London Culture on a Student Budget

Georgie Coupe brings you more affordable culture from the capital. This week, she takes a trip to see the World Press Photo Exhibition 2012

london culture student budget World Press Photo 2012

Some of the best photojournalism has to offer from the past few years is presented here at the Royal Festival Hall. On a Sunday the music from Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 resonates through the building and creates a contrast to the images on display. The pictures are on large freestanding boards scattered either side of the centre of the hall however this does not undermine their impact. The first photograph confronted when walking towards the exhibition is the World Press Photo of the Year -that of a Yemeni woman in a full burka holding her injured son; a victim of tear gas. The posture of the figure communicates not only fear as the woman hunches over the boy but the love and desperation despite the fact her face is entirely covered.

Photographs of conflict and current affairs dominate the exhibition with images from the protesting in Egypt and war in Syria and Libya as well as the mass killing in Norway. Perhaps one of the most haunting images is that of the bodies scattered along the rocks of the island of Utoya where Breivik open fired and killed 69 people. The looming sky and cold grey tone of the photograph echo the doom and suffering experienced on the island that day. Photographs from the Japanese tsunami are also incredibly harrowing, a photo of a train wreckage laying sideways over a graveyard highlight the extent of the damage perhaps underestimated by the western world.

However current affairs are not the only contribution to this exhibition, it also hosts a range of photos of ongoing issues. There is an image of a Ukrainian drug addicted sex worker, with one leg covered in bruises and the other wrapped in a dirty bandage;her skin is grey and paper thing; she can only be about 30. The photo underlines Ukraine’s HIV/ AIDS problem, it has the highest rate of cases in Europe with one in five sex workers being HIV positive.

The photographs of rhino poaching also highlights a problem that we thought was diminishing; a rhino is photographed with scars where a vet removed his horn in order to protect the creature from poachers; it was later killed to remove the stump of the horn. Next to the images of rhinos is a photo of an Asian lady grinding the rhino’s horn smiling displaying the harsh reality of the industry.

There is also an interesting section on sport photography capturing moments of the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai where there is a particularly striking image of Michael Phelps doing a tumble turn as an example of a more positive world event.

There is a real mixture of photography; it is not limited to images of war and conflict, the exhibition is an expression of the huge variety of occurrences in the world today and I really think it is worth a look to explore the range of events happening around us.

World Press Photo 2012 : A window on the world through award-winning photojournalism is displaying until the 27th November 2012 atThe Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall
Nearest tube: Waterloo
Entry: Free