1973 Photo Contest in context

The World Press Photo of the Year 1972 became one of the most iconic images that ever won the contest: Nick Ut’s photo of fleeing Kim Phuc after South Vietnamese planes mistakenly dropped napalm on her village.

Since 1969, the United States had been slowing redrawing their troops from Vietnam and transferring military responsibility to the South Vietnamese army. This ‘Vietnamization’ process was also movingly illustrated in Don McCullin’s winning series. Other prize-winning photos included scenes from ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, US presidential candidate George Wallace campaigning after an assassination attempt, and swimmer Mark Spitz training for the Munich Summer Olympics.

Russia amply made up for its absence one year before. In 1973, 146 Russian photographers submitted 352 photos to the contest, and four of them were awarded. During the Cold War years, most participating photographers from Eastern Europe were working for official news agencies. Their entries represented the official news and only showed the positive sides of life behind the Iron Curtain. Winning images were generally found in categories such as features, nature, portraits and sports. To compensate for this biased view, many photographers submitted atmospheric pictures remarkable for their high technical quality. The presence in 1973 of Bulgarian Stefan Tihov in the spot news category was therefore quite exceptional. Although his awarded picture of a captured American officer in Hanoi was certainly used for propaganda purposes, it also gave a rare view of the North Vietnamese side of the Vietnam War.

During the 1973 Awards Days, World Press Photo organized a meeting for 30 industry professionals to discuss the possibilities of an annual conference on visual journalism. Photographers such as Paul Huf and Sem Presser, and photo editors like Günther Beukert (Stern), John Durniak (Time) and Michael Rand (Sunday Times) participated in the discussion. Huf stood up for the younger generation who was desperate to find an outlet for their work, while Rand envisioned a meeting point where the mental gap between photographers and editors finally could be closed.

Entry statistics
  • 612 photographers
  • 49 countries
  • 2463 pictures
  • 2142 black and white
  • 321 color
1973 Photo Contest jury
  • John Durniak, USA, picture editor Time magazine
  • Itsuhiko Ichiki, Japan, editor Pan Asia Newspaper Alliance Group
  • Eva Keleti, Hungary, photo reporter and professor international high school
  • Piet A.A. Magielsen, the Netherlands, managing director Nationaal Foto Persbureau NFP
  • Jacques de Potier, France, picture editor Paris Match
  • Michael Rand, UK, art director and managing editor Sunday Times Magazine
  • Albert Riethausen, West Germany, editor DPA Bilderdienst
  • Joachim Umann, East Germany, editor in chief Freie Welt magazine and President photographic section International Organization of Journalists
Chair of the jury
  • Joop Swart, the Netherlands, editor in chief Avenue

    The 1973 jury at work in the building of De Geïllustreerde Pers, Amsterdam, February 1973 (© Nationaal Foto-Persbureau)

    Jurymember Itsuhiko Ichiki, Amsterdam, February 1973 (© Bart Nieuwenhuijs)

    Peter Gail, AP representative, receives the Golden Eye Award on behalf of Nick Ut from Ivo Samkalden, Mayor of Amsterdam, Amsterdams Historisch Museum, 4 April 1973 (© Rob Mieremet/Anefo/Nationaal Archief)

    Nick Ut between Henk Kersting (left), director of World Press Photo, and Guus van der Heijden, manager of ANP and president of the World Press Photo Foundation, 17 July 1973 (© ANP)

    Cover 1973 yearbook (front, photo by Vincent Mentzel)

    Cover 1973 yearbook (back)

    1973 exhibition brochure