World Press Photo of the Year 2015 at the Royal Festival Hall
This annual competition from the World Press Photo Foundation aims to connect photojournalists across the world with a global audience, celebrating the importance of the medium and the power of the images captured. There was certainly plenty in the past year to send camera shutters the world over into a spin, with the shortlisted images tackling a range of difficult and disturbing subjects, from the refugee crisis and the Ebola epidemic to the division of Ukraine, in a variety of categories including News, Sport and Nature.
This free exhibition is arranged open-plan in the foyer at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, drawing in a crowd of curious passers-by alongside the intentional visitors, and nicely satisfying the aim of exposing the masses to the images that matter most.
Many of the entries are not the candid, spontaneous snaps most of us associate with media-driven photography, but these do reign in the News and Spot News categories. The most powerful amongst these perhaps includes an image, taken by Massimo Sestini, of a dangerously overcrowded boat attempting to transport refugees to mainland Europe, the passengers looking skyward, possibly joyfully, towards their Italian rescuers. The image is made excruciatingly heart-wrenching by the knowledge that many like them have instead met with a watery end.
The winning image overall is a more contrived but equally poignant depiction of a gay couple sharing a tender moment in their St Petersburgh apartment. With the fight for gay rights recently losing so much ground in Russia, the work by Danish photographer Mads Nissen is a melancholy reflection on the internalisation of homosexuality in the region, and the safety afforded by the private sphere in a discriminatory world.
Many of the photographs are more immediately distressing, forcing us to look death and destruction in the face. It’s frank and unforgiving, but nevertheless necessary; Londoners should not be put off by the potential for upset. Many of us may like to think that we have an understanding of contemporary issues, but the World Press Photo shows us how little many of us really know about the brutality of our world.
World Press Photo of the Year 2015 is in the Foyer Spaces at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre from 7th November until 26th November, for further information visit here.