World Press Photo 2013, 20.9. – 13.10. 2013, Karolinum, Prague
The World Press Photo contest annually reflects on the few key moments which have shaken the world during the last year. The 2013 awarded photos bore in mind Syrian and Palestinian Israeli conflict due to the Spot and General News cathegories, but gradually had a broad geographical span. Among the awarded series succeeded also a Czech photographer, ITF graduate and a Pardubice native Roman Vondrous (Czech Press Agency) winning the first prize in Sport events with his set depicting the Steeplechase Velka Pardubicka, which is also a given a greater attention despite the limitations of exhibited photos.
The winning photo of this years WPP made by Paul Hansen (Dagens Nyheter) welcomes the you right at the entrance so it is impossible to miss this intense image of Gaza. Visitor is also offered a videoprojection of commentaries by the WPP 2013 jury chair, Santiago Lyon, the mentioned Paul Hansen and a few from the awarded photojournalists revealing the stories behind the images. The very strong emotional potential that press photo itself has is fully exhibited in these contests. The installation in Prague Karolinum is sadly only a selection from the awarded photographs. The biggest emphasis is logically set on the images bringing report from the congested atmosphere in the Middle East, which are also occupying the whole front space. The exhibition passes into a glassed exposure where the mentioned winning set from Roman Vondrous can be seen. The back room, the largest one, is dedicated mainly to portraits, contemporary issues and also nature. Images address the issues varying from gay couples in Vietnam, lives of indigenous Indians in reservations and voluntary teaching of children in New Delhi down to the alarming state of violence and criminality in Honduras or a touching story of a wife nursing her husband suffering from dementia until he passes away. The Sport photography and sports topic is concentrated in one separate room dominated by the winning set discussing the womens basketball in Somalia, where women playing sport are considered unislamic and radicals are persecuting them. Although these images are each and every unique I would like to highlight some of them that made a really strong impression on me.
As the first one I would definetely like to mention the set of portraits named People of Mercy of Stephen Vanfleteren (Panos for Mercy Ships / De Standaard).
Set of very clean-cut studio portraits reveals the struggling fate of some of the Guinea Conakry inhabitants treated with serious diseases on hospital shop Africa Mercy. The beauty of Vanfleteren images is in its way of depicting these people as proud icons not like beggars.
A somewhat extreme suprise for an unprepared visitor might be the winning set in the Observed portraits cathegory. Ebrahim Noroozi (Fars News Agency) documented in Iran a very cruel story, symptomatically named Victims of Forced Love, when mother and daughter paid a high price for their effort to leave the oppressive father of the family. He poured acid on their faces in their sleep and by his hand the daugther lost her sight partly and mother went fully blind. The images capture their new life after the event and the bond it created between them.
A solitaire among these picture is in my view a sensitive image from serbian photographer Nemanja Pančić (Kurir). The merely anonymous image reflecting a part of a childs face in a car window won the first prize in the Observed portraits singles cathegory. The face belongs to four year old boy who survived a family suicide attempt in which him and his parents jumped of of a balcony in Belegrade due to financial difficulties. The expression of the almost artistic image speaks out loudly in its humble silence.
Like every year, WPP brings the strongest testimonies of sometimes shocking reality and wrenches us out of our comfort zone to realize what world we are a part of. I believe that nowadays when we are continuously under attack with blitz shot kind of news, which we end up passively receiving, these World Press Photo exhibitions are a great opportunity to a deeper contemplation of the world affairs and its ultimate direction. The ever growing interest in these exhibitions, not only from the press community, just proves this.