1977 Photo Contest in context

1976 started violently in Lebanon when, in January, Christian militias overran Beirut’s Karantina district, killing approximately 1,000 to 1,500 Muslims. French photojournalist Françoise Demulder witnessed the massacre in Karantina, and became the first woman to be awarded the World Press Photo of the Year with her heartrending photo of a pleading Palestinian woman.

At the same time, in another district, the so-called Battle of the Hotels was fought. The Hotel front in downtown Beirut was one of the first fronts of the Lebanese civil war, which had erupted in 1975 with a series of retaliatory attacks between Christian and Muslim militias.

In Thailand, violent confrontations took place between the police and students at the Thammasat University in Bangkok, who demonstrated against the return of former military ruler Thanom Kittikachorn. An earthquake in the Friuli region in Italy killed many hundreds of people, injured thousands and left more than 100,000 people homeless. In Beijing, huge crowds paid their last respects to late chairman Mao Zedong. Other people in the news of 1976: Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, India’s premier Indira Gandhi, serial killer Charles Manson and athlete Bruce Jenner triumphing at the Montreal Olympic Games.

The 1977 World Press Photo exhibition went on tour in the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland. Until the late 1960s, when the exhibition also traveled to Belgium and Japan, World Press Photo did not venture outside the Netherlands. In 1972, World Press Photo began organizing international tours, adding more venues every year. Next to the contest itself and the yearbook, the exhibition became an increasingly important tool to accomplish the organization’s aim: the promotion of worldwide interest in press photography as an important means to inspire international understanding.

Entry statistics
  • 576 photographers
  • 45 countries
  • 3375 pictures
  • 2805 black and white
  • 570 color
1977 Photo Contest jury
  • John Dominis, USA, picture editor People Magazine
  • Christina Gascoigne, UK, photographer
  • José R. Guzzo, Brasil, editor in chief Vieja
  • Peter Korniss, Hungary, photographer
  • Yuri Korolev, USSR, editor Soviet Union Magazine
  • Bas Roodnat, the Netherlands, editor NRC Handelsblad
  • Helene Vesters, the Netherlands, editor in chief Avenue
Chair of the jury
  • Michael Rand, UK, art director and managing editor Sunday Times Magazine

    The jury at work, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1977 (© Ger Dijkstra & Zn.)

    The jury at work, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1977 (© Bas Roodnat)

    Françoise Demulder and Ivo Samkalden, Mayor of Amsterdam, during the Awards Ceremony in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 6 April 1977 (© Vincent Mentzel)

    Françoise Demulder and Ivo Samkalden, Mayor of Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 6 April 1977 (© Vincent Mentzel)

    Peter Martens and Joop Swart with Martens’ Golden Eye Award, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 6 April 1977 (© Vincent Mentzel)

    Françoise Demulder and Don McCullin at the Awards Ceremony in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 6 April 1977 (© Vincent Mentzel)

    Cover 1977 yearbook

    1977 Amsterdam exhibition poster