A close-up of danger
A major exhibition in Perpignan of images from photojournalists is both a heart-rending catalogue of the world's miseries and a reminder of the hazards of trying to capture them on film.
Conflict in the Middle East is one topic [Patrick Baz for Agence France-Presse]
The pictures in the international 'Visa pour l'image' exhibition held annually in the Mediterranean town of Perpignan cover the great convulsions that made headlines over the course of the past year; the 2005 exhibit is dominated by the conflict in Iraq, the devastation wreaked by Asia's tsunami, and the ethnic cleansing in Sudan.
"Yes, our festival shows all the misery. But the people who reproach the depiction of violence here are the same ones who rush off to see the latest Sylvester Stallone movie," exhibition founder Jean-François Leroy told AFP. "A child dying of hunger in Africa is less obscene than special effects from Hollywood."
Women on the road that links Kabul to Baghdad [Alexandra Boulat for Paris Match]
The images are displayed in 30 buildings at various locations around the city, including a barracks and a disused convent.
The event also serves as a professional networking symposium for the world's top photojournalists with debates, gatherings for freelancers to present their photos to magazine and news agency editors, and other meet-and-greet events. Humanitarian and journalism organizations also present awards and cash prizes for the best photos and reporting of the year.
This year's portfolio
*sidebar1*Attendance is expected to be similar to last year, when 3,000 professionals from around 50 countries attended, and 170,000 visitors turned up to see the photographs.
Iraq dominates the 2005 photos, with entries from American Lynsey Addario (Corbis) of wounded GIs returning home; from American Paul Fusco (Magnum) of soldier burials; from Russian Yuri Kozyrev (Time magazine); and from Brazilian Mauricio Lima (AFP).
American Heidi Bradner (Panos Pictures) opted to "show the faces" of the victims of 10 years of warfare in Chechnya, and Kristen Ashburn of the United States (Contact Press Images) portrays the agony suffered by AIDS patients in southern Africa.
The Iraq war is a dominant theme for 2005 [Paul Fusco for Magnum Photos]
This year's two-day symposium will include a debate -- "Is photojournalism a political statement?" -- and a round-table organised by Elle Magazine that will probe the role of the media in covering humanitarian disasters and pricking the public conscience.
Uncovering new talent
Organizer Leroy is proud of the conference's history of showcasing both the best news photos of the year but also of discovering talented photographers just breaking into a highly competitive field.
"That makes 17 years that people have been telling me photojournalism is dying," Leroy told AFP, "and that makes 17 years that I have been discovering talented young photographers and displaying their work."
*quote1*Leroy cited the work of 22-year-old Corentin Fleury, a French freelancer featured in this year's exhibit, who took what Leroy described as "incredible" pictures in Fallujah, Iraq.
The annual exhibition, which has been taking the pulse of the world for 17 years, has run into financial trouble in recent years.
The 2004 presentation of CARE International's Grand Prize for Humanitarian Reporting
But the French government, acutely aware of the prestige associated with an annual event that draws both some of the world's best journalists and prominent humanitarians, has pledged to support it.
*sidebar2*The minister of culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres personally visited the exhibit this year in a show of support. What's more, he told AFP he had come to Perpignan "to bring the assurance that the state will be an active partner in supporting" the exhibition.
"I hope that the companies which have contributed in the past will continue to do so, because it is a beacon internationally," de Vabres said.
Subject: French news, Perpignan, Visa pour l'image, photojournalism, journalism, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, Jean-François Leroy, CARE International