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By Martyn• 21 Sep 2015
"...We would really like to inspire an understanding of the world that we live in."
World Press Photo is an independent non-profit based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where it was founded in 1955. For close to six decades, the World Press Photo of the Year has been considered the preeminent photojournalism award in the world. In testament to its heft, it receives around 100,000 submissions a year.
These days spanning a range of categories which includes news, documentary, sports, nature, portraits and long-term projects, every year the prize winning photographs appear on display in World Press Photo Exhibitions in 45 countries, before being published in a yearbook. Over two million people go to a hundred different venues to see the images, and the yearbook is published in seven different languages and distributed worldwide.
Between the 19th of September to the 11th of October, the 2014 World Press Photo Exhibition will be on display in Wellington at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts on Queens Wharf. General admission is $10.00 per person, with admission for children under 16 coming in at $5.00.
Earlier this week I visited the site during photo hanging and had a chat with World Press Photo external communications coordinator and curator Noortje Gorter. The images on display were compelling, and the stories behind them unforgettable. I urge you to drop past and check them out for yourself. Some of what's been documented is extremely sad, but you won't regret it.
Martyn Pepperell: As someone who works for World Press Photo, how would you describe what the exhibition is about?
Noortje Gorter: The exhibition in Wellington is just the result of a photo contest. What we do every year is we organise a photography contest, and we ask press photographers from all around the world to submit their work. All the images are from the previous year, so all the images you will see were published in 2014. We ask a jury to come to Amsterdam, and they look at 100,000 images. We have people from all around the world come, male, female, photographers and photo editors. We put them in a room, and as you can imagine with 100,000 images, the selection they have to make is really impressive. So, the images you will see at the exhibition are the best examples of press photography from around the world.
"You can compare winning a World Press Photo Award to winning an Oscar."
MP: What do you think is really important about the exhibition?
NG: World Press Photo would really like to emphasise two things. We would like to show the best press photography in the world and put the photographers in a special place. You can compare winning a World Press Photo Award to winning an Oscar. When you are a young photographer, and you win an award, it will help your career greatly. It will give you access to grants and other academy projects we deliver.
On the other hand, we would really like to inspire an understanding of the world that we live in. A lot of visitors come, not only in New Zealand but in Japan, America and Europe. We organise more than one hundred exhibitions in 45 countries. So what you will look at in Wellington, people also see in the rest of the world.
MP: Do you think we can take any indication of the pulse or feel of the world in 2014 from the photos that were selected?
NG: Definitely! It's a reflection of 2014, but it's not a collection of 2014. There may have been a few significant news events that happened, but the images taken of them were not good quality, so they're not involved. The exhibition is more about the best press photography as opposed to all the events that took place in 2014. That is important to know.
MP: Do you think any themes have emerged within the 2014 collection?
NG: Yes. There are graphic stories, really hard images to watch, but if you read the captions, the stories behind the captions are even more terrible. There are a lot of images that are very aesthetic oriented as well. When you're looking at the image, you might not be sure what you're seeing. When you read the caption, it's a big news event or a really graphic story, but it's not that graphic in the image. You really have to read the caption to understand how the photographer told his story and captured the moment. You will definitely find some interesting stories.
MP: How would you describe what you do as a curator with World Press Photo?
NG: As a curator, it's important to really observe the venue. We are in a different venue, so that is important for people to know. We're in the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts this year. It's a really spacious venue. It's always exciting for a curator to look at the venue and see all the possibilities. This year we have a new category. It's called long-term project. It's really beautiful. It's a special category for photographers who have been working on projects for more than twenty years. You can imagine how many images they have. They're really amazing stories. In this location, we've been able to give each story its own wall of fame, which makes it really special to me.