World Press Photo 08


The Exhibit
Finalists of the World Press Photo 08 awards can be seen at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu. While a journalistic award, the judges make it a point to explain that the artists are chosen based on the artistic merits of the photographs and not as representative of important issues. Nevertheless, there are plenty of important issues touched upon.

For instance, the 1st prize series captures activities of US and Afghan soldiers in a backdrop of stunning forested mountains, as well as blurred intimate moments of anguish. There’s a Kurdish women’s rebel/resistance military camp. And the sad stories of violent elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.


Akintunde Akinleye, Nigeria, Reuters

Apart from war, other categories include sports and nature, conservation and social issues. The removal of a gorilla by park rangers is especially poignant. It was inexplicably killed execution style by militias. Or the narwhal hunts by Inuits using power rifles seemed like a troubling misuse of “traditional” hunting rights.

Social issues like the depressed community of a coalmining town in Ukraine, and the out-of-work Polish circus performers represent the hidden story of the capitalistic processes in former communist East European countries.


A particularly powerful display was the juxtaposition of portraits of sexual abuse survivors in Spain with photos of the everyday places where they were victimized. This served to show how commonplace abuse is and un-taboos the subject matter.

I found it interesting that in the age of high-definition, so many of the photos were blurry, and some had a painterly quality with fuzzy definition. Perhaps, this is a reaction against the ultra-clarity of today’s imagery. I sometimes feel distracted by the details of high-definition, when all I really want is the big picture.

The World Press Photo exhibit runs until August 10, 2008. The museum is at the Ebisu Garden Place. Tickets are 700 yen. If you have an Atre department store membership card, it’s 560 yen. It’s also free with the Grutt Pass.

The Museum

The photography museum usually has 3 exhibits going on at one time. Each of them must be paid for separately. The other two exhibits are about insects (cool!) and early American daguerreotypes. There is also usually a short art film or documentary in the theater. Don’t miss the enormous murals of iconic photographs just outside the museum.

The museum shop has a decent selection of trick cameras and photography books.


The Café
A museum review isn’t complete without a word on the museum café. Chambre Claire is a comfortable café with the usual over-priced museum coffee and unimaginative food. But that’s never the point. The point of a museum café is to be in a stylish relaxing place and talk about the art just seen, or write in your journal. It’s a good place for either. T and I had a good time chit-chatting and didn’t feel hurried to leave, which is a good sign for any café.

I like the large windows, and there’s a wide selection of Belgian beers. I might go back one evening to try one of those.

2 thoughts on “World Press Photo 08”

  1. I agree, with your point of view, photography nowadays reminds me of painting when the camera was invented. Feels like today with the digital camera more people can make a “good shot” or even take pictures of events, that used to be only the realm of photo journalist, so it seems photography needs to reinvent itself, like painters pushed new boundaries with surrealism and fauvism.
    Guess I am destined to try Chambre Claire! (my name being Claire!) and they have belgian beer!
    Thanks for the info!

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