caughey’s, Queen St, Auckland
Until July  30

The World Press Photo Exhibition opened this week at Auckland’s Smith and Caughey’s Queen St store, bringing together an extraordinary collection of the world’s best press images offering a striking perspective of the world we live in.

The exhibition presents the top three winners in single images and stories of 2017 across seven categories which include: contemporary issues, daily life, general news, long-term projects, nature, people, sports and spot news. From Amsterdam to Kyoto, Santiago to Tel Aviv, the exhibition will show in 100 cities and 45 countries, reaching a global audience of four million people each year.

Illuminating the major news stories and issues of the last year, the general news category was dominated by photos from the forefront of the refugee crisis, the war in Syria, the Paris attacks in January and November, the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the clashes in the US set off by police shootings.

Many of the photographs are of death and destruction, with people, objects and cities being ripped apart.

One dramatic image shows a man seemingly disintegrating on a city street. He has been shopping and his eggs erupt towards us, the ordinary turned into chaos.

But I am wrong. The image by Antonio Gibotta is of a cruel but playful ritual performed by the residents of Ibi in Spain who stage this mock military battle, pelting each other with flour and eggs and letting off firecrackers.

It is only one of the dozens of photographs that often need an explanation for images that have a subtle personal; social and political background.

The winning photograph by Burhan Ozbilici was the image of Turkish policeman Mevlut Altinas who shot the Russian ambassador at an art gallery opening in Ankara the Turkish capital. The set of images has Altinas standing behind the ambassador before he shoots, images of him standing over the body shouting and an image of the horrified audience watching the sequence.

Then there is the other iconic image of Iesha Evans standing her ground, facing off against police in a rally at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She looks like some wonder woman seeming to be forcing the police back by the strength of her aura.

War is the major constant in most of the images, particularly the war in the Middle East and the war on drugs. Then there are the images of the consequences of war – the refugees crammed into boats, lying dead in the water, struggling to survive on the road and in camps.

Then there is the War on Drugs, with Daniel Berehulak recording a few of the 700 extra-judicial killing in the Philippines under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.

There is a series of images by Tomas Munita recording the mourning period following the death of Fidel Castro after which his ashes were taken on a route that retraced, in reverse, the steps of his march from Santiago to Havana in 1959. Thousands turned out to watch the procession pass and one image of a country road shows dozens of farmers lining a foggy road waiting for the cortege to pass.

The war theme continues in the the wild life section, with images of the horrors inflicted on animals such as a turtle swimming through a pristine sea enveloped in the green plastic fishing nets, a dead rhinoceros with its horn hacked out of its head.

One photograph by Jamal Tarqai, which shows survivors and onlookers helping those injured in a suicide bomb attack at a Hospital in Pakistan, looks more like a Hollywood movie set than a war zone.

But there are also images of great beauty, with photographs of wildlife at night by Bence Mate and of courage in the shots of people at Standing Rock depicted by Amber Bracken.

And there are great images in the sport section where one image shows Usain Bolt winning another race but, unlike all the other runners straining with eyes focused on the winning line ahead, his head is turned checking on how close the competition is.

The exhibition is a reminder of the horrific, the joyous and the dramatic events that happen each day in the world. It is a chance to remember, meditate on, be entertained by and learn about the world and its peoples.