A CHILL­ING POR­TRAIT

Burhan Oz­bilici of The As­so­ci­ated Press at the World Press Photo ex­hibit in Mon­treal, where his award-win­ning pho­to­graph cap­tur­ing the af­ter­math of the as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Turkey is on dis­play. Kelsey Litwin has de­tails.

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - KELSEY LITWIN kl­itwin@post­media.com twit­ter.com/kelseyl­itwin

Stand­ing in a pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tion with a cam­era in hand is a fa­mil­iar set­ting for Turk­ish pho­tog­ra­pher Burhan Oz­bilici.

It was at one such ex­hi­bi­tion where Oz­bilici cap­tured the photo that would win him the 2017 World Press Photo of the Year award — an im­age of off-duty Turk­ish po­lice of­fi­cer Mev­lut Mert Alt­in­tas with his left hand in the air, shout­ing, and a gun in his right hand, pointed to the ground. To the right of the frame is An­drey Karlov, the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Turkey, whom Alt­in­tas had just shot.

At the open­ing of Mon­treal’s 12th World Press Photo ex­hi­bi­tion at Marché Bon­sec­ours Tues­day, Oz­bilici was again tak­ing pho­tos, while Laurens Korteweg, World Press Photo’s director of ex­hi­bi­tions, in­tro­duced the win­ning piece.

“I’m al­ways a jour­nal­ist. I re­act,” Oz­bilici said.

He had not planned to visit the art gallery in Turkey’s cap­i­tal of Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016, when the photo was taken. He was go­ing to meet a friend, he said.

“I al­ways have my cam­era ... so when it hap­pened, I was ready to do my job.

“I was scared, but I did not panic,” he said. “I im­me­di­ately de­cided to stand and do my job.”

Oz­bilici said he re­lies heav­ily on his self-con­fi­dence and his abil­ity to be able to quickly an­a­lyze a sit­u­a­tion and act.

“Even if you are killed or in­jured, you will not be in­jured or killed for noth­ing. You will doc­u­ment his­tory,” he re­called think­ing.

Korteweg said dis­play­ing his­tory is the pur­pose of the an­nual global pho­to­jour­nal­ism con­test, now in its 62nd year, and all win­ners work with a sense of pur­pose sim­i­lar to Oz­bilici’s.

“They work be­cause they want to show the world to us, they want to make us aware,” he said. “They want to en­able us.”

Be­cause of that, the ex­hi­bi­tion be­comes a tool that en­gages the public, high­lights an is­sue and in­spires ac­tion, he said.

Am­ber Bracken said that was part of the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind her four trips to protest camps in Can­non Ball, North Dakota, dur­ing the months-long ac­tion against the Dakota Ac­cess Pipeline.

“This is not an iso­lated or dis­tinct is­sue,” the Al­berta-born pho­tog­ra­pher said.

She said the fight south of the bor­der is sim­i­lar to the is­sues of colo­nial­ism many Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in Canada face.

“I re­ally don’t see a bar­rier or a dis­tinc­tion be­tween what’s hap­pen­ing in the United States and what’s hap­pen­ing here,” she said.

Bracken won first prize in the Con­tem­po­rary Is­sues cat­e­gory for her pho­tos of the protests, which have ap­peared in Buz­zfeed and the Globe and Mail.

De­spite their in­ter­na­tional rel­e­vance, Korteweg said the graphic — and at times con­tro­ver­sial — na­ture of the win­ning im­ages of­ten causes the trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tion to face the ques­tion of cen­sor­ship.

While World Press Photo nor­mally vis­its Ankara and Is­tan­bul, he said Oz­bilici’s im­ages would have had to have been re­moved for them to do so this year.

“We do not make this com­pro­mise,” Korteweg said.

Oz­bilici is stead­fast in his be­lief in the im­por­tance of in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists who work in the name of hon­esty.

“We have to learn the right thing from this tragedy,” he said. “This is the news, his­tory. This is courage.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion is on un­til Oct. 1 at Marché Bon­sec­ours (325 de la Com­mune St.). Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun­day through Wed­nes­day and 10 a.m. to mid­night Thurs­day to Satur­day.

JOHN MA­HONEY

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