1976 Photo Contest in context

The World Press Photo of the Year 1975, showing a woman hurled off a collapsing fire escape, refueled the ongoing debate in photojournalism about whether or not it is morally justified to publish pictures of people who are about to die.

In this case, the answer seemed to be yes, as Stanley Forman’s shocking sequence led to the creation of new safety regulations in the United States.

In 1975, the long Vietnam War came to an end, when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese army, and the last Americans left the country. The fall of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge triggered a reign of terror and genocide. In Europe, Spain became a constitutional monarchy after dictator Francisco Franco died in his bed, while neighboring Portugal continued to struggle with the outcome of the Carnation Revolution.

Portugal’s colony Angola gained its independence, but was on the verge of a long and devastating civil war. The Netherlands was forced to face its colonial past, when South Moluccans hijacked a train and occupied the Indonesian consulate in Amsterdam, with fatal consequences. “There is little pleasure in these pictures, so vast in their tragedy. Can pictures purge these evils? Obviously not,” jury member John G. Morris wrote in his foreword to the 1976 yearbook. “But let us reflect: the photographer’s art can restore human dignity. It can bring a revelation of wrongs, a sort of solace in sorrow, a kind of resurrection for the departed. Photography—press photography—rescues our times from oblivion of the forgotten moment.”

Entry statistics
  • 564 photographers
  • 40 countries
  • 3149 pictures
  • 2766 black and white
  • 283 color
1976 Photo Contest jury
  • Mario De Biasi, Italy, chief photo department Epoca
  • Sue Davis, UK, director The Photographers' Gallery, London
  • K. Gyawu-Kyem, Ghana, chief editor Ghanian Times
  • Yuri Korolyov, USSR, photo journalist Soviet Union magazine
  • John Morris, USA, editor in chief New York Times Pictures
  • Michel Nuridsany, France, Picture editor Figaro
  • Dieter Steiner, West Germany, photo department Stern
  • Bob Steinmetz, the Netherlands, managing editor Het Parool
Chair of the jury
  • Gerard Vermeulen, the Netherlands, chief editor Panorama
Secretary of the jury
  • Louise Hühne, former executive director World Press Photo

Portrait of the 1976 Jury (© Nationaal Fotopersbureau)

Awards table at the 1976 Awards Ceremony, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 14 April 1976 (© Vincent Mentzel)

Ivo Samkalden, Mayor of Amsterdam, Stanley Forman and Max van der Stoel, Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (© Vincent Mentzel)

Gold Medal

Cover 1976 yearbook

1976 Amsterdam exhibition poster