CityLife Arts

The World Press Photo Exhibition comes to Joburg, and it is a must see

This global exhibition is presented by the Market Photo Workshop, World Press Photo and The Windybrow Arts Centre

By Edward Tsumele

For three hours my travelling partner and I wandered the streets of Amsterdam for nearly three hours. Barely had we been there for an hour when we started hopping from one place to another.  Included in our wild wanderings  was visiting the famous coffee shops, pubs and looking through the windows in amazement. Make no mistake, we were window shopping for clothes for there were no clothes visible from the shop windows.

Instead there was always  something else (those who have been to this famous Dutch city will tell you similar stories). Now tired, and moving at a much slower pace than when we started, a traveling partner and I ended up in a museum accidentally. We just happened there and what we saw was amazing history in the making. There were photographs that told the stories of current major issues of the world, captured by some of the finest photojournalists working for newspapers and magazines during that year.

We were amazed by the photographs hung on the walls of that museum. And when it dawned on us that we were actually viewing the World Press Photo Exhibition, we consoled ourselves that spending money of which between us we did not have much of it, travelling to Europe on holiday both of us for the first time, visiting three countries, first Holland, Britain and France, was worth it. It was 20 years ago.

Little did I know that exactly 20 years later, the World Press Photo Exhibition would be hosted in South Africa, for that is what is going to be happening this month.

And when we wandered into that exhibition in Amsterdam that year, the world was certainly different, and even less threatening than it is now, when humanity is facing one of its biggest threats to public health, the world pandemic, Covid19. At the time, many, with perhaps the exception of those in the medical profession, would have not even know that there was such a thing as the deadly novel coronavirus.

And this event is a must-see, as viewing award winning photographs at this global event, is akin to getting a summary of stories that had a huge global impact on the year under review. And these images have been captured by the best of the best in the game, some of the most hard working, dedicated and finest craftsmen of the profession of photojournalism. Recalling how I was left stunned by the images that I saw at the World Press Photo Exhibition in that museum my friend and I wandered into that July 20 years ago, folks this event is a must-see indeed.

And this time around, and aptly so, the event is focused on African stories as told visually by the winning photographs of these photojournalists that have won the nod of the judges this year for their visual interpretations of major events on the African continent. Africa is a continent pregnant with stories, both ugly and beautiful, and focusing on Africa during the time of pandemic adds a new impetus to the credibility of the World Press Photo Awards organisers.

What this special exhibition titledPan African Visual Journalism and Its Positions is, is an exhibition and public programming initiative that stages the work of the 2020 World Press Photo contest winners with a focus on content produced in Africa. The initiative is a partnership of the World Press Photo Foundation and the Market Photo Workshop.

“The World Press Photo Foundation and the Market Photo Workshop support the conditions that make visual journalism and storytelling possible, including the freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry, and freedom of the press. The need for images and stories we can trust has never been greater, and the high-quality reports in this exhibition bring you important insights about our world. Sometimes that is done with beautiful photographs and sometimes that requires presenting difficult stories, but they are all accurate and they all matter.

“The politics of Africa and visual journalism industries is as long and fraught with contradictions as the practice. African photojournalists need greater visibility and access to resources and protections. How news media represents continental cultures and predicaments remains a concern. The practice of journalism and its freedoms have been affected by technological as well as geo-political shifts in the industry and democracies around the world.

What essentially Pan-African Visual Journalism and Its Positions is, is  a Pan-African focused photography event that will bring award-winning visual journalists and emerging photographers in the industry into a critical conversation about the future of visual storytelling within journalism in Africa,” hosts Market Photo Workshop said in a statement announcing the coming of this global photographic event to Newtown.

Opening on 21 November, the World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 will be held at Market Photo Workshop, in Johannesburg South Africa until 13 December. The outdoor exhibition, to be installed in the historic Newtown Cultural Precinct, presents award-winning photography from the 63rd annual World Press Photo Contest, with a special focus on stories from African photographers and narratives related to the continent.

This year 4,282 photographers from 125 countries entered 73,996 photographs to the contest. These visual stories were judged in terms of their accurate, fair, and compelling insights about our world. All entrants accept the code of ethics, and all winning pictures went through a rigorous verification process, ensuring they can be trusted to show the scene witnessed by the photographer. The contest was judged by an independent jury comprising leading photography professionals, and its membership of the jury changes every year. The 2020 Photo Contest Jury was capably chaired by Head of the Market Photo Workshop, Lekgetho Makola.

“The exhibition will be accompanied by public programming, both in-person and virtual, that includes a series of workshops and panel discussions  presented by Market Photo Workshop and selected institutions from the Centres for Learning Photography in Africa (CLPA) Network, namely Nlele Institute of Lagos, Uganda Press Photo of Kampala, The Other Vision of Khartoum, Kigali Centre for Photography in Rwanda and the Market Photo Workshop. These public programming activities will be hosted online by the photoformafrica.com virtual platform and through social media spaces, and will be driven in partnership with World Press Photo,” says Market Photo Workshop..

And If what my travelling partner and I saw in that Amsterdam museum 20 years ago, on a July day,  is anything to go by, an impactful photographic narrative  revelation is in store for those who will make it to Newtown during this global photographic event’s run.

. Pan-African Visual Journalism and Its Positions opens at Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, on November 21, running till December 13, 2020.

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