The World Press Photo has been forced to close its 2011 photo exhibition—held in Beirut, Lebanon—after the local society protested and demanded that the organization dismiss the exhibition as it sparked local protest and controversy.
The object of the protest was A Journey through Time and Place—the 3rd prize winner of World Press Photo in the Arts and Entertainment category, a series of archive photos taken around Israel set against their present backdrops. However, it was not the series which sparked protest; it was the photographer, Amit Sha’al, an Israeli photojournalist. His being an Israeli led the local public to strong dislike as Lebanon and Israel are still at war.
As reported by the Associated Press, the local authorities had asked the exhibition organizers to remove Sha’al’s works from display in the exhibition. Later on, the World Press Photo decided to dismantle and close the entire exhibition. “The Beirut exhibition organizers felt they could no longer guarantee the safety of the visitors or the exhibit itself if the pictures remained on display. World Press Photo does not accept that any photographs are removed from the presentation,” the World Press Photo announced.
To the Associated Press, Sha’al spoke, “The images are not political. It’s an examination of what was once and what is now. The viewer can reach his or her own conclusion. I have no intention of representing Israel or Israeli policies, many of which I oppose personally. There are dark people on both sides of the fence.”
The exhibition was opened on May 12 and should have lasted to June 01. As the World Press Photo has continually held its annual exhibition in Lebanon since 1995, the organization stated, “We regret that we have to dismantle the exhibition, but we are left with no other choice as we cannot accept removing any award-winning photoworks. We hope to bring our exhibition to Lebanon again soon.” bjp-online.com