Was glad that Raffles Hotel/The Straits Times once again brought a selection of the winning images of the annual World Press Photo Contest to be exhibited here in Singapore. Some 150 pieces are on display primarily on the second level of the hotel and just like last year, there’s a phone app where you can tune in to audio commentaries on the photographs you are looking at and also to mark your favourites so that you can enjoy them on the wpph.org website after your visit.
Missing this time round is the selfie contest – which yours truly was blessed to win a consolation prize last year (for my selfie with a shark, no less) – but considering the grim subject matter of most of the new photos, it was probably best…
Many of the photos you would have seen in various news publications worldwide but there’s the added information of what the photographers saw and felt behind the shot they took. These includes tragedies that occurred close to home like the Rana Plaza garment building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 (above by Taslima Akhter) and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year (below, of survivors praying 10 days after the onslaught by Philippe Lopez).
Others covered events further afield such as the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath, dire situations in Gaza and Damascus, domestic violence in middle America, victims of organised crime in Mexico, and the massacre at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, etc. Not all the photos are darkness and gloom, thank goodness. The ones on sports, lifestyle and staged/observed portraits are rather insightful and some truly inspiring, from hermits living in Russia to burly Egyptian bodybuilders posing with their mums to a hepthalon athlete who continues to train despite being diagnosed with cancer.
The series that impressed me the most though is “Healing Bobby” by Peter van Agtmael (above). American Bobby Henline was horrifically burnt when his humvee exploded during his fourth tour in Iraq. Instead of focusing on his injuries – he eventually had to have his left hand amputated as well besides being 40% burnt – he loves telling jokes and soon became a stand-up comedian, and also make time to visit family of military colleagues lost at war as well as other burn victims. Awesomeness.
There were many other standout images but I will end this with my favourite image although it doesn’t really have a happy story behind it. “The Last of the Vikings” by Marcus Bleasdale focus on the fishing and whaling community in northwestern Norway which is becoming a dying trade as demand for whale meat drops drastically, costs of operation escalates and the younger generation prefers easier, salaried work. Not unlike our hawker food really…
The World Press Photo 2014 Exhibition runs till Feb 1 at Raffles Hotel.