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A Local Focus On Photography At The Queen Mary In Long Beach

Emily Wilson |
March 2, 2011 | 1:08 p.m. PST


Image at the entrance of the exhibit (Photo by Emily Wilson)
Image at the entrance of the exhibit (Photo by Emily Wilson)
A black and white photograph depicting the horror of the Vietnam War; a color shot of the city ablaze during the Rodney King Riots; a celebratory shot of a game-winning playoff homerun for the Dodgers. 

Arresting depictions of politics, sports, news, crime and entertainment are on display in the Sun Deck Gallery onboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach through May 31 as part of the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles’ 75th Anniversary Historical Photo Exhibit. Members of the association captured all of the displayed images.

 Many of the featured photographers were on hand for the opening ceremony on Tuesday, including Pulitzer Prize winners Nick Ut, David Hume Kennerly, Boris Yaro and Reed Saxon.

“To be able to represent an association that has all these major heavy hitters, it’s overwhelming,” said Bob Riha, president of the Press Photographers Association. “We’re here to pay tribute to these photographers and to make sure people don’t forget about the role of the press photographer.”

 Long-time Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, whose iconic image, commonly referred to as "Napalm Girl," won the Pulitzer Prize, discussed the process of staying composed enough to steadily take a photograph amidst the realities of war and death. 

“You’re a journalist,” he said. “You have to move very fast.”

His image depicts a naked 9-year-old girl running toward the camera in an effort to escape the effects of a South Vietnamese napalm bomb attack on her village. After taking the photograph, Ut, then just 19, drove the girl, whose skin was severely burned, to the nearest hospital, where she received life-saving treatment.

“With something like the 'Napalm Girl,' you want to help her,” he said. “I don’t care about my job. I want to help her. It’s very important for me. I was lucky to bring her to the hospital.” 

Thomas Neerken, a commercial photographer who attended the event, referred to the years before color film and digital cameras, the time in which "Napalm Girl" was captured, as “the glory days” of photojournalism. 

“One of the things that really resonated was the fact that most of the photographs were made locally,” Neerken said after viewing the show. “There are some from other locations but those were taken by local photographers. I think it just says a lot about the photojournalism community here.”

A large number of the images in the show center on life in Los Angeles. Evident by taking a close look at the images of gang life, a Lakers playoff run or the city’s vast entertainment coverage, those photographs embody a city, but also serve as commentary about society, culture, history and photography itself.

The greater Los Angeles area has provided a major source of material for Press Association photographers over the years. In some cases, it has served as a launching pad for local photographers to get assignments elsewhere, ones that have resulted in photographs of iconic standing. By capturing memorable images of life’s realties since the organization’s inception in 1936, these press association photographers have given people a way to accurately remember the past.

“It’s a celebration of local photographers,” the exhibit’s co-curator Gerard Burkhardt said. “We’re a local group, so that’s our natural place.”

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