World Press Photo

Famine, war, family and more – Belfast hosts the international photojournalist exhibit for the first time

One of the world’s most prestigious photography exhibitions has arrived in Belfast for the first time, showcasing 150 of the most striking images from across the globe.

What can only be described as a window on the world, the World Press Photo exhibition highlights major issues such as war, domestic violence, obesity and natural disaster by showcasing the work of our bravest, most intrepid and adventurous photographers.

The photographs, which are on show in a specially-erected marquee outside Queen’s University’s Elmwood Hall until November 23, tell a very vivid story of the year gone by through the eyes of the world’s top photojournalists. The images relay powerful, moving, and at times, quite disturbing scenes.

 

Now in its 57th year, the exhibition has grown from a local contest in Amsterdam into the world’s biggest photography contest, with almost 100,000 images entered and a professional judging panel representing a cross section of the international community.

The winning 150 photographs were chosen from images submitted by 5,754 journalists from 132 nations. Being part of the judging panel is most certainly an unenviable task.

American photographer John Stanmeyer's entry was selected as 'Photo of the Year' and it is clear to see why. The picture (above), which contrasts expensive modern technology with poverty, shows African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighbouring Somalia, a tenuous link to relatives abroad.

Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East. The image also won first prize in the 'Contemporary Issues' category, and was shot for National Geographic.

Some of the most thought-provoking but disturbing images in the exhibition are by New Zealand-born Robin Hammond, who presents a body of work produced over seven years in nine African countries, focusing on the lack of mental health services there.

 

Hammond captures the deplorable conditions that the mentally ill endure but also highlights the overwhelming challenge that mental health workers in Africa face with limited resources and in often failed health care systems.

His images, some of which are heart-breaking, poignantly highlight the plight of Africa's mentally ill – in these circumstances, sadly patients are considered the lowest priority, and often live far from family support networks, leading isolated and troubled lives.

Also prominent in the exhibition is an photo showing the fractured face of a soldier caught up in an explosion during his tour of Iraq, and another of a community in the Central African Republic, a group of people who found refuge under the wings of an abandoned plane.

More heart-warming images include an intimate portrait of a five-year-old bonobo (above) by Christian Ziegler, a cougar walking in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park by Steve Winter, and a dramatic photo of a group of blind albino boys in their school boarding room in West Bengal, India by Brent Stirton (main image).

Prizes were awarded in nine themed categories and other prize-winners hail from the UK as well as Iran, Serbia and Mexico. World Press Photo is a fascinating window into the world of our finest photojournalists who scale heights, often quite literally, to show the world at its best and worst.

World Press Photo Exhibition runs in the Elmwood Hall, Belfast until November 23.