Wednesday, 23 November 2011

World Press Photo 2011 review

Where: Royal Festival Hall, Waterloo
Verdict: Go see it

What is it? An award that celebrates the best photos taken by press photographers around the world over the course of the last year. The collection of photographs proceed to tour the world spending a few weeks in each major city they visit. I saw this exhibit last year and it seems that London has held on to the November slot from last year, same venue too. The pictures range from those that capture a major moment from the last year to those that are brilliant photographs in their own right.

Verdict: Proof that a picture can speak a thousand words. The deserved winner is the harrowing picture you see above of an Afghani woman who 'dared' to leave her husband, was 're-captured' and had her nose and ears cut off for her 'defiance'. Yes that's a lot of inverted commas but they're justified when you realise the insanity of the occurrence and especially so when it's pointed out that it's not an uncommon experience in Afghanistan.

Other photographs depict daily life, yet seem bizarre to most of us and it demonstrates what a sheltered life we lead. I like to think I know a thing or two about foreign cultures but was taken aback by a picture of a man carrying a shark through the streets of a Somali town – only to read the accompanying text and learn that shark is a staple for many fishing towns in Somalia.

One of the most shocking photographs, yes another shocking one, is of a matador being gored by a bull and it takes a few seconds for what you're seeing to sink in. The photo has captured the moment as the bull's horn has pierced the man's throat and is sticking out of his mouth – it needs to be seen , and you will wince when you do see it. Another stand-out is of a cape gannet flying towards the camera, it appears so large that it's almost like a monster out of a b-movie.

These are just a few examples of some arresting pictures and there are many more to be seen in the exhibit – I would estimate there to be around 50 photos on display in total.

Like last year, this exhibit consistently delivers. A great photograph from last year's exhibit was a birds-eye view of a stealth bomber doing a fly past at a packed stadium for an American football game, and only a college game at that. I'm still not entirely sure how they managed to get that picture – surely helicopters can't be flying that high. Anyway it's a regular event to mark in your calendars and not to be missed.

Dates: 11 – 29 November 2011

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