This year’s World Press Photo exhibition started in Groningen on the 17th November in city’s only synagogue located on Folkingestraat 60, and is going to be open to public till the 10th of December. I saw this as an opportunity to sit with Andrea Hooymans, the general director of the Stichting Wereld Pers Foto Groningen (WPFG), and Amber Barelds, a RUG student volunteering with the WPFG, for an interview to talk about the WPFG, their 2017 events and programs, and the 2017 World Press Photo exhibition. The following article is based on the interview that was used as the source material.
The WPFG was founded in 2003 as a non-profit student organization affiliated with the University of Groningen with the purpose of bringing the World Press Photo exhibitions to the city of Groningen. In the beginning, the WPFG was only comprised of students studying at the University of Groningen, however, over years they have grown into a more diverse organization, and have increasingly developed a professional attitude. In 2004, they organized the World Press Photo exhibition in Groningen for the first time. The WPFG have ever since provided organizational assistance for annual exhibitions of the World Press Photo.
Beside their organizational role in these exhibitions, the WPFG also independently organizes educational programs for a wide range of interests and age groups. In October this year, the WPFG organized an event entitled “Fotomarathon: The Future of Groningen.” First, two guest speakers each gave a presentation. Sabine Theijs, one of the speakers, talked about her photography project entitled Randshop, life on the city's edge, and after that Dennis Lapré gave a presentation on some useful photography techniques before the contest started. Then, the participants at the workshop competed for the best and most inspiring photographs during a photography marathon. The contest consisted of four sub-themes, namely, “Waste No Waste,” “Let’s Learn,” “Let’s Move,” and “The Next City.” The winning photographs are now being publicly displayed alongside this year’s World Press Photo exhibition on the second floor of the Synagogue in Groningen. The second Fotomarathon is going to be held on December 2nd, 2017. Moreover, every Sunday, the WPFG organize weekly educational programs for children aged between 6 to 11 years old where they participate in a workshop on visual storytelling designed for their age group.
Students are central to activities of the WPFG. According to Andrea Hooymans, the general director of the WPFG, the organization provides a platform especially for those students who wish to pursue a career in arts management, arts and cultural education, journalism, and even international relations, to name a few, to gain practical experience in staging a prominent art and cultural event such as the World Press Photo exhibition. Amber, a student of Art, Culture, and Media at the University of Groningen, has volunteered with the WPFG since 2016, and after having a successful year with them, she has been invited by the organization again to assist them with organizing this year’s edition of the World Press Photo exhibition. Amber is also leading a WPFG’s educational program for young children. Moreover, the WPFG have close connections with the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen, and a number of Minerva students are currently volunteering with the WPFG, assisting them with organizing and promoting the World Press Photo exhibition and also their own programs. The WPFG provide training sessions for their volunteers, who are mainly students, giving them a good opportunity to gain practical experience in organizing exhibitions, guiding exhibition tours, and public speaking in art and cultural contexts.
Last but not least, students can sign up for the WPFG’s educational programs held every Thursday evening. International students are welcome to attend the events since these events are offered in English. This year, the WPFG are also organizing an International Student Night on the 23rd of November, 2017 where students can join tours and a workshop on Instagram and Photography. In addition, those who are interested in human rights issues can attend a lecture organized by the Amnesty International Groningen where stories behind certain exhibited photographs at this year’s edition will be discussed.
By Mehdi Zamani