World Press Photo 16 is now at the Brisbane Powerhouse from 29th July to 21st August. This travelling exhibition showcases the accumulation of journalistic and documentarian photography all around the globe. 2016 marks the 59th year of this travelling cache of insights. 82,951 images were submitted this year.
Before we discuss the winner we must think about why he was chosen. It seems every year, even though the award categories don’t change an underlying theme presents it self. It’s by comparing these underlying themes each year we can take a Birdseye view of the world and where it is hurting. Where do tears flow from the earth the most and why?
This year there was a strong influence on the photography by the discussion of refugees. We’re seeing more and more people being turned away from borders. But more than the dangers of physically being barred from having a home, borders are infecting people’s minds as well. The state of politics is seeing fear of terror on the rise. Many feel the only way to ward off that terror is to close their gates and trust no man. The real message here is the infection of fear.
This year’s winner of Photo of the Year went to an Australian photographer Warren Richardson. He’s a self-taught photographer known for taking on extended projects that probe into human life. Richardson’s eye for finding something that seems out of place is what sparked the winning photo titled “Hope for new life”.
A group of people were sitting in the ground near the trains and after approaching and gently asking where they were from Richardson found out he’d met a group of Syrian refugees. One thing led to another and soon he found himself placed in the middle of a mass exodus – refugees fleeing through a hole in the fence. One escape found through sheer luck and determination.
The photo captures someone passing a baby through the fence to a man already on the other side. The technique to capture the photo, Richardson said, was something he picked up doing paparazzi work. He said in the midst of action sometimes its better to change the focus to manual and just let the camera do its work.
The camera is angled just so to frame the man with a halo of barbed wire. His eyes appear to have a glazed over look as if he no longer sees the fence in front of him, only the destination he needs to get himself and his loved ones to. There is nothing else in his line of vision. Desperation often makes us blind to the dangers so we won’t be stopped by fear.
The loop of barbed wire around his neck is haunting. As if, even with his vision blinded by determination, his life could be ripped from him at any moment. His freedom stripped back even further as if he is about to be hung. But it’s only for a moment and the wire never tightens around his neck. As Richardson describes it, one minute it was hoards of people running and then there was nothing. They all disappeared.
Naturally, World Press becomes politically charged. But there are photo collections that feature sports, animals and nature, family life, landscape and the sheer absurdities of the world. All of which are being exhibited the Powerhouse until the 21st of August.
Make sure you visit it at least once. If not to understand the infection of fear then to simply understand what is happening in the world. It seems when you are guided to look at one still moment and see the faces of humans, real people, more than any news broadcast on the radio or your TV set, more than any news article trending online, you are forced to see these people, hear their stories and feel their sadness as strongly as you feel your own heartbeat.
For more details on the exhibition head to the official Brisbane Powerhouse website. The exhibition runs until 21st August.