The World Press Photo Experience
On a sunny September day, it’s as quiet as a tomb at the World Press Photo exhibition in Old Montreal. The only sounds are the squeaks of shoes and quiet footsteps of people slowly gliding from image to image—processing the immense beauty, pain and wonder of photographs from some of the most celebrated photographers in the world.
“A friend of mine yesterday told me going to World Press is like going to church,” says Matthieu Rytz, President of Arkar, the organization behind World Press Photo Montreal. “We are now in World Press and you can’t hear anybody. You can enter on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and it’s packed. But nobody speaks. It’s a space for reflection. Today I think people need that.”
World Press Photo showcases raw photographs with subjects ranging from horrifying political struggles and the terror of modern warfare, to stunning nature scenes. Emotion and awe are painted on the faces of visitors in the exhibition. People take the time to read each caption, often solemnly absorbing the starkly different realities existing in other parts of the world.
A woman stands stock-still with her mouth covered, eyes watering. She is standing before Ebrahim Noroozi’s photographs of Somayeh Mehri and her daughter Rana Afghanipour. They were burned by acid as they slept after Somayeh asked for a divorce from her husband in Bam, Iran. One of the photographs shows Rana’s arm wrapping around Somayeh as she kisses her mother’s burned face. Noroozi’s work was awarded first prize in the observed portraits category of the competition.
“Sometimes in everyday life we forget about what’s happening worldwide,” says Rytz. “It’s not an exhibition about photography. It’s about what’s happening in the world and the main events that took place during the year and the photography becomes the medium to do that.”
In addition to covering global events, the competition showcases striking images of nature and sports. The first prize in nature shots went to Christian Ziegler for his photograph of an endangered Southern Cassowary bird in Australia. The bird is feeding on the plump fresh fruit of the blue quandong tree.
Canadian photographer Paul Nicklen’s work of Emperor Penguins in Antarctica is placed next to the Australian bird. The adorable smiling faces of fluffy penguins and glimpses of their water antics are welcome contrasts to the shocking images located down the hall.
In addition to the World Press Photo exhibition, images from Anthropographia, Rytz’s organization that promotes human rights photography, as well as Montreal-based photojournalist Émilie Régnier’s work with Oxfam-Quebec are featured alongside the main show. An associated event at the Phi Centre also featured the work of independent Québécois filmmaker Helen Doyle.
“It’s important [that] people understand we have talent here too. World Press is like the Oscar of photography so it’s very hard [to be featured in the exhibition],” says Rytz.
“It’s important to have open spaces for new emerging talent from Montreal or Quebec in general.”
World Press Photo // Sept. 17 – Sept. 29 // Marché Bonsecours (325 Commune St.) // 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. // $10 – $12 // To learn more about the exhibition visit http://worldpressphotomontreal.ca