1957 Photo Contest in context

The image of Dorothy Counts keeping her head high while she walks among a jeering crowd to a recently desegregated school in North Carolina, appeared on front pages worldwide. It became the third World Press Photo of the Year.

According to Simon Clyne, chairman of the 1957 World Press Photo Contest jury, American press photographer Douglas Martin had sent a message to mankind. Martin, however, would later respond that he just pressed the button.

AP submitted the image to the World Press Photo contest, including the erroneous caption ‘Little Rock’. This caption caused some confusion with both Douglas Martin and the assembled Dutch press, when Martin arrived in Holland to collect his prize. According to a representative of AP, present at the scene, the press agency had chosen to submit the photo with this title as a symbolic gesture rather than an accurate description. When the Dutch newspaper De Waarheid asked Martin whether he knew if he had made a good photo after pressing the button, he said: ‘When I saw the series – I do not develop the films myself – I knew immediately that this image was the best, as it represented the atmosphere and the people’s emotion most accurately.’ De Waarheid also asked him what he himself thought about the problems caused by racial discrimination and integration. Martin answered: ‘I just photograph what is happening. For me that is the actual truth. Any explanation of the situation, or an opinion about the event, is the editor’s concern. I do not interfere with any of that.’

Other jury choices included the rescue operations of a blind man from a Dutch canal, a Yugoslavian man from a burning roof and an Italian climber from the Eiger’s infamous north face. Spectacular maneuvers on the football field were also highly appreciated in 1957. The winning photos were presented in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam with all other entries. Sports and features, photos that depicted a remarkable moment in an everyday situation, dominated the exhibition. Some reviewers were almost inclined to conclude that nothing much important happened in 1957. Many deplored the fact that Russia’s launch of Sputnik I, the first earth-orbiting satellite that marked the beginning of the Space Age, was missing.

Brazil, East-Germany, South Africa and Suriname were among the new countries that participated. America’s contribution was low compared to the number of participants from the Soviet Union and China. The Soviet and Chinese entries were not overly exciting, according to some, with many tough proletarians, austere apartment blocks, parades and festivals in rigid compositions. But the sports photos entered by photographers from communist countries looked strikingly animated and spontaneous.

Entry statistics
  • 288 photographers
  • 20 countries
  • 743 pictures
1957 Photo Contest jury
  • C. Arnoldy, the Netherlands, De Telegraaf
  • Helmer Lund Hansen, Denmark, photojournalist Billedbladet
  • Marie-Louise Löffler, West Germany, Hamburger Abendblatt
  • Rolf Blomquist, Sweden, Se
  • Irena Pawelek, Poland, Prasa
  • Theo Ramaker, the Netherlands, picture editor Het Parool
Chair of the jury
  • Simon Clyne, United Kingdom, picture editor Daily Mirror

    Judging the 1957 Contest (from De Fotojournalist)

    Cover of the 1957 World Press Photo exhibition brochure (front)

    Cover of the 1957 World Press Photo exhibition brochure (back)

    Prizewinners of the 1957 World Press Photo contest (From De Fotojournalist, May 1958)

    Entry form 1957 contest (back)