1965 Photo Contest in context

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.

Other prize-winning photos included scenes from the American civil rights movement, the assassination of a Congolese rebel, Muhammad Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston, and the rescue of Abu Simbel’s famous temples from the rising waters of the Nile.

In celebration of World Press Photo’s 10th anniversary, color pictures were admitted for the first time. Their presence in the exhibition turned out to be a huge success and the newly established color pictures category was included in the next editions of the World Press Photo Contest.

“Photography is a major tool in helping to affect mutual understanding,” Morris Gordon, chairman of the jury, wrote in the special 10th anniversary exhibition newspaper. At World Press Photo, the photojournalistic picture had become a means of conveying history, Gordon observed, rather than the tool of a specific user. He also noted that the reading public was becoming more sophisticated in understanding and judging pictures, due to the steady “inundation” of photos in the daily press, illustrated magazines and television.

In answer to the much debated, violent nature of many pictures, Morris Gordon wrote: “If the photographer records violence—of man or nature—it is because man or nature was born of violence. Man’s inhumanity to man has been a fact since the beginning of time and only by showing it, via the press photograph, TV, or other visual media can we hope to make man understand what he is doing. We cannot do anything about the violence of nature, but photographs showing the results of earthquakes, volcano eruptions, fire, etc., in distant lands, have brought help to its victims by people from all over the world who have seen the photographs.”

Entry statistics
  • 665 photographers
  • 49 countries
  • 2720 pictures
  • 2581 black and white
  • 139 color
1965 Photo Contest jury
  • Anton Batanov, USSR, Deputy Editor in Chief Photo Department Tass
  • Dr. Ettore Basevi, Italy, President Sindicato Romano Giornalisti Fotografi
  • H.A.L. Buell, USA, Photo Editor The Associated Press
  • Derrick Knight, UK, Manager Press Association Ltd.
  • Harold Blumenfeld, USA, Editor United Press International
  • Vilém Kropp, Czechoslovakia, Chairman Photo Department Organisation Internationale des Journalistes (OIJ)
  • H. Schwartz, West Germany, Photo Editor Quick
  • Anton Weehuizen, the Netherlands, Chief Editor Geïllustreerde Pers
  • L. Fritz Gruber, West Germany, Representative Photokina (Jury for the Most Artistic Press Photo)
  • L.J.F. Wijsenbeek, the Netherlands, Director Haags Gemeentemuseum (Jury for the Most Artistic Press Photo)
  • Prof. Dr. Hans van de Waal, the Netherlands, Leiden University (Jury for the Most Artistic Press Photo)
Chair of the jury
  • Morris Gordon, USA, Vice President American Association of Magazine Photographers

    The 1965 jury at work in the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, December 1965 (© Gé van der Werff/ANP)

    Prince Bernhard and Kyoichi Sawada with the award in the Ridderzaal, The Hague 10 December 1965 (© Dick Coersen/ANP)

    1965 exhibition newspaper, p. 1

    Cover of the Dutch entry form 1965 Contest

    Previous year winners on the Dutch entry form 1965 Contest

    1965 exhibition poster