22 September 2014

World Press Photo 2014

Yesterday I caught the last day of the World Press Photo 2014 exhibition at Shed 11 here in Wellington. I try to catch it every year, although naturally on the last day it was a rather crowded space, and Shed 11 is more cramped than the Art Academy space where it's appeared previously. The exhibition offers the usual mix of reportage and documentary photography, with a strong focus on natural disasters and conflict. The latter photos, including subjects like a factory collapse in Dhaka, the recent siege of Gaza, drug murders in Mexico and the plight of Syrian refugees in Bulgaria are the meat and drink of this exhibition - they are frequently eye-opening and challenging. But for me the most appealing photos were more sedate material. Here's three particular highlights that stood out for me.

Jeff Pachoud (France) - Sledding race from above 
Four dog-sleds competing in the gruelling La Grande Odyssee at Megeve, France, photographed from a helicopter by Pachoud, on 18 January 2014. The beautiful oceanic swoop of the snow trail is punctuated by the dragonfly shadow of Pachoud's helicopter vantage point, as if it was about to lurch down and yank the lead sled to safety.

Carla Kogelman (Netherlands) - Ich bin Waldviertel (4/12)
Waldviertel ('Forest Quarter') is a beautiful rural province in Lower Austria where Kogelman has documented the life and play of two sisters, Hannah (7) and Alena (9), who live in the village of Merkenbrechts near the Czech border. The sisters look to have a fairly idyllic life in the small village, but my favourite picture is the fourth, depicting a roaring Alena barrelling through the house pushing a pram laden with a rather concerned-looking kitten.

John Stanmeyer (US) - Signal
This prize-winning image is the 'cover-shot' for the exhibition brochure and I can see why: it's a punchy and artful image, illustrating a gathering of African migrants on a beach in Djibouti, attempting to pick up a mobile signal from neighbouring Somalia to take advantage of its cheap rates to stay in touch with their far-flung families. The ghostly image of uplifted mobiles in the night sky is a supremely clever image, suggesting the worship of a satellite-based deity, and could easily have graced a Hipgnosis album cover of the 70s or 80s, or perhaps it'll turn up as a Storm Thorgerson-like cover for the next Muse album.

See also:
Photography: World Press Photo 2012, 2011
Photography: The City - Becoming & Decaying, 23 March 2014
Photography: Dark Cloud / White Light, 22 September 2013
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