centrepiece; Moving pictures

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The World Press Photo awards, now 40 years old, are the Baftas of the photographic world. Each year an international jury meets to choose the world's best news photograph and the best of other categories, including the arts, sport, and science.

An exhibition of the winning pictures and a yearbook, published to coincide with the awards, make for a fine appraisal of the year's events. But, unsurprisingly, it makes for uneasy viewing. There are, of course, plenty of heart-rending images from Rwanda, Haiti and Chechnya. And the winning photo is perhaps the most appalling of all.

American photographer James Nachtwey, a member of Magnum photo agency, found the Hutu man (right) in a Red Cross hospital in Rwanda. He had been mutilated by his own people in a machete attack because he refused to support their rebellion against the Tutsi. He was unable to speak or even to drink water. Explaining the decision to choose this image, Michele Stephenson, chair of the 1995 jury and Picture Editor of Time magazine, says: "In this one picture we found an icon that told the whole story. This man is both a survivor of the horror and a symbol of the hope for an end to the desperate situation in Rwanda."

More accessible imagery includes Carol Guzy's candid shot of General Cedras, the de facto dictator of Haiti, saluting a flag-raising, and catching the camera's eye, mid-grimace; and Francois Le Diascorn's charming third- prize-winning documentation of the rejuvenation treatment of the stuffed animals in the Gallerie de Zoologie, Paris. In a rare moment of comic relief a cat looks pained to have its ears held together with clothes pegs, an owl is most undignified wrapped around with string, and a pair of shy eyes peep from brown-paper wrapping.

Jane Richards

Lyttelton Circle Foyer, South Bank, SE1, 10-29 May (0171-633 0880). 'World Press Photo Yearbook' is priced £9.99