Sydney Times


NSW State Library brings World Press Photo to Sydney for 20th year

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES - SECOND PRIZE, STORIES Title: The Tigers Next Door © Steve Winter, United States, for National Geographic
Written by Aksel Ritenis

NSW State Library brings World Press Photo to Sydney for 20th year 

The State Library of NSW will reopen its eastern galleries on Saturday 15 August in time to host the highly anticipated World Press Photo Exhibition 2020, making it the only Australian venue to showcase the world’s best photojournalism from 2019. According to State Librarian John Vallance:

“Despite the challenges of Covid-19, we were determined to bring one of our most popular exhibitions to Sydney for the 20th year, with the generous support of Canon Australia and, for the first time, in partnership with the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.” “We have protective measures in place in all of our galleries, including sanitising stations and a oneway traffic system, to ensure the health and safety of everyone who comes through our doors,” says Dr Vallance.

Conflict, the ongoing effects of climate change and Australia’s recent catastrophic bushfires can be seen among more than 150 powerful and evocative images and photo series captured by 44 professional photographers from 24 countries. The coveted Photo of the Year shows a young man, illuminated by mobile phones, reciting protest poetry while demonstrators chant slogans calling for civilian rule, during a blackout in Khartoum, Sudan.

People chant slogans as a young man recites a poem, illuminated by mobile phones, before the opposition’s direct dialog with people in Khartoum on June 19, 2019. – People chanted slogans including “revolution” and “civil” as the young man recited a poem about revolution. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

World Press Photo of the Year_Yasuyoshi Chiba_Agence France-

A young man, illuminated by mobile phones, recites protest poetry while demonstrators chant slogans calling for civilian rule, during a blackout in Khartoum, Sudan, on 19 June 2019. 


Protests in Sudan began in December 2018 and spread rapidly throughout the country. By April 2019, protesters were staging a sit-in close to army headquarters in the capital Khartoum, and demanding an end to the 30-year rule of dictator Omar al-Bashir. On 11 April, al-Bashir was removed from office in a military coup, and a transitional military government was established. Protests continued, calling for power to be handed to civilian groups. On 3 June, government forces opened fire on unarmed protesters. Scores of people were killed and many more subject to further violence. Three days later the African Union suspended Sudan, in the midst of widespread international condemnation of the attack. The authorities sought to defuse protests by imposing blackouts, and shutting down the internet. Protesters communicated by text message, word of mouth and using megaphones, and resistance to military rule continued. Despite another severe crackdown on 30 June, the pro-democracy movement was eventually successful in signing a power-sharing agreement with the military, on 17 August. 


This photo, ‘Straight Voice’, was captured by Yasuyoshi Chiba on 19 June 2019 just days after authorities sought to defuse protests by imposing blackouts and shutting down the internet.

This year’s contest honours three Australian photographers, and unsurprisingly the summer bushfires were the subject for two of them. Matthew Abbott was awarded second prize in the Spot News (Stories) category for his portfolio which included his iconic image of a kangaroo attempting to escape the flames, silhouetted against the ruins of a burning house near Lake Conjola in NSW. Sean Davey’s picture of children playing under eerie orange skies at a bushfire evacuation centre in Bega was awarded second prize in the Contemporary Issues (Singles) category.

Adam Ferguson won first prize (Portraits) for his portrayal of displaced people from camps in northern Iraq.

“During these strange and troubling times, this exhibition is a powerful reminder of why photojournalism is such a vital part of documenting what is happening to us all around the world,” said Dr Vallance. “Some visitors will be moved, and some will be confronted but all who come to the Library will walk away having experienced something truly unique.”


Title: Black Drag Magic – Portrait of a Drag Artist and Activist 

© Lee-Ann Olwage, South Africa 


Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie, a drag artist and activist, poses at a shisanyama—a community space where women cook and sell meat—in Khayelitsha, a township located on the Cape Flats, near Cape Town, South Africa, on 4 August 2019.


Belinda, the photographer, and other black, queer, gender non-conforming and transgender people collaborated in a project to decolonize drag culture and find a particularly African expression of drag. The aim was also to highlight the need for the African lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ+) community to find their identities irrespective of their backgrounds, and to reclaim the public space in a community where they are subject to discrimination, harassment and violence. Discrimination is part of everyday life for LGBTQ+ people in townships such as Khayelitsha, especially in public areas. A survey of 2,000 LGBTQ+ people by South African rights organization OUT found that within a two-year period, 39% had been verbally insulted, 20% threatened, 17% chased or followed, and nearly 10% physically attacked.



The Executive Director of the Judith Neilson Institute, Mark Ryan, said photojournalism brought the best and worst of the human condition to vast audiences every day.

“The photographers who capture these images often do so in appalling conditions and at great risk to their own lives,” he said. “They do it with empathy and compassion and their work deserves not just to be seen, but to be valued and celebrated as it is through this exhibition.”

Nina Spannari, General Manager, Marketing and Customer Experience, Canon Australia said:

“The exhibition honours the extraordinary talent and dedication of press photographers around the world and Canon is proud to support the State Library in bringing World Press Photo to Australians.”

The World Press Photo Exhibition 2020 is free at the State Library of NSW, Macquarie St Sydney, from 15 August to 18 October 2020.

Please read the special conditions of entry before visiting the State Library:


About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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