A World of Contemporary Photography at Lucca

A World of Contemporary Photography at LuccaUntil Dec. 14: PHOTOLUX INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL. Various venues in Lucca. Opening times vary.  Admission: 5 – 8 euro.

While the Photolux Photography Festival has become a biennial event, during even years Lucca still hosts the World Press Photo exhibition and an additional show, overall on a smaller scale.  The Church of San Cristoforo hosts the World Press Photo show, while the Palazzo Ducale is the venue for an exhibition by Paolo Marchetti, 2013 winner of the Leica Photographers Award, called “Saudade Moon.”

Walking through the World Press Photo exhibition gives the viewer a broad overview of what happened in photojournalism in 2013.

This year’s World Press Photo of the Year 2014 was awarded to John Stanmeyer for an image called “Signal.”  The image captures a moment on a beach in Djibouti City where immigrants were raising their phones in attempt to access cellphone signal from Somalia.  The backlighting from the moon causes the figures to appear as silhouettes, which makes the cell phone lights seem even more mysterious, forcing the viewer to stop and think about what is happening in this photograph. Stanmeyer’s photograph also won first prize in Contemporary Issues Singles.

The World Press Photo exhibition comprises of the 53 winners of the 57th World Press Photo Contest, which are selected from 90,000 submitted images. The competition has one overall winner, as well as first, second, and third place winners in a number of categories, including Contemporary Issues, Observed Portraits, Staged Portraits, Daily Life, General News, Spot News, Nature, and Sports.  Each section also has several sub-categories.

Many images are emotionally evocative like the second-prize winner in Spot News Singles, an image by John Tlumacki from the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Tlumacki managed to capture the scene just moments after the first bomb exploded at the finish line of the marathon where a man climbs over barricades to help those who were injured on the other side. In Tlumacki’s image, the view of several injured people on the ground is partially obstructed by a barricade, flawlessly depicting the chaos that was felt by those who were witnessing the tragedy unfold.

Some images are so cleanly beautiful they cause the viewer to stop in awe, wondering how this could possibly exist in reality.  Jeff Pachoud’s image “Sledding Race from Above,” the first prizewinner in Sports Features Singles, does just this.  This timeless composition is balanced between the two curves on the top and bottom of the picture, forcing the viewer’s eye to wander the landscape just long enough before focusing on the shadow of the helicopter, and finally the sleds.

Paul Marchetti’s exhibition, “Saudade Moon,” from his photo book of the same name, portrays, in the photographer’s words, the present-day “emotional landscape” of Brazil.  Marchetti travelled through country for five years, photographing the Amazon River and jungle, the island of Fernando de Noronha, Maranhao State, and even the National Museum, just to name a few.

His aim was to capture the true essence of Brazilian life, whether it be in the favelas or on a beach in the Rio de Janeiro.  A melancholy longing expressed by the word “saudade” supposedly characteristic of Brazilian culture, comes across strongly thanks to Marchetti’s masterful use of a grainy quality and a paper that allows the true texture of the subjects and landscapes to come across in the images.

For general information and for a preview of Marchetti’s work, visit www.photoluxfestival.it.  There is also a cellphone app, World Press Photo 2014 to learn more about the winners as well as to listen to interviews with some of the photographers (nine language options are available).   (sarah pavla kearns)