You only have 23 days to see the winning photos from the World Press Photo annual competition, on display now at the Canadian War Museum. Be prepared to feel just about every emotion as you wander through the eight-category display. And because of the size of the prints, you will have an opportunity to feel like you are right there with the subjects.
Earlier this month I reported that Reith Lecturer Margaret MacMillan shared her view that photography would become the best form of artistic expression for us to learn about ourselves and the state of our world. This exhibit shows how that could be possible.
It’s true that while these are “press” photos taken by photojournalists, and that the editing criteria is very strict for the competition, their quality, composition and intimacy make them works of art as well.
The result is artistry and authenticity. Any cropping must keep the subject of the photo in context. No touch-ups are allowed. If there is a speck of dust on the lense, it has to stay in the print. Original RAW files must be sent in for examination.
This artistic form lets the truth of a moment in time represent something bigger than itself. Even the Spot News photos, where there is only time for a quick shot, can take on a bigger meaning. The Venezuelan “man on fire” represents the troubles going on in the country right now. The irony of people being crushed by an attacking vehicle right in front of a peace sign in Charlottesville is more powerful than any editorial concerning political polarization. Other categories do the same thing. The hope in the eyes of a greenhouse researcher in the Netherlands whose tiny country is one of the largest food producers. And the love shared by a young woman and an elephant in Kenya as inter-species misunderstandings are healed. All these images speak to bigger things and leave us thinking.
I have a small confession to make. I broke all the rules of the competition in the photos I submitted for this article. I did this out of respect for the exhibition. It really is something worth seeing in person. These are just tiny vignettes which drew my eye amidst larger scenes. I’m sure you will find yourself doing the same thing. Life is complex. This is an opportunity to hit the pause button and see every little bit of what is going on.
The World Press Photo – Exhibition 2018 has free admission daily at the Canadian War Museum’s Barney Danson Theatre from July 20-August 12, 2018. Admission to the museum is free on Thursday evenings. The Canadian War Museum is located at 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa. Current hours, admission fees and exhibit information can be found on their website. More information about the World Press Photo Foundation can be found online.