It’s that time of the year – the World Press Photo Exhibition is on. This year’s “Photo of the Year” is, unsurprisingly, related to the refugee crisis. It shows a man passing a baby under a razor fence towards safety. So was it taken in a war zone? No. It was taken in Europe, on the border between Hungary and Serbia after Hungary closed the border to refugees. The image has been titled “Hope for a New Life”, but the image is imbued with desperation and doubt.
The World Press Photo Exhibition is always a review of the year’s tragedies and struggles, and the winning photo wasn’t the only one related to the crisis. There’s an emotional portrayal of the after effects of an airstrike in Douma, taken by Abd Doumany, one of the most heavily bombarded cities in Syria. They are images every politician should see, they are a reminder of the reality of the war in Syria, the real reason people are fleeing, the frightening reality behind those “migrants” in the flimsy boats.
The image that struck me the most of the Syrian images was this one, from Sameer Al-Doumy, who won for his series in the Spot News category. The people in the image are trying to carry family or friends to get medical attention following an airstrike. In a city that has been been bombed unrelentingly for 3 years, and has limited medical and hospital services. Something about their ghost-like appearance sticks with me.
Not every image is as searing as this, there were definitely some lighter moments.
In a long series about North Korea, David Guttenfelder chronicles a bleak, grey landscape, high regimentation, and some rather endearing ingenuity including this driving simulator to help new drivers.
I’ve visited the exhibition almost every year since moving to the Netherlands and this is the first time that I’ve seen photos in the sports category that appealed to me. Vladimir Pesnya‘s award-winning series on the amateur ice hockey team in the small town of Vetluga is a charming glimpse of a local tradition – they play on a fenced off bit of natural ice. But the series that I really loved was Tara Todras-Whitehill’s third-prize Sports story on the Ebola survivors football team from Sierra Leone. So much joy found despite the sadness and loss the players have gone through.
The exhibition is on at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam until the 10 July, and then on tour around the world through to January 2017.