Speech by Michiel Munneke, World Press Photo managing director, at the 2009 Awards Ceremony

Speech by Michiel Munneke, World Press Photo managing director, at the 2009 Awards Ceremony

Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 52nd Awards Ceremony honoring the world's best achievements in photojournalism. A particularly warm welcome goes out to His Royal Highness Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands and Patron of World Press Photo, and Her Royal Highness Princess Laurentien, who are honoring us with their presence tonight.

This evening represents the apotheosis of again another great competition in our history, with an incredibly high standard of entries. A competition that has been prepared and facilitated by our enthusiastic staff - whom I would like to sincerely thank for their amazing efforts- but that is in all other senses made by you, the photographers. It is you who have made the competition what it is: one of the highest profile, highest quality and highest impact tributes to photojournalism in the world today. So to you too, I extend my thanks, for providing your professionalism, your passion, your dedication and most of all: your images!

And while I am in this thanking mode, we should not forget our sponsors TNT, Canon, the Dutch Postcode Lottery and all those others without whose contributions events such as this would be unthinkable.  And I am particularly proud that both TNT and Canon just recently decided, despite the economic crisis, to continue their partnerships for another three years.

Most of this evening will, quite rightly, be devoted to you and your work. To individual achievement. But before that, I would like to take just a few minutes to touch upon what World Press Photo is doing to support your profession and to stimulate both the quality and quantity of photojournalism in the widest possible sense.

We at World Press Photo are pursuing such goals by introducing new initiatives to support today's professionals. And, naturally by responding to developments both inside and outside the journalistic field and by building on established strengths, such as our dynamic education programs for tomorrow's generation.

Let me isolate just a few examples.

Next year, the FIFA World Cup is scheduled to be held in South Africa, and we are taking advantage of this hugely influential event to stimulate African photographers to develop their journalistic skills in a high-profile, creatively stimulating environment. An environment that could well dominate African newscasting for several months: football is extremely popular in almost every African country.

The Twenty Ten project, jointly initiated with Freevoice, a Dutch media NGO, invites African journalists to hone their skills in workshops, develop their talents in hands-on assignments and offers a wide range of multimedia opportunities. Personal coaching, a focus on storytelling and a search for unexpected angles on the world's premier football tournament will be strong features of this once-in-a-lifetime experience: A pressure cooker that could school an entire generation of journalists in Africa. It is only with the support of Dutch Postcode Lottery that this dream comes through.

That's looking forward. But let us not forget the past. World Press Photo has a history that goes back more than half a century. In that time, we have awarded prizes to more than 10,000 photographs. That is a considerable legacy. A legacy we want to share with future generations. And so, for the past two years, we have been preparing our archives for public viewing on our website. We had support from Mondriaan Foundation and VSB Fonds in completing this huge task, and you will be able to view the results before the end of the year.

It's going to be an incredible resource: informative and wise. A highly detailed portrait of our times, painted by the best, the bravest and sometimes the luckiest photographers of their day. It's half a century of human history, as well as a showcase of successive styles in photography and reportage. I am convinced you will find it valuable, and with you: thousands of others.

These are examples of the kind of activity we enjoy most: promoting your work available to a wider audience and providing a new generation with access to your profession. And so, in years to come, we will continue to provide the profession with a platform, a spotlight, a link with a worldwide public.

We will continue to invest in the future of photojournalism with training programs in different countries. We will maintain our Joop Swart Masterclasses for the very best talents in the profession. And we will continue to organize weekends such as this one, with presentations and lectures. We will further develop our range of publications, books, videos and exhibitions.

And we will harness all these activities under a single name that brings them all together and provides focus: the World Press Photo Academy.

As for the competition itself, we expect it to grow in years to come, both in size, impact and stature. And the same applies to the worldwide exhibition tours that follow the competition. This is important, for us and for you. And perhaps at this point I should stand down and invite our President, Mr. Pieter Broertjes, to explain why.