05 July 2005

Redeeming the press

Caught the World Press photo exhibition in Shed 11 last night, at a sponsor's function. As far as those things go it was good - great food, brief and interesting speeches (as you'd come to expect from one of NZ's most celebrated speakers), a good group of people, and running into old firends who are doing great things.

There were some stunning images there, dragging out emotions from the horrifying to the ecstatic. I found the presentation lacking a bit, on 2 fronts - the venue is looking tired, which I think is a real shame, but probably more of a result of limited funding and its inability to be reserved as an art only space, and the actual presentation of the works was a little underwhelming. I concede that this is a touring show, pulled together from people who aren't in the exhibition business, and on little money and much goodwill (from generous sponsors like tonight's hosts), and that the native environment of many of these images is a glossy A4 magazine page, yet I was expecting a lot more scale and the associated impact. I was expecting more of a Magnum type display, that better reflected the substance of the works.

Another thing I got to thinking about was the need to read the captions to get the most out of the works. Again I think this is a reference to the magazine/newspaper environment in which these will be delivered, but it brought up a question about the strength of the images when judged by purely artistic criteria - and whether we're meant to look at them in this way, being documentary photography.

An interesting point was raised by Biggs in his speeches - move up the left side and be depressed, and move down the right side and be revived. The left side showed real life - the right sports and arts. When real life gets you down seek solace in art and activity. I like that.

And being an ad agency event there was, of course, a bar in the middle.

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