Dropping in on the Worldpress Exhibition

We exist to inspire understanding of the world through photojournalism.                                  Worldpress Foundation

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

I had the opportunity to view the Worldpress Photo Exhibition at the Brisbane Powerhouse this weekend.

I’m not sure how I feel about what I saw. It’s always a good exhibition. On a purely aesthetic level the talent of the photojournalists to capture intense moments in time, to mirror the emotion and the personalities of their subjects and to tell a deeply moving story in an image, is phenomenal. A true skill. On another level the exhibition provides one with the opportunity to reflect and to consider the state of the world, the beauty in the world as well as the abject horror and cruelty that exists in the world.

I can’t say I enjoyed the exhibition. I’m not sure that is it’s purpose or intent. It did however cause me to think, to question, to scrutinise and examine. One cannot be a mere observer nor can one escape unscathed from the presence of these photos. They are designed to inspire, to move and to haunt.

Wandering the industrial space of the Powerhouse and taking in the stories on display I found myself contemplating the different things that appear to motivate those who were the subjects, either present or noticeably absent, from the images before me. Hatred, greed, compassion, love, disrespect, neglect and pure self-centred disregard.

John Stanmeyer’s photo of African migrants holding their mobile phones aloft to capture a signal to call loved ones drew attention not only to the gulf that exists between my life and those captured but also that which we have in common, the basic need for links to those who love us and keep us going.

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Horror inducing nausea arose at the stark images presented by Fred Ramos in his photos The last outfit of the missing. My mind simply could not fathom how a crime rate could be so high that the only way to identify murder victims is by the clothes they wore when buried.

Horror morphed to intrigue when considering the motivation of Barbara Janssen, a German woman living in Malaysia, who with a no kill policy, opened her house to stray dogs. Her house is a shelter to some 250 street dogs.

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Carla Kogelman’s portraits of sisters Hannah and Alena enjoying their carefree childhood in a tiny Austrian village were uplifting.

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Devastation was a thread that ran through many of the works on display. Where does one start to rebuild a life after the devastation of a typhoon such as that experienced in the Philippines that displaced more than four million people? Or on a smaller, but no less significant, scale the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than a thousand people?

Rahul Talukder’s photo, The Last Embrace, initially struck me as being an intrusion, an unnecessary narrative of the death of the subjects. Yet, in the next moment, I was awed by the tenderness shared by the couple in their last moments. The humanity shared in their final moments made me want to weep for the potential strength and compassion of the human heart.

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Did the exhibition inspire my understanding of the world? I’m not sure it did. I was confronted. I was surprised, I was shocked. Is that a bad thing? I think not.

Have I come closer to understanding the world? No. But I do have a greater awareness. I have been forced to think. I have been forced to be more mindful. I have been moved to consider how I might contribute positively to the world. I am also infinitely more grateful for my life and my place in the world.

If you have a chance to visit the exhibition, do so. It is running all year in 100 cities in 45 countries around the world. Chances are it is coming to a place near you.

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5 thoughts on “Dropping in on the Worldpress Exhibition

  1. I am left feeling shaken just by seeing the images through your post. Your narrative tour of the exhibition leaves me pondering the state of our world and the power of photography. I will check the tour schedule. Thank you.

    • It is a pretty confronting exhibition Sue but I don’t think it hurts to be given a shake up at times. I know I can easily burrow down in my own little utopia and shut out the world around me. Raising my head above ground doesn’t send me reeling back into my comfort zone but instead propels me forward. I hope you get to experience the exhibition for both it’s messages and also the skill of the photographers.

      • Absolutely agree. It doesn’t hurt to be shaken up a bit and reminded o how grateful we should be very minute. the photography is astounding!

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