By Bill Dobbins
Even in this age of the Internet, billions of Instagram and other social network services, smartphone videos and YouTube, nonetheless the photojournalism still image continues to be influential, significant and important.
The International Festival of Photojournalism gathers together and celebrates the best of these from around the world. If you look at these photos carefully the stories they tell are so revealing and compelling that it is clear they are far from the casual snapshots that flood the Web.
Ever since the days of Life Magazine and other photojournalistic publications, the world has looked to this kind of image to deliver information and understanding of what is going on of significance around the planet. This collection of journalistic photos is very much in that tradition.
For 31 years, photo enthusiasts, including photographers and editors from some of the top news organizations around the world, have gathered at the Visa Pour L’image photo festival to celebrate the world’s best photojournalism.
The event takes place in the French city of Perpignan, and over the course of several days, event-goers are treated to exhibitions and nightly screenings of work. The exhibitions highlight the work of some of the top photographers from around the globe while the screenings focus on current affairs. This year, that includes events ranging from happenings in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and the U.S.-Mexico border.
There are 25 exhibits this year. InSight is taking a look at five notable exhibitions from photographers Lynsey Addario, Adriana Loureiro Fernandez, Kirsten Luce, Laura Morton and Kasia Strek.
Addario’s exhibition examines maternal mortality around the globe. After witnessing a woman named Mamma Sessay lose her life after giving birth in Sierra Leone, Addario said she “could scarcely believe that something so basic as childbirth could kill hundreds and thousands of women every year,” and so she vowed to spend time documenting maternal death around the world. For the past decade, Addario has traveled to Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, India, Haiti, the Philippines, Somaliland and the United States compiling a powerful record, shedding light on this sad but true aspect of life.
Fernandez’s work puts the crisis in Venezuela in the spotlight. Fernandez began her project, “Paradise Lost,” in 2012, focusing on the turmoil created by rising violence in her country. Of her work, Fernandez says: “Here are everyday encounters with violence and the many shapes it can take, including the emergence of state violence. Here is ongoing political turmoil and natural beauty that will never surrender to decadence. Together, these stories show an untenable situation set against the background of the promised dream that has now turned into a nightmare. Here, between beauty and horror, is Paradise Lost. Here is an inside view showing how it feels to watch our country die.”
Luce’s exhibition takes us into the dark underbelly of wildlife tourism. Luce’s work began in 2018 on a trip to the Amazon, where tour companies encourage locals to keep wildlife so that tourists can take selfies with them. Designed to raise awareness so that people will stop and think before supporting operations that cause harm to animals, her heartbreaking images also take us to Thailand, where elephants are kept in captivity to perform for tourists and declawed tigers are kept in zoos where tourists can pose with them. Luce’s work is as eye-opening as it is devastating to look at.
Morton’s work, “University Avenue,” takes a close look at daily life in two communities in California’s Bay Area: Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, focusing on one street that traverses both areas. The work takes a look at the stark economic disparity, linked to the tech world, between the two places. As Morton explains, “This is a story of daily life in two communities living side by side in California’s Bay Area: Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. On one side, Palo Alto has the massive fortunes created by Silicon Valley’s technology industry, while in East Palo Alto, mostly on the other side of Highway 101, the community has been squeezed out, away from these fortunes … a documentary record of residents of both communities who are, in their own way, working and going about their daily lives while living in the shadow of the technology giants.”
Finally, Strek’s project, “The Price of Choice,” takes a hard look at women’s right to choose around the world. For this series of images, Strek traveled to Poland, the Philippines, Egypt, El Salvador and Ireland. Of her project, Strek says: “Today, a century after women in some countries were first granted the right to vote, there are still threats to women’s rights, even in developed countries such as Poland, Italy and the United States of America, to name only three, where laws thought to be well-established are proving to be fragile. I undertook this work not just to tell the stories, but also as a reminder that change is not fully and permanently accomplished until it is accessible to all and understood and accepted by the majority.”
You can find out more information about all the activities happening at this year’s festival on its website, here.