Groningen: World Press Photo Exhibition 2016

World Press Photo is an annual contest that rewards photographers for the best single or series pictures contributing to the past year of visual journalism. The pictures are judged in terms of their accurate, fair and visually compelling insights about the world. These photos strictly related to journalism depict how fine sometimes the line between photojournalism and art can be. The beauty of most of the photos exhibited lays in the freedom that they give to the viewer for interpretation but also misinterpretation. We found it highly challenging how the photos might appear random at first glance but in fact carry so much pressure in background.

The photos vary in gender, content, technique, colours, approach etc, but what they do have in common is their actual and touching message that serves to raise concern on the most important issues of the moment: environmental pollution, animal extinction, migration, racial violence, sexual abuse, ideological limits as well as some customs and the beauty of sports. The description of the photos are highly necessary to decode the message of the photos but also can be used as information sources that we as broad audience do not necessarily know.

From an amateurish perspective, we have to say that the use of colours influenced to every extent the final message. Pictures with chameleons or orangutans, the Senegalese wrestling scene steal the attention through their vivid combination of colours. Yet, standing in the crown the Black and White photographs make the audience intrigued in what is hidden behind these neutral colours; usually a tragic story is what they find out. The series of the 34 years of marriage couple both battling with cancer, or the ones with the women sexually assaulted in the American Military, the migration scenes or even the synchronized swimming section seem to speak so much with so little colours.


photo credit

Something else worth mentioning are the photographs with an emphasis on eyes. On a black background, the clarity of the eyes is what brings meaning and light to the photo: the black man who stares in the eye of an officer during a racial protest or the photo of black immigrants finally arriving in Italy where everyone’s eyes scream fear and hope. Moreover, photographs where darkness predominates where only small dispersed bullets of light can be seen make one wonder if it is actually night or just a black reality depicted in the day. To finish with the spectrum of the colours, there is one photograph of which there is no comparison with the others. In this case, unlike the darkness, paradoxically the white and faded grey portrays a much darker reality. Following the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, the series relate the life of a woman who suffered by only being born there. The white brings coldness and a state of suffering to the photo and the faded effect almost makes the me feel guilty for not feeling the actual depth of her reality.

Another interesting aspect of the exposition was the inclusion of local photo reports which is new for this year. Made in the surrounding area of Groningen and in the city, there is the main story that talks and shows the life of refugees in the north of Netherlands. This brings us closer to the understanding of world events and of which effects are near us. Also, the location of the exhibition, the synagoge,  was very interesting on its own, and the atmosphere of the building really added to the photographs.

The jury composed of many photographers and editors made sure to reflect in its selection the news trend across North America and Europe. While many of the stories about Africa were not present in the mainstream media this year, news on North Korea, rape victims and public unrest represents the main issues found in U.S. while in Europe an overwhelming proportion is on the refugees.

All in all, this exhibition is something that is not to be missed, it really makes you reflect and leaves an impact.

By Mihaela Breabin & Radu Hainaru

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