Spencer Platt's image of a group of young Lebanese driving down a street in Haret Hreik, a bombed neighborhood in southern Beirut, Lebanon won World Press Photo of the Year, 2006.
Jury chair Michele McNally called the image, "[A] picture you can keep looking at. It has the complexity and contradiction of real life, amidst chaos. The photograph makes you look beyond the obvious."
Indeed, the destroyed buildings behind the young hipsters, who are riding a brand new candy-apple red convertible, could be interchangeable with a banal shopping mall or nature scene, speaking volumes about the indiscriminate of violence and war.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF WORLD PRESS PHOTO EXHIBITION
The show is currently on view at Eslite Bookstore, B2, and runs until June 24.
The exhibition, which stopped in Rome, Milan and New York before arriving in Taipei, gives members of the public a chance to view some of the best press and documentary photography taken from around the world last year. The show includes 200 photos selected from 10 themed categories, ranging from spot news to contemporary issues and documentary photography to portraits and nature.
This year 4,460 professional photographers from 124 countries entered 78,083 images in the most prestigious annual international competition in press photography. The jury gave prizes to 60 professional photographers from 23 countries. Together, the images comprise a complex and often harrowing document of events in 2006.
The annual World Press Photo yearbook has been in Taipei bookstores for months, but the sheer size of the photos in the show create a more powerful experience. As the winning entry shows, war photography and its victims feature prominently and harrowing nature of some of the photos is not for the faint of heart. Though the images stand out on their own, many seem intentionally placed to provide contrast with other photos.
The pairing of Peter Schols images of French football player Zinedine Zidane butting Italian Marco Materazzi with Pep Bonet's series of photos showing members of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club — all soccer players and victims of Sierra Leon's bloody 10-year civil war — puts into perspective the glamorous lifestyles and big egos of soccer players in Europe and the attempt of war-torn victims to use football as a means of putting their lives back together after a conflict.
Another absorbing juxtaposition is Peter van Agtmael's images of US soldiers conducting night raids on homes in Iraq with veteran South African war correspondent Joao Silva's portraits of an American soldier being shot at by a sniper. The cultural insensitivity displayed by the US soldiers in Agtmael's images — where one soldier wears muddied boots in the living room of an Iraqi home — is somewhat redressed for by the fear the young men feel on a day to day basis, expertly rendered by Silva's shots of the ambushed radio operator.
But all is not war. Erin Grace Trieb's series of photographs of novelist "Kinky" Friendman's failed bid to become governor of Texas and Denis Darzacq's photo essay about Paris street dancers provides lightness in an otherwise disturbing series of images.
National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen's images of Leopard seals both confirm their reputation for ferocity (a British scientist was killed by one in 2003) with an image that captures a seal tearing the head off of a penguin while the bird's body remains on a rock. Nicklen's images also contradict the seal's reputation with shots of the seals playfully approaching the camera.
The World Press Photo was founded in 1955 in Amsterdam as a means of educating and promoting the field of photojournalism. The contest is held once a year and travels to over 40 countries.
What: World Press Photo, 2007
Where: Eslite Bookstore, B2, 245 Dunhua Rd Sec 1, Taipei (臺北市敦化南路一段245號B2)
Open: Daily from 11am; admission is free
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