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Have you heard of the World Press Photo Foundation? I hadn’t until this week. We became acquainted because I’m in Brisbane and there happens to be an exhibition on at the Powerhouse showcasing the recent work of the world’s top press photographers selected from nearly 80,000 entries.

The exhibition features a collection of award-winning press photography, with almost 150 of the most compelling and powerful examples of photojournalism taken during 2018 from all over the world. Such exhibitions have been running for more than 60 years, having started in 1955 when a group of Dutch photographers organised an international contest to show their work to the world. This year the exhibition will tour through 45 countries and will be seen by four million viewers.

The moving images depict stories from a range of categories including general news, the environment, sports and nature. So subjects like displacement, war, drug addiction, poaching and politics are included in the material, recording our social history as it happens and capturing moments and emotions.

image from the World Photo Exhibition at the Powerhouse in Brisbane

an image of a member of an all-female anti-poaching unit which protects animals in the Phundundu Wildlife Park, Zimbabwe, captured by Brent Stirton of Getty

I was shocked by some (of young Russian and US kids undergoing military-style training), interested in some, horrified by others and couldn’t really look at one. As miserable as some may be, these are stories that need to be told. And someone has to witness them and record them to do that, as tough or as heartbreaking as that may be.

Not all of it is pretty (fortunately some is!) and a lot of it is quite confronting. But it is real and it’s telling the stories of the world that are happening now. It’s not like wandering through a Monet exhibition, but it is like wandering through our world.

The Powerhouse building seems the perfect setting: a raw industrial building now rebirthed as an exhibition and performance space and which exudes the authencity and grit of a hard-lived life. It’s worth a trip just to see the building by itself. But that’s another story.

You can find more details on the Powerhouse website, but be super quick – it finishes on 4 August.