Extraordinarily captured stories displayed at Magnet Galleries

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Kaylah Joelle Baker

For the first time in 67 years the World Press Photo Foundation has chosen Melbourne, and Docklands’ very own Magnet Galleries Melbourne, to present its renowned exhibition.

With a rich history of conducting a yearly tour in 130 countries and with an annual visitation of five million people, it is an event that Magnet president Michael Silver considered a “remarkable opportunity”.

It is also surprising for Mr Silver and his wife Susanne that the event has never reached Melbourne, a city renowned for arts and culture.

“For me it was something I felt driven to try and do. I was surprised they allowed us to do it because I don’t think the event has ever been done by anyone as small as us,” Mr Silver said.

“But as soon as I found out it had never been done in Victoria, I thought it was a crime. We had to do something, and it is really quite amazing we made it happen.”

With hard work, dedication and the support of generous people donating furniture and their time, the gallery has been transformed to accommodate the exhibition.

Expanded over two spaces, the first room is a wide open room filled with all the captivating images that have a story to tell.

Sydney-based storyteller and photojournalist Matthew Abbott is among one of the creatives with his heavily-researched visual story of Nawarddeken elder Conrad Maralngurra burning grass to protect the Mamadawerre community from late-season wildfires.

In the second room, Magnet conducted “Talking at Photography” events with some of the most internationally and nationally respected photographers and photojournalists who took time to share in various aspects of their work.

The visiting photographers from around the world have truly added to the space, as they tell of many extraordinary stories that Mr Silver said had been “a revelation”.

As an established photographer himself, Mr Silver said the magic of photography was something that needed to be talked about and respected more.

“We do a lot of preserving history and it’s an endless task that we do a lot of and rarely for money, but it is something that has to be done,” he said.

The exhibition hasn’t been easy to pull off though with the pandemic delaying the exhibition twice and the gallery, which operates as a not-for-profit organisation, being unsuccessful in receiving funding from the council.

The World Press Photo exhibition has in the past, in other states, been at State Libraries that allow for more space, staff and budget.

Despite the obvious challenges, Magnet has proven that there is an irreplaceable charm that comes with being in a space that is built on the desire to prove photography matters and that it can make a difference in lives.

“We are not businesspeople, we work hard because we want to help people [through photography],” Mr Silver said.

“You either do things with hard work or money and we tend to not have the money, but we managed to get enough to pay for the event and we borrowed some money which we still owe, but it was worth it.”

While the exhibition has exhausted the couple, the connections and friendships formed and re-established in the community of photography have made it worth it all.

It’s left the pair and their son Daniel, who handles the high-quality printing and scanning section of the gallery, more than pleased that they were cementing themselves as an integral part of Docklands’ arts and culture scene.

Following the World Press Photo exhibition, which wraps up on June 30, Magnet will be gearing up for its July Street Photography in Japan exhibition, closely followed by more exciting prospects and plans that they are excited to share with the community as they evolve.

The Magnet Galleries Melbourne can be found on Wharf St at The District Docklands.

For more information: magnet.org.au

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