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World Photography Organisation Festival Exhibition

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by Karys McEwen (subscribe)
Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
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This past week saw the first ever London-based World Photography Organisation Festival pan out at the Somerset House. The six day festival was open to everyone with a passion for photography - professionals, amateurs, students and the public and the programme featured an eclectic mix of events, talks, seminars and workshops. Sadly the festival has come to an end, but you still have the chance to visit several of the exhibitions that were held in conjunction with the festival, including the winning images from the 2011 Sony World Photography Awards and a breathtaking Bruce Davidson Retrospective.

The Somerset House is a spectacular neo-classical building that is located in the heart of London, sitting between the Strand and the River Thames. Perfect for this kind of diverse exhibition, the Somerset House produces a distinctive public programme that annually draws over 1.2 million visitors and provides a wonderful atmosphere for exploration and relaxation.

Somerset House

Open until the 22nd of May and celebrating photography in all its different guises, the WPO Festival Exhibitions are enough to get your creative juices flowing. The vast photographic talent presented is inspiring and thought-provoking and for just 10 (or 7 for students) you can gain access to all exhibitions.

The Sony Photography Awards 2011 welcomed over 100,000 entries and the results of the judging, as well as some of those shortlisted, are on display as part of the festival exhibitions. Curated by photography expert Francis Hodgson and independent curator Yasmina Reggad, the exhibition is entitled From Chaos to Order and shrewdly mirrors the process by which we made sense of photographs in the world. The display includes a cosmic collection of international contemporary photography, spanning subjects from Current Affairs, Sport, Portraiture, Landscape, Fashion and much more. The awards presented were also incredibly diverse and visitors can view the winners and finalists of the Open Competition, Professional Competition and the much coveted L'Iris d'Or.

In the Terrace Rooms you can spy on the retrospective exhibition of the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Photography award; Bruce Davidson. One of the most influential photographers of the last half-century, he's been described as a rebel without a cause and one of the few remaining Masters of Photography and his work is truly breathtaking. Curated by the Tate's Simon Baker the display includes a clever mix of humour and solemnity, with Davidson's photographs capturing some of the most defining moments of the last few decades. Visitors will undoubtedly find this exhibition incredibly moving, especially the photographs that explore prejudice and poverty in 1950s and 60s America.

In another room of the Somerset house is the Photography and Moving Image Books Awards exhibition where images are brought to life and the power of storytelling is evolving and expanding. An exhibition of artists who experiment with narrative formats and utilise editing software and sound, this exhibition allows the screen to be used as a canvas for conceptual, commercial and documentary ideas.

Last but certainly not least is the Student Focus Awards exhibition which is presented in partnership with Young Tate. Themed on this year's critically acclaimed Tate Modern photographic exhibition entitled Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera, over 200 universities took part. The exhibition displays the 10 finalists and the work is of an extremely high calibre.

Following in the footsteps of San Francisco, Sao Paulo and Shanghai, the WPO Festival has come to London with a bang and will appeal to anyone with a passion for photography. The exhibitions are not to be missed so get down there before the 22nd of May and lose yourself in the electivity of images on offer.
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Why? Because you will be dazzled by the incredible talent of the amateur and professional photographs on display
When: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last entry 5.30pm)
Where: Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA (nearest tube: Temple, Covent Garden, Charing Cross, Embankment)
Cost: 10 Adults, 7 Students
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