24th International Festival of Photojournalism (including World Press
Photo 2012), Perpignan. September 1st-16th 2012.
‘Stunned’ is the word that springs to mind to summarise the residual
feeling after a day of visual overload – a voyage through every one
of man’s sins or virtues – victims of war spurred by religious
differences or protests due to the financial crisis, incarceration,
torture, the price of child brides and HIV; no subject is too hot
to handle. A decapitated head and limbs accentuate the capacity
that man has to inflict pain or suffering, or punishment on others.
Division, separation – families ripped apart (literally) by shrapnel
from bombs and the ‘fallout’ from conflict, as equally as entire
cultures are destroyed, like the environment of the Marsh Arabs
has been irrevocably changed.
Despair, distress, anger; a gamut of emotions from shock to sheer
terror tug at the heart strings that also pose questions and try
to make sense of this world. The innocent bystander is naturally
drawn into this world we are part of, because we cannot be removed
or excused from responsibility. On one hand there is a series
documenting Steve Jobs and the meteoric rise of Apple, and on the
other, the trail of techno waste that clutters every corner of our
globe – hidden from sight for some, and for others ‘providing
There are always two sides, and we have a tendency to choose – to
judge, to offer an opinion that reflects our own experience. Many of
the images shown are deliberately beyond our experience – hopefully
events that many of us will never witness in a lifetime – yet how
can we ‘be at peace in the world’ knowing that they are occurring
and we are helpless to act? What can we, as individuals or a
collective, do to stop such bloodshed, or the exploitation of
resources that leads to polluted wastelands and contaminated genes?
– the long-term effects of all that man has touched, whether it
is as visible as a razed forest and a sea of dead fish or more
subtle, as the impact has yet to be seen.
This exhibition gives a conscience to acts – allowing them to come
to light, to be assimilated and to enter the mix: the limitless span
of both creation and destruction that is ‘the hand of man’, for it
is not ‘God’ who guides the actions of so many, even though He may
be cited. The two R’s, Religion and Resources, underpin motives and
are thus responsible for the ripples that are imparted as a consequence
– ripping apart the delicate fabric of both our society and the planet.
Yet there is hope, shining brightly on the horizon, for as with all
communications that provoke, and invoke change, the ‘different ways
of seeing’ offer a solution – a way out. Unity.
The unifying principle of life, if we focus on what we share: in this
instance, the installation on ‘blood’ (One Blood, with 366 portraits
of blood donors expressing their spirit of sharing) as the vivifying
power that gives life when so much is taken away in a heartbeat.
Pages of inscriptions in many tongues speak of love, of giving,
of appreciating and valuing all that represents life – whether it
is the life coursing through our own veins as a liquid, or our
environment, our planet, our home – for the same principles ring true.
It begins with us. We already hold the key to peace when we admit
‘we are all connected’. We all come from the same place, we all
share the same vital essence and we cannot be ‘separate’ because
we are all ‘implicated’, whether by direct bloodline, or ancestors,
or culture or historical migration: to be human is to be part of
‘a collective of humanity in its myriad expressions’. And whether
we are drawn into depression or choose to celebrate life, we are
reminded, most poignantly, to not ‘take it for granted’: to find
the qualities of compassion and tolerance; to focus on kind acts,
and sharing; to use our extensive faculties that give us such
intelligence, to measure the consequences of our own actions,
constantly gaining awareness, as we do whatever we can to ‘contribute
to the whole’ rather than succumb to despair at ‘the way things
are going’ – for each one of us holds the balance of justice in
our hands and knows the truth. Every human seeks what life seeks
– nature restores as plants engulf ruins, our own body miraculously
heals wounds – yet we can never forget emotional traumas (even though
time is said to heal them).
Evolution guides us towards new actions that arise from the knowledge
we gain, constantly adding to our repertoire as ‘humanity as a
collective’ raises its conscious awareness of all that has passed
and continues to be perpetuated. A new cycle begins from an old
regime as a wave takes form, and washes over the remains of what was,
creating ‘what will be’, that will in time be replaced, as creation
and destruction are intrinsically linked – the ‘tools’ that we harness
– some choosing weapons, and others perhaps a camera, as expressions
collide and inspire a new creation, for without events or circumstances,
or the choice to provide coverage, there would not be an image as
a result. And were it not for our continued fascination and interest
– a desire to be informed – there would not be the media that brings
them ‘live’, directly into our living room, or for our reading pleasure,
or in this case, ‘as part of a promenade in the back streets of
Perpignan’ which themselves contain a multitude of images, depending
on how we choose to relate to, or convey, our own experience.