There was a chill in the air because I’d left the heat off, and the blanket too. My neck was sore as well, from too much looking the wrong way in my sleep. The hangover wasn’t going to be a big one because it had gotten the message, and by that I mean I’d switched to water to abate a bout of puking. On the desk, above wine stains and ash, was the limp scribble of poems and ideas, and I left them like that. There was a break in the clouds, so I went to shake the cobwebs out of my eyes with the World Press Photo 2016 exhibit.
I go every year and it’s unrelentingly moving. It must be what the devout feel, when they are true and genuine – a sense of awe for the magnitude of life, love, suffering and wonder and your place within it. All the frills and waves and hope of colours, contrasts and lens flares in my Instagram feed don’t touch what is at these exhibits. I usually breeze past the Sport section, taking a mild interest in the nature section, before absorbing the People and News sections.
By now, the myriad wars and refugee crises, in perfect juxtaposition with the environmental and societal tolls of urban expansion in places like China, are as muted as the stylised monochrome photos. Not muted in ferocity or volume, but muted like a dull, rolling pain that has gone on so long the memory of how it was before, is silenced.
The most enveloping photos this time around, were not the usual wounded and wailing people, but a series of photos taken of a couple in their 60s trying to enjoy their last days as they both died from cancer. The series was shot by their daughter. The images of the parents being silly at the dinner table and washing dishes in ridiculous wigs were more potent even than hospital beds and tender hugs. The other supremely affecting series was of women who live with MST (Military Sexual Trauma) i.e. women who were raped by fellow soldiers. Words are kind of ineffective in expressing why that series punched so hard.
The last photo I saw on the way out was more in line with the tragic images you’d expect at this exhibit, sadly. It was of a father holding his daughter in his lap. He was blanched and disconsolate while she was like a stiff, oversized doll, covered in blood. I then walked to Pitt St Mall to pick up something to help me edit my #SydneyFilmSchool projects, walking past the camp of homeless people outside a defunct cafe directly opposite the Reserve Bank of Australia. Down Martin Place, past the Lindt Cafe where a couple were taking a selfie, as though it were just a famous landmark, and not the scene of a fatal crime. Then on to the mall itself, where 3 kids where singing and dancing for money in front of a crowd of people muttering their amazement and amusement. “aren’t they cute!”
Yes. They were.