Major Photo Exhibit In China Marks Contact's 30th Anniversary

Sep 8, 2006

NEW YORK, NY – Contact Press Images, founded 30 years ago by photojournalist David Burnett and photography editor Robert Pledge, will observe its 30th anniversary with a major photography exhibit at the Pingyao International Photography Festival in Pingyao, China, opening on September 16.

Titled “CONTACT/S: 30,” the exhibit will display 30 giant 9’ by 12’ contact sheets of images from the past three decades, paired with a single individual print from each contact sheet, shot by Contact’s photographers who include Burnett, Stephen Dupont, Annie Leibovitz, Yunghi Kim, and Sebastiao Salgado.

Surrounding this centerpiece there will be 22 additional “satellite” exhibits by Contact’s photographers in three special sections: 30 Olympic images by Burnett; 30 images from 1976, Contact’s first and founding year, by Burnett, Leibovitz, Li Zhensheng, Don McCullin, and Alon Reininger; and a 30-image photographic tribute to fallen Contact colleagues Gilles Caron and Olivier Rebbot.

In all, more than 400 Contact photographs are in the show, and it is the centerpiece of the festival. This is the fifth year that the ancient city of Pingyao, in the Shanxi province, has hosted the international photography festival in the People’s Republic of China. Contact’s Jeffrey Smith says that twenty of the agency’s photographers will be in China for the exhibit and will take also part in the forums, portfolio reviews, and workshops.

Contact photographers represented in the Pingyao include Patrick Artinian, Kristen Ashburn, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Alexandra Avakian, Nadia Benchallal, Burnett, Caron, Nick Danziger, Dupont, Giorgia Fiorio, Chuck Fishman, Matt Franjola, Frank Fournier, Lori Grinker, Adriana Groisman, Justin Guariglia, Afrim Hajrullahu, Sean Hemmerle, James Hill, Kenneth Jarecke, Edward Keating, Kim, Leibovitz, Zhensheng, McCullin, Dilip Mehta, Charles Ommanney, Rebbot, Reininger, and Salgado. Simultaneously, a smaller version of “CONTACT/S: 30” will be on view at the 18th edition of the Visa Pour l’Image Festival in Perpignan, France.

Caron and Rebbot are the only two Contact photographers to lose their lives while on assignment in the agency’s three-decade career of covering global conflict. Caron went missing on April 4, 1970, while on assignment in a Khmer Rouge-controlled area of Cambodia; Rebbot died in January 1981 from wounds received while covering for Newsweek magazine a battle between government troops and guerrilla snipers in El Salvador.

Pledge and Burnett founded Contact Press Images in 1976 to “facilitate the independent production of in-depth documentary photo essays, and to develop a humanist photography attuned to major international issues and social currents.” Contact is known for specializing in long-term projects on topics such as politics, religion, and human rights, essays that often take years to shoot.

Pledge, who now splits his time between New York and Paris, where he moved from his birthplace of London when he was 10, was a student of West African languages and anthropology who entered journalism as a specialist in African affairs. He’s edited many acclaimed photography books, including 11: Witnessing The World Trade Center 1974-2001, and Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict, and Pope John Paul II: His Remarkable Journey, curated photography exhibits around the world, and taught master classes in photography. Pledge also co-authored the book Red-Color News Soldier with Li Zhensheng in 2003, for which he received the Overseas Press Club’s “Olivier Rebbot Award” for the “Best Reporting from Abroad” in 2004.

Burnett, who is now 60 and well known in the photojournalism community for his continued use of large-format press cameras from the 1950s to cover today’s politics and sports in unconventional, very un-modern ways, was the last photojournalist from Life magazine to cover the war in Vietnam. Since then he’s worked in more than 60 countries, has photographed every American president and presidential campaign since John F. Kennedy, and has covered every Summer Olympic Game since 1984. He’s the author of E-motion: The Spirit of Sport, and is a regular contributor to Time and Newsweek magazines. In 1973 his coverage of conflict was recognized with the Robert Capa Gold Medal, and in 1979 he won the World Press Photo Premier Award. In 1984, the Overseas Press Club recognized his photographs with the “Olivier Rebbot Award” for the “Best Reporting from Abroad.”

Honing his skills once again on old Speed Graphic and larger format view cameras over the past few years, this year Burnett took some of his 50-camera collection – ranging from several Chinese-made Holgas to state-of-the-art Canon digital cameras – on assignment for National Geographic magazine to cover the post-Katrina effects on the Gulf Coast. His essay, shot almost entirely on the large format gear, was published in the magazine’s August 2006 issue and will be exhibited at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, the Cabildo Museum in New Orleans, LA, and the 401Projects Gallery in New York.