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In the wake of Katrina review

 

In the Wake of Katrina, Larry Towell – Chris Boot, 15

World Press Photo 2006 – Thames & Hudson, 17

 

Award-winning photographer Larry Towell’s latest book In the wake of Katrina documents another disaster operation in the US. Between 3-11 September 2005 shortly after the deluge, Towell, accompanied by Southern novelist Ace Atkins, travelled along the coast of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, documenting the dramatic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

 

The problem with Towell’s latest book is that the public have already seen much of the source material presented here, and are equally aware of the poor response of the US government to offer any kind of substantial financial or economic assistance, particularly to the black community. Towell’s photographs do not really challenge one’s impressions of the disaster or add anything to the debate about what actually went wrong. They do not examine any new angle or provide any new insight to the disaster. As a result, the book falls flat.

 

A better photojournalism book is the latest World Press Photo 2006. Since it began 51 years ago, World Press Photo of the Netherlands has compiled and catalogued some of the most memorable pieces of photojournalism ever printed. Still regarded as one of the most prestigious photography competitions in the world, each annual publication showcasing the winning pictures is an absolute delight to look through.

 

As one would expect, all the biggest news stories of 2005 are represented in the current volume – Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” plan for the Israeli settlers in Gaza; the aftermath of the Tsunami; the flooding in New Orleans; the London bombings on 7 July and so on.

 

However, what distinguishes the World Press Photo books from other photojournalism annuals is its inclusion of photo-essays and a selection of more “quirky” shots, such as Michael Wirtz’s Cartier-Bresson type shot of an elderly lady looking at Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips sofa.

 

Each year the winning photos are exhibited in London, usually during May and usually at the wonderful Royal Festival Hall. However, this year it was moved to the Royal Albert Hall – with disastrous results. The exhibition was only open subject to sound checks not being carried out, which meant that viewing times were severely limited. Please, please, please move the exhibition back to the Royal Festival Hall next year!

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InthewakeofKatrina
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