Thursday, 9 July 2015

The picture that paints a thousand hurts

 World Press Photo of the Year, Mads Nissen, Denmark
 Peter Muller’s photo of medical staff and a delirious patient at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center for National Geographic and The Washington Post won first prize in General News.
Glenna Gordon’s shots of school uniforms belonging to three girls kidnapped by Boko Haram won second prize for the General News stories category.

A poignant moment shared between gay couple Jon and Alex may, at first glance, seem unremarkable. Yet this image has been chosen as the most outstanding photograph from almost 98,000 entered into this year’s World Press Photo competition.

In a year when nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Islamic militants Boko Haram, Ebola was rife in Africa and Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 crashed in the Ukraine, this intimate moment in St Petersburg, Russia, was judged as the best example of a contemporary issue.

 “This photo is aesthetically powerful, and it has humanity,” Michele McNally, Assistant Managing Editor of the New York Times, and chair of the World Press Photo judging committee, says. “It is an historic time for the image.”

Life for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people is becoming increasingly difficult in Russia, with sexual minorities facing legal and social discrimination, harassment or even violent hate-crimes.

Jon and Alex posed for photographer Mads Nissen for the Danish newspaper Politiken. “Make no mistake, in many parts of the world, distributing this image will cost you your freedom,” Nissen says.

“Being in this peaceful image will get you killed. With this photograph we are challenging homophobia and the hetero-normative definition of love.”

The powerful photo features in the World Press Photo Exhibition being hosted by the Rotary Club of Auckland in July. Now in its 58th year, the World Press Photo Exhibition is a compilation of the best images chosen from nine categories in the internationally-renowned competition.

Rotary Club of Auckland President Craig Horrocks is proud that his club continues to host this high-calibre showcase.

“That an image of a gay couple is so culturally significant seems incongruous in a country where we have sexual equality.

“It’s just one example of the powerful, thought-provoking images in the exhibition that remind us just how peace relies on acceptance of diversity as a cultural value. New Zealand is fortunate in that our geographical isolation has protected us and tolerance is still a feature of our society,” Horrocks says.

“The collection brings the world to New Zealand, and that is why our Rotary club is proud to be involved, because it showcases so much of what we believe in and work towards.”

·         World Press Photo Exhibition, July 4-26, Smith & Caughey, Queen Street, Auckland. Tickets: $10 each (students $5). Online bookings and information: