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World Press Photo exhibit showcases the need for professional photojournalists

This photograph by Italy's Massimo Sestini won second prize in the General News category, World Press Photo 2015. Massimo Sestini/World Press Photo 2015

MONTREAL – In a world of citizen journalists and where everyone has information at their fingertips, the World Press Photo Exhibition is highlighting the importance of the photojournalism industry.

Often dubbed the “Oscars of photojournalism,” the internationally acclaimed exhibition is entering its 10th edition.

This yea’rs exhibit features 150 prizewinning images in eight categories from 42 photographers spanning 17 countries.

“[Last year] was linked to the Ukraine crisis, the Ebola crisis,” exhibit president Matthieu Rytz told Global News, recalling just two of many high-profile news events from 2014. “Photographs are a powerful tool for visual storytelling … It’s emotional and I’m always surprised when the room is full of people and you can hear no one voice, no noise – something special happens.”
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More than 100,000 photos are submitted every year and it takes the World Press Photo jury about two to three weeks to sift through all the images and select which photographs to showcase.

The jury’s guidelines are considered solid and well-rounded following the organization’s 60 years in operation, Rytz said.

“It’s more than celebrating. In a way, it’s also putting standards on what the job of a photojournalist is.”

He added that this is especially important now that many people consider themselves citizen journalists and photographers.

A photo from the FIFA World Cup taken by China’s Bao Tailiang won first prize in the World Press Photo 2015 sports category. Bao Tailiang/World Press Photo 2015

It was with that in mind that Will Steacy, an American photographer who comes from a long line of newspapermen, set out to create his project, Deadline, a separate exhibition taking place in the same hall as WPP.

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The photo project follows the Philadelphia Inquirer over a period of five years plagued by struggle and decline.

“It was only inevitable that I would turn my camera to the newspaper industry, the fastest shrinking industry in America,” he told Global News.

“You have more than half of American adults that have never heard anything of the struggles that have plagued newsrooms.”

Steacy’s love of photography started when he was a young boy, surrounded by newspapers and journalists.

“Growing up, I probably captured 200 pictures in a day from billboards on a street on the way to school to pictures in a bank,” he said.

“Now, in a single day you can look at thousands of pictures in a day. It’s too easy for us to simply glance at a photo for a second or two, quick like, and move on to the next. At what point is photography facing its own identity crisis?”

American photographer Will Steacy photographs a journalist’s desk for Deadline. Will Steacy/World Press Photo

Anyone with a camera can take a photo of breaking news, said Steacy, but only a professional photojournalist can truly capture the essence of what they’re seeing.

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“Visual narrative, in my view, isn’t done with one picture or a dozen pictures,” he said.

“There’s a long-term commitment to telling a story and going down all possible roads – most of which will lead to nowhere – but one of them will lead you to where you need to go.”

“A true photojournalist has the ability to transform politics, business, society, and our world to better understand it.”

Steacy’s philosophy of the journalistic world is one World Press Photo recognizes – that’s one reason why the organization has placed an importance on recognizing some of the industry’s best.

In Montreal, Steacy’s Deadline exhibition will take over the entire second floor of the hall at Bonsecours Market.

“It’s also about the ‘direness’ of the whole industry and the link between information and democracy,” said Rytz.

“If you lose freedom of speech or good journalism, you’re directly affecting the democratic institutions.”

“The exhibition gets you to stop thinking about daily life and think about what’s important for humanity.”

The World Press Photo Exhibition runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at de la Commune Hall at Bonsecours Market in Old Montreal.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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