Journalism Stilled: World Press Photo Exhibition

Human rights photographer Robin Hammond, who is one of this year's winners. Pic: Maria Shields O'Kelly for NewsFour

Human rights photographer Robin Hammond, who is one of this year’s winners.
Pic: Maria Shields O’Kelly for NewsFour

“The Windows to the World” is the description by Erik de Kruijf from World Press for the planet’s most prestigious photo contest, which visits Dublin at the chq Building on the Irish leg of its world tour.

Spanning almost six decades, the World Press Photo Foundation has now grown from a local contest in Amsterdam into the world’s biggest photojournalism contest, with almost 100,000 images entered and a professional judging panel representing a cross section of the world community.

Speaking at the launch, curator Eamonn Kennedy said, “I see this not just as an exhibition of photography, but as an exhibition of journalism. We visited 100 cities around the world and wanted to use Dublin as a location with a positive social impact. Quality journalism is vitally important to a decent society.”

Winning images are displayed from 10 different categories including Sports, Nature and Current Affairs. The World Press Photo of the Year is selected from this group and this year’s coveted winner is ‘The Signal’ by John Stanmeyer, depicting a group of migrants on the shore of Djibouti City, arms outstretched in efforts to reach relatives by phone to obtain a cheaper signal from this popular point.

Curator Eamonn Kennedy. Pic: Maria Shields O'Kelly for NewsFour

Curator Eamonn Kennedy.
Pic: Maria Shields O’Kelly for NewsFour

“Each year at this stage of the contest the potential winner is subjected to much scrutiny and debate, but this is the first year that I have seen relatively no criticism of the final selection,” said de Kruijf. Apart from being a beautiful, eerily haunting image, it is thought that its appeal lies in the fact that it connects to the Western psyche. “The migrants are not portrayed as victims but as people just like you and me, trying to get in touch with loved ones,” he continues.

Debate is raised on ethical issues each year, with subjects like domestic violence, bomb making and nudity sparking the talking points this year. There have been requests to omit particular pictures for political or religious reasons on occasions, but the exhibition appears on an all or nothing condition. De Kruijf said, “Sometimes an image is picked that means an instant ban from certain countries. A single breast means that entire countries will be omitted from our travels. We have come to call it the boob alarm. Journalism is important but freedom of speech is equally important.”

Mohsen Al Attar from Queen’s University Belfast told NewsFour that “We have run a human right essay competition where we identify some of these photos and ask students to speak to them from a human rights angle, with the winner receiving a top scholarship from Queen’s University.”

“We are excited to partner World Press for this exhibition and also to sponsor the show in Belfast in November. Education is about much more than books and texts, it’s about diversity and engaging with experiences that are otherwise foreign to us. This exhibition is a powerful learning tool.”

Newsfour spoke to human rights photographer Robin Hammond, who is one of this year’s winners. “I am glad to be back in Dublin for the show and always feel at home here. Maybe it’s because it’s an island country, just like New Zealand. I have been taking pictures for 15 years now and this is my 15th year to enter the contest, making my first win even more sweet. I wanted to shine a light on an issue that is not talked about in African countries in crisis. I think it is because there is still a lot of stigma attached to the problem, despite the fact that one in four people have mental health issues. That is what World Press are good at. Shining a light on dark places.”

De Kruijf added, “It’s not just about stunning images but it’s about the acquisition of information. It’s a privilege.”

By Maria Shields O’Kelly