Special exhibition

ICONIC - Defending press freedom and democracy since 1955

13 July 2022 to  13 January 2023
European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium

The World Press Photo Foundation and the European Parliament present a selection of photographs, awarded World Press Photo of the Year from 1955 to 2022, that captured some of the most defining moments in recent history.

The collection, including Charlie Cole’s picture of Tiananmen Square and John Moore's image of Honduran toddler Yanela Sanchez, highlights issues such as the hope and resilience of protesters, migration, resistance against racism, or the human cost of conflict, and shows how important photojournalism is in shaping our collective memory and creating mutual understanding. Major world events in the years the photographs were taken are outlined to provide context and invite the viewer to reflect on the past, present, and future.

Visual stories, documented by multiple voices, play an important role in understanding the world's most significant issues. Press freedom, a foundation of democratic societies, enabled these visual stories to be published. Yet, in many parts of the world, this right is oppressed or under threat and cannot be taken for granted. Supporting the conditions for press freedom is a fundamental part of the World Press Photo Foundation's and the European Parliament's work.

Alongside the exhibition, a number of free events including guided tours, talks and panel discussions will take place in the coming months. Find out more about these below.  

Event location

Esplanade Solidarność 1980
B-1050 Brussels

Visiting hours

Monday to Friday: 09.00 - 17.30
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 - 17.30


Free admission

Organization details

European Parliament

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Past ICONIC Events

Alongside the six-month exhibition, events featuring guided tours, talks and panel discussions around press freedom, freedom of expression and safety for journalists took place. 

Opening event: ICONIC Images
Thursday 22 September 2022, 15.00 - 16.15
Watch a recording of the event

World Press Photo executive director Joumana El Zein Khoury, and previous World Press Photo of the Year winners, Jodi Bieber and Pietro Masturzo, reflected on the exhibition. Each of the presented photographs capture a defining moment in history and represent something powerful but how does an iconic photo contribute to defending democracy?

Panel discussion and World Café: Safety for journalists
Wednesday 26 October 2022, 12.00 - 14.30

Journalists are gatekeepers to reliable information and are defenders of democracy. But with that responsibility often comes danger. In this year alone, 33 journalists have been killed and 495 journalists are imprisoned worldwide. The need to protect journalists is high but often complex, and the concept of safety alone harbors many different aspects.

This event consisted of two parts: a panel discussion with leading experts in the field of safety for journalists, followed by an interactive component, the World Café. In this second part of the event, the panel talk audience participated in a round table discussion with the experts to discuss the topic further.

The topics that were discussed during this event were:

  • Safety for women journalists
  • Online/digital safety
  • Legal support for journalists
  • Journalistic networks and safety
  • Physical safety in warzones
  • Mental health for journalists
The speakers for this event were:

Moderator: Sanne Schim van der Loeff, managing director, Arena for Journalism in Europe.
Talks: Media literacy and disinformation
Thursday 17 November 2022, 14.00 - 17.00

Fake news, misinformation, disinformation, deep fakes: these are all terms that are widely known nowadays. Nevertheless, ways of combating the spread of fake news and disinformation are complex. An arena for disinformation is social media, where once posted, a story can start to lead a life of its own. How resilient are we against disinformation?

Jonas Bendiksen, winner in the Open Format category of the 2022 World Press Photo Contest, opened this event with a talk on his winning project The Book of Veles. The Book of Veles was published in April 2021 as a documentary project on the production of fake news in Veles, a provincial North Macedonian town which placed itself on the world map in 2016 as an epicenter for fake news production. It was later revealed that the project itself was a forgery – all the people portrayed are computer-generated 3D models, and all text was written by an AI. The impact of this project asks us to question the ease at which fake news can be produced, circulated and believed.

After Jonas Bendiksen’s talk, Social Impact Game developers Ellis Bartholomeus (Ellis in Wonderland) and Menno van Pelt-Deen took you on a playful journey and challenge you to dissect the process of making and spreading fake news. How does it actually work, and what tactics and mechanisms are at play? 


The photographers included in this exhibition are: Mogens von Haven, Denmark: 1955; Douglas Martin, United States, The Charlotte News/The Associated Press: 1957; Co Rentmeester, The Netherlands, Life: 1967; Hanns-Jörg Anders, Germany: 1969; Nick Ut, Vietnam/United States, The Associated Press: 1972; Alon Reiniger, United States/Israel, Contact Press Images: 1986; Charlie Cole, United States, Newsweek: 1989; Dayna Smith, United States, The Washington Post: 1998; Lara Jo Regan, United States, Life: 2000; Tim Hetherington, United Kingdom, Vanity Fair: 2007; Pietro Masturzo, Italy: 2009; Jodi Bieber, South Africa, Institute for Artist Management / Goodman Gallery for Time magazine: 2010; John Stanmeyer, United States, VII for National Geographic: 2013; Mads Nissen, Denmark, Berlingske/Scanpix: 2014; Warren Richardson, Australia: 2015; John Moore, United States, Getty Images: 2018; Yasuyoshi Chiba, Japan, AFP: 2019; Mads Nissen, Denmark, Politiken/Panos Pictures: 2020; Amber Bracken, Canada, The New York Times: 2021

Images credits (top to bottom, left to right): Charlie Cole, Newsweek; Douglas Martin, The Charlotte News / The Associated Press; John Moore, Getty Images; Eric Vidal, European Union 2022; Hanneke Meijers; Alain Rollard, European Union 2022.