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World Press Photo 2008

There’s something about the immediacy of press photography, where the setting is rarely staged and the acts usually entirely spontaneous, that makes it so absorbing. A good photograph can often do more than the thousand word article it accompanies; can be so powerful as to render the writing background material. A photo is not so tainted by opinion, and therefore not always necessary to subject it to the same scrutiny that news or feature writing attracts. A camera can lie, no doubt about that, but certain images are so raw and so remorseless that surely no choreography could have been involved. This exhibition (now at the Royal Festival Hall, London) proves just that: amongst the jubilation of sporting achievements and natural wonder, there are certain images – particularly those in the war and conflict section – that leave you feeling very exposed and vulnerable, going some miniscule (but important) way towards bridging the gulf between viewer and subject.

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