The 2020 World Press Photo Exhibition opens in Rome

The world’s most popular traveling photo exhibition

As the famous director Jean-Luc Godard once said, photography is truth – a truth that can be both beautiful and uncomfortable. This is evident from the stunning but provocative collection of photographs that are part of the World Press Photography exhibition.

The “World Press Photo 2020” exhibition, postponed from its original date of April 25th, is now on display at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome from June 16th until August 2nd. Since 1955, the Word Press Photo Foundation of Amsterdam has held this annual competition, recognizing the best photographs in the world of photojournalism. This year, with work submitted from 4,282 photographers, only 44 made it to the final, representing 24 different countries. Among the finalists there are also six Italians: Fabio Bucciarelli, Luca Locatelli, Alessio Mamo (who ranked second in the category “General News, single photo”), Nicolò Filippo Rosso, Lorenzo Tugnoli and Daniele Volpe. Many of the photographs make certain events impossible to ignore, such as climate change, providing a platform for the photographs to speak for many hard truths about the world we live in.

Yasuyoshi Chiba was named the winner of photo of the year with his work Straight Voice. The photograph portrays a young man illuminated by cellphone lights during a blackout, reciting poetry at a protest which demands a democratic government for Sudan. The chair of the 2020 Photo Contest jury, Lekgetho Makola explained the decision, “Here we see this young man that’s not shooting, not throwing stones, but reciting poetry. It expresses a profound sense of hope.” While many of the photos on display in this exhibition force the public to acknowledge harsh realities that people around the globe face every day, photos like Straight Voice are a reminder that in the midst of it all there are courageous voices that stand for hope and unity. 

Instead, the French photographer Romain Laurendeau won 2020’s “World Press Photo Story of the Year” with his photograph Kho, The Genesis of Revolt (see above). His capture represents the deep unease of  young generations due to the extreme unemployment rate (according to UNESCO 72% of people under 30 are unemployed), inspiring the whole population to unite to their cause and giving birth to the the biggest protest movement Algeria has seen in the last decades.

Romain Laurendeau said: “It was impossible for a part of me not to recognize myself in these young people. They are young but they are tired of this situation and they just want to live like everyone else.

Another one of the many statement pieces in the exhibition is a photograph by Tomek Kaczor portraying a teenage Armenian girl, Ewa, who had just awoken from an immobile state brought on by a dissociative syndrome known as RS. The effects of RS include inability to move, eat, or respond to physical stimulation. Ewa was affected by RS while her family was seeking asylum in Sweden, where their application was later denied. This photograph speaks to some of the most detrimental emotional disruptions that refugee children suffer during lengthy processes. Ewa is looking directly at the camera while two hands rest on her shoulder. The direct eye contact and sudden alertness create a sensation of immediateness. While the photo represents the moment of recovery and new possibility for Ewa, the pain and fear in her bold eyes are impossible to ignore. 

Other stunning captures of this year’s edition include Ethiopian photojournalist Mulugeta Ayene’s photograph of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash site (see above) where rescue workers are searching through debris; as well as the picture of a relative of the victim of the crash mourning (see above). Irish photojournalist Ivor Prickett’s also brings in a powerful shot. That of an injured Kurdish fighter who receives a hospital visit from his girlfriend is another very powerful picture (see above). On October 9th, Turkey invaded northern Syria, aiming to end Kurdish control over the territory, after those same Kurdish forces had given their lives for the fight against IS. Not to mention Italian photographer Fabio Bucciarelli’s capture “The Rebellion Against Neoliberalism” in Chile, where thousands of women marched on December 4th chanting “Un Violador en tu Camino” (A Rapist in your Path). Each protestor wore a red scarf, red lipstick and a blindfold symbolizing the sexual nature of assaults and in solidarity with people blinded by police.

This year, for the first time, the exhibition also includes a selection of iconic photos that won photo of the year from 1955 to today. This section of the exhibition is a timeline that highlights some of the most important world events over the past 65 years, represented by the best photojournalists of their time. A chance to reflect on the world’s most significant triumphs as well as unjustifiable occurrences still going on today, these photographs have the potential to inspire rage, pride, change, and hope all at the same time.

The World Press Photo exhibition is not only about the events, but the photographs themselves. It is a chance to understand just how loud the voice of a photograph can be. Reporting through photography is the fastest way to narrate a story to the public. There are no age, language, cultural, educational, or other barriers when it comes to narrating through photography. The art of photojournalism is in its ability to report on the most pressing matters in a way that captures the entire essence of a movement, an event, or an occurrence, in one honest moment.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – and without using any, this exhibition tells the stories of hundreds of people around the world. In a world where fake news is increasingly influential, it is clear just how important these photos are: they represent freedom of expression, freedom of the press and most importantly, the truth.


Till August 2

Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Via Nazionale, 194

Open Tues-Thurs, 10am-8pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-10pm; Sun, 10am-8pm; Mon closed

Entry fee €8-10

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