Year in Focus 2016 at Getty Images Gallery

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it”

Helen Keller

The exhibition currently on at the Getty Images Gallery, Year in Focus 2016, is a collection of snapshots from the year just gone. Hosted in “London’s largest independent photographic gallery” (from the gallery’s website), it gathers compelling images from one of the most important photographic collections in the world.

With Twitter trending topics such as #2016strikesagain and #enough2016, it is undeniable that last year was an eventful, dense, epoch-making year. Unpacking this density with iconic images feels almost therapeutic. Events captured by this exhibition span from the most obvious ones (the American elections, the refugee crisis, the Syrian conflict), to the important, but perhaps less far-reaching or less media-covered ones. Being reminded that 2016 was also the year of the French protest against labour reforms, of Zika virus in Brazil and of Italy’s 6.6 magnitude earthquake is a humbling experience. It makes one feel almost guilty for having allowed these events to slip out of one’s mind, when they involved the struggle and suffering of so many people.

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Joint Forces Battle To Retake Iraqi Town Of Mosul From ISIS (2016)
© Carl Court / Staff

2016 was also the year in which we mourned the death of several celebrities. Leonard Cohen, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Prince are remembered by Getty photographers with magnificent shots, as well as with a touching video, which celebrates their careers and achievements, leaving us with a quote from each of them.

In spite of the gloominess of what might seem a series of photographs about catastrophes and dead people, the exhibition was inspiring in two ways. First of all, not all works were mournful in content. Photographs from Rio’s Olympic games, concerts of Kayne West and Beyoncé, red carpet arrivals, and Paris Fashion Week reminded us that 2016 was memorable also for more positive reasons.

<> on May 13, 2016 in Cannes, .

‘Slack Bay (Ma Loute)’ – Red Carpet Arrivals, The 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival (2016)
© Andreas Rentz / Staff

In addition, several photographs and a video show us ‘Moments that warmed our hearts in 2016’, including runners helping each other at the Olympic games and people marching for LGBTQ rights in catholic Italy. These simple, almost negligible, acts of kindness and hope prove that not all is lost. It is precisely in everyday life that we have scope for making a difference in this world, whether by helping a stranger lifting their suitcase in the Tube or questioning political decisions comparing them against our own opinions.

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Athletics – Olympics: Day 11 (2016) © Ian Walton / Staff

In addition to the warm-hearting effects of such moments, I was amazed by the intrinsic power of the photographs. Crisp colours, bold close-ups, experimental perspectives characterise these pictures. Their aesthetic qualities demonstrate not only the talent of individual photographers, but also the importance of medium as well as subject matter. These images are all poignant statements about our contemporary world and the way of photographers’ to look at it.

‘Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it’. The quote by Helen Keller featuring in one of the videos stayed with me, as it perfectly illustrates the soul of this exhibition. Year in Focus 2016 shows how the overcoming of suffering takes place not only thanks to positive, inspiring events, but also through the sublimating power of photography and art.

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