Award-Winning Photojournalists Show Intense Year In Kansas City Public Library Exhibit

Nov 7, 2016

A man concealed by a protective suit carries a white body bag — a child victim of Ebola — while bystanders look on. A boy is passed to shore as a boat crammed with refugees attempts to dock on a rocky coastline.

A young girl wearing a tiara and holding an award smiles confidently, while her companion looks upset and uncomfortable in her sash and bow-tie. A man, possibly their father or coach, poses victoriously for beauty pageant cameras.

Events and emotions that happened on the other side of the world — or just across the country — feel intimate and immediate in the fifty photographs on display in "Pictures of the Year International" at the Kansas City Public Library.

Paolo Marchetti's 'Beauty Pageant.'
Credit Paolo Marchetti / Getty Images Reportage

The images are the work of exceptional photojournalists, selected from winners in 45 categories as part of an awards and education program administered by the Missouri School of Journalism, and co-presented by the Kansas City/Mid-America Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers.

“They are the guardians of the photojournalist institution internationally," says Yunghi Kim, this year’s first-place winner in the general news category. Pictures of the Year International and the Missouri School of Journalism, she says, "keep the tradition of photojournalism and education alive.”

More than 35 of Kim's photos have been selected for Pictures of the Year International recognition over the three decades she's worked as a photojournalist. Her award-winning photo this year, “Mourning Freddie Gray,” shows four young black men after a peaceful protest following Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. The man in the center of the photograph stands frowning, resolute, with tears running down his face.

Yunghi Kim's 'Mourning Freddie Gray.'
Credit Yunghi Kim / Contact Press Images

“The four guys were giving speeches and they started crying," Kim says. "The entire community was in mourning and anger. When the police shootings happen there is a lot of anger, fear, and helplessness. That is what I saw.”

Over her long career, Kim has also documented South Korea’s Comfort Women, who were forced into sexual slavery after World War II, as well as the famine in Somalia in 1992 and the war in Iraq. She will talk about her experiences at the library on Thursday.

Decades spent in hostile situations are part of the job description, Kim says.

Fabio Bucciarelli's 'The Dream.'
Credit Fabio Bucciarelli / MeMo

“You have to have curiosity, and you have to be dying to tell that story. It’s very physical. You have to be relating to people, and you have to be out on the street. Each photographer has different ways that they tell that visual story. With me it’s more that there’s intimacy and emotion.”

Her best work happens, Kim says, when she tells herself, “I’m just going to do it.”

Pictures of the Year International, through November 20 in the Genevieve Guldner Gallery at the Kansas City Public Library, 14 W. 10th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, 64105; 816-701-3400. Through the Lens of Yunghi Kim: Documenting a Path to Civility, Thursday, November 10. Reception: 6 p.m., program: 6:30 p.m.

Meghan Skevington is an arts intern at KCUR. You can reach her at arts@kcur.org.