Photojournalism at its best

20 September 2014
Written by Sacha Kenny | Images by Sacha Kenny
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Sacha Kenny checks out the 2014 World Press Exhibition - an award-winning collection of powerful, poignant and inspiring press images from around the globe  



I recently listened to a National Radio interview with New Zealand-born photojournalist and human rights photographer Robin Hammond. Hammond, whose work is part of the 2014 World Press Photo Exhibition on display during September at the NZ Portrait Gallery on Wellington’s waterfront, won the W Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Prize in humanitarian photography (2013) for his two-year project ‘Condemned’. It documents the living conditions of people with mental illness in many strife-torn African regions. During the interview with Kathryn Ryan, Hammond laid bare his life as a photojournalist as well as a person experiencing and bearing witness to some of the world's most unjust, terrifying and sad events.

Describing his camera as his ‘passport into people's lives’, Hammond admitted having a camera gives him, at times, the power to gain access to situations he would likely never see and often time wouldn't want to see - a power he feels privileged to be given.

He is now working on a project to give the world a different view of Africa, a region he feels many consider to be a place of ‘misery, chaos and crisis’ - a point he admits his own images teach people to perceive. Hammond's latest work, not a humanitarian project, will seek to show Africa as the complex and interesting place it is with the hope that it will give the rest of the world the understanding that Africans are just the same as everyone else with the same needs, hopes and desires and that Africa is not just a place of famine and strife.

It was with this interview fresh in my mind that I viewed the World Press Photo Exhibition in Wellington. Firstly living on the outskirts of wider Wellington one can, at times, very easily forget about the rest of the world, especially if, like me, your TV is rarely on and newspapers rarely read. I do however love to look at images and spend far too much time looking deeply into photographs, magazines, books and online galleries etc, so I knew this exhibition would be a feast for my eyes and I wasn’t disappointed.

The world comes rushing in when faced with images of chaos and despair, but the wonderful thing with these images is that they have, at their heart, a subtle beauty, a beauty that, for me, makes one want to look deeper, to really see the details, to be confronted, to have one's boundaries pushed, to want to ask questions and to be given that jolt of reality to remind us that it's a big, crazy, colourful, scary, wonderful, mad, beautiful world out there, full of injustice and horror but at the same time full of tender moments and quiet beauty and that we are all citizens of it.

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