1959 Photo Contest in context

On New Year’s Day 1959, the Cuban revolution, which had started in July 1958, came to a turning point. Paris Match photographer Daniel Camus was on his honeymoon in Cuba and witnessed the events.

Camus' photo of a street fight in Havana earned him third prize in the news category. It was the only genuine news photo awarded, perhaps only equaled in meaning by a picture of then 17-year-old Brazilian football player Pelé, weeping for joy after winning the 1958 World Cup.

The image of Sparta Praha’s lonely goalkeeper in the pouring rain was chosen as World Press Photo of the Year 1959, because it revealed, as one jury member put it, human ideology by showing a profound human conflict—to play or not to play.

For the fourth edition of the exhibition, World Press Photo moved from Amsterdam to The Hague. More than 10,000 peopele visited the exhibition during the six weeks it was open. At the press conference in September 1959, chairman of the jury Simon Clyne expressed ambivalent feelings about the quality of this year’s entries. Many photos, little news, he concluded. Features and sports still prevailed, the assembled press observed, showing beautiful, timeless frames of little current interest though. The photographic quality of the Russian entries was praised, but their heavy load of propagandistic and moralistic intentions was criticized.

The jury drew up a jury report with 14 recommendations for future contests and exhibitions. Among these tips, the jury proposed that each jury member should be asked to look out for suitable pictures they see published in newspapers and magazines in their respective countries. They also stated that no competitor should be excluded because he was not a member of professional organization. And they suggested that the word ‘reportage’ could be scrapped, “when a series of pictures is intended, as that description could be applied to any single picture,” and advised to create a “Picture Story” category instead.

Entry statistics
  • 225 photographers
  • 18 countries
  • 700 pictures
1959 Photo Contest jury
  • Morris Gordon, USA, president American Society of Magazine Photographers
  • Dr. W. Meier, Switzerland, editor Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung
  • R. Nieman, the Netherlands, photojournalist Elseviers Weekblad
  • Milton Orshefsky, USA, chief correspondent Life
  • Theo Ramaker, the Netherlands, chief photo editor Het Parool
  • Ladislaus Rózsa, Hungary, photojournalist
  • W.R. Sjarowsky, USSR, president of the Photo Section of the Union of Soviet Journalists
  • W.G.M. van der Veere-Doyer, the Netherlands, photojournalist Haagsche Courant
  • L.J.F. Wijsenbeek, the Netherlands, director Haags Gemeentemuseum
  • Dr. Herbert Zachäus, West Germany, editor Quick
Chair of the jury
  • Simon Clyne, UK, picture editor Daily Mirror

    The 1959 jury at work in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 7/8 September 1959 (© Morris Gordon)

    The 1959 jury at work in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 7/8 September 1959 (© Morris Gordon)

    Chairman Simon Clyne with winning images by Stanislav Tereba, Vilém Kropp and Colin Fletcher (© Morris Gordon)

    1959 exhibition poster

    Telegram by Gunnar Tingsvall, who won 3rd prize in the Sports category