World Press Photo Contests
World Press Photo has been encouraging the highest standards in photojournalism since 1955. The resulting archive is not only a record of more than half a century of human history, but a showcase of successive styles in visual storytelling.
In 2010, nature showed its destructive power in different shapes: floods almost drowned Pakistan; Mount Merapi on Java blasted a deadly stream of hot rock, volcanic ash and pyroclastic flows; while massive earthquakes hit China and Haiti, which went under in rubble, fire and looting. Photographers were there to witness, record, and show the natural disasters, just as they were in Bangkok during demonstrations, in Budapest when a man jumped to his death, in Dalian after two oil pipelines exploded, in Duisburg when people were trampled to death, and in Karachi during target shootings.
For the first time since 1979, Iranian people took to the streets to protest their government following the disputed result of the Iranian presidential election. At night, they climbed their rooftops to shout expressions of their discontent. Pietro Masturzo’s intriguing visual translation of these moments was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 2009.
In 2008, a massive earthquake hit China, a cyclone ravaged Burma, riots gripped Greece, and Russia and Georgia went to war over South Ossetia. Less tangible, but not less intrusive, was the financial crisis that began to emerge from the severity of losses that US banks had incurred over sub-prime mortgages in 2007.
Many of the breaking-news stories that were awarded happened at the end of the year. On 27 December, Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in a bomb attack after an election rally. On the same day, riots erupted in Kenya after Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the presidential election.
In 2005, the superhuman force of nature dealt heavy blows across the globe. While people struggled to rebuild their lives after the tsunami in Southeast Asia, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in Louisiana and Mississippi. Meanwhile, millions of people in Niger were suffering from the worst drought since ancient times. Finbarr O’Reilly’s portrait of a mother and child in a Nigerien feeding center was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 2005.
The year 2004 ended with one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded: a magnitude-9.3 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered a tsunami that wreaked havoc in nine Asian countries and killed more than 200,000 people. Arko Datta’s photo of a woman mourning a relative on the beach of Tamil Nadu was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 2004.
In terms of coverage and worldwide impact, two news events stood out in 2001: the September 11 attacks on the United States, launched by the terrorist group al-Qaida, and the subsequent intervention by NATO and allied forces in the ongoing Afghan civil war. The 2002 jury recognized many of the pictures of these events and their aftermath.
The year 2000 was not dominated by one overriding, history-shaping, international news event. The World Press Photo of the Year 2000 could be related to the 2000 United States Census, which began on 1 April. Lara Jo Regan’s winning image showed a Mexican immigrant family, four of the millions of ‘uncounted’ and thus non-existing Americans, in their Texas home.
In 1999, the war in Kosovo was at the center of news headlines around the world for months. Many prize-winning pictures showed the perilous situation of Albanian Kosovars, who fled to neighboring Albania during the NATO bombardments, including the World Press Photo of the Year 1999 by Claus Bjørn Larsen
Between March and September 1998, the ethnic tension in Kosovo escalated. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic-Albanians were driven from their homes. While NATO prepared for an intervention, Dayna Smith travelled to Kosovo to cover the plight of the Albanian Kosovars in the light of the coming winter, and shot her prize-winning picture of a KLA soldier’s grieving widow
The civil war in Algeria intensified in 1997, when the Armed Islamic Group conducted one of the most violent campaigns of civilian massacres since the beginning of the war in 1992. The World Press Photo of the Year 1997 showed a grieving woman after the massacre of Bentalha, one of the very few images that emerged from the troubled country.
On 13 September 1993, a historical handshake took place between the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Israeli Prime Minister Yitszhak Rabin after they signed the Oslo Accords. Although scores of pictures of the handshake were submitted to the contest, it was an image from Larry Towell’s photo report about life in the occupied zones that won the World Press Photo of the Year 1993.
In 1990, the opening-up of Central and Eastern Europe, after the Iron Curtain came down, led to profound shifts in political and social relations. In Poland, former trade union leader and activist Lech Walesa won the presidential elections, East and West Germany were reunited, and in the Soviet Union the demand for democratic reforms became louder and louder.
Events from 1987 that were featured in the 1988 contest included: the cross-channel ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise that capsized off Zeebrugge, Gestapo chef Klaus Barbie receiving a life sentence for Nazi war crimes, and German pilot Mathias Rust after he landed his plane on Moscow’s Red Square. Anthony Suau’s image of a South Korean woman leaning against a riot policeman’s shield became World Press Photo of the Year 1987.
In November 1985, the Nevado del Ruíz volcano in Colombia erupted, producing a fast-flowing sea of mud and debris which swallowed the town of Armero and killed 25,000 people. A 13-year-old girl named Omayra Sanchez became the tragic symbol of the authorities’ inability to set up an effective rescue operation.
In 1982, the civil war in Lebanon intensified when Christian militia killed many hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, while the Israeli army looked on without interfering. American photojournalist Robin Moyer managed to get into the camps and photographed the aftermath of the massacre, for which he was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 1982.
In February 1981, Spain’s young democracy was briefly in danger when armed Guardia Civil soldiers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina, stormed the lower house of the Spanish Parliament. Spanish photojournalist Manuel Pérez Barriopedro also witnessed the events and his photo of Lt. Col. Tejero raising his gun was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 1981.
In January 1979, the Vietnamese army captured the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh and ended the Khmer Rouge regime. The Vietnamese invasion caused a mass migration of Cambodians fleeing to makeshift camps near the Thai border. Later, they moved to holding centers in Thailand, where David Burnett made his award-winning photo of a Cambodian mother and her child.
The 1979 World Press Photo Contest gave a kaleidoscopic overview of 1978 in the absence of one standout global news event. It included photos of the oil disaster in Brittany caused by the supertanker Amoco Cadiz, and of the crash of a Pacific Southwest Airlines jet in San Diego, killing 150 people.
The 1978 World Press Photo Contest reflected the troubled situation in South Africa, which frequently made the international headlines in 1977. The Soweto uprising of 16 June 1976, in protest of the enforced teaching in Afrikaans, had set off a wave of disturbances in other townships that lasted for almost a year.
1976 started violently in Lebanon when, in January, Christian militias overran Beirut’s Karantina district, killing approximately 1,000 to 1,500 Muslims. French photojournalist Françoise Demulder witnessed the massacre in Karantina, and became the first woman to be awarded the World Press Photo of the Year with her heartrending photo of a pleading Palestinian woman.
The most important news event of 1973 was the military coup in Chile, which put an end to the democratically elected government of president Salvador Allende, and subsequently his life. Photos showing Allende moments before his death only reached The New York Times and other international newspapers four months later.
In 1965, the Vietnam War became more and more visible in the news, as a result of the rapidly growing presence of American and other foreign troops in South Vietnam. In their wake, journalists from all over the world travelled to the battlefields to cover the war’s course. Japanese photographer Kyoichi Sawada won his first of two World Press Photos of the Year with a picture of a South Vietnamese family fleeing an American bombardment.
The Cyprus Civil War, which began in spring 1964, proved to be the most conspicuous international event in the ninth World Press Photo Contest. Don McCullin was duly awarded for his impressive photos, taken during his first war assignment, of the devastating intercommunal violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
John F. Kennedy campaigning for US president, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on a stroll, horrifying scenes from the Congo Crisis, and a Japanese politician assassinated in front of the cameras. In 1961, World Press Photo finally arrived on the threshold of becoming a serious world competition for press photography.