1978 Photo Contest in context

The 1978 World Press Photo Contest reflected the troubled situation in South Africa, which frequently made the international headlines in 1977. The Soweto uprising of 16 June 1976, in protest of the enforced teaching in Afrikaans, had set off a wave of disturbances in other townships that lasted for almost a year.

The South African police took violent measures to oppress the demonstrations, eventually killing hundreds of people. In September 1977, Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, died under suspicious circumstances in police detention. And in November, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution placing a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa. An image of protesters attacked by the police with tear gas, by South African press photographer Leslie Hammond, was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year.

Northern Ireland also formed the scene of massive protests in 1977. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee visit led to a vicious street battle in Belfast, when protesters were not allowed to enter the city center during her stay. Also in 1977, US President Jimmy Carter entered the world stage, somewhat slippery as one prize-winning photo suggested. Carter resumed diplomatic efforts to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East. Egyptian President Sadat’s state visit to Israel in November 1977 started off negotiations that would lead to the Camp David Accords one year later. 1977 was also the year in which Elvis Presley died. A photo story of grief-stricken fans at a memorial service in London was awarded an honorable mention.

In a 1978 interview, Joop Swart described World Press Photo as a global meeting point and a bridge between East and West. According to Swart, the Soviet newspaper Pravda published Leslie Hammond’s winning picture on its front page, reaching 8 million people. As president of World Press Photo, he also tried to stand up for the precarious position of many photojournalists who were often underpaid and had no control of the publication of their work.

Entry statistics
  • 714 photographers
  • 48 countries
  • 3689 pictures
  • 3257 black and white
  • 432 color
1978 Photo Contest jury
  • Alfred Eisenstaedt, USA, photographer Time
  • Mikael Katz, Sweden, Editor in Chief Bonnier Magazine Group
  • Peter Korniss, Hungary, photographer
  • Gennady Kovalenko, USSR, President Photo section Union of Soviet Journalists
  • Akio Minamikawa, Japan, Picture Editor Mainichi Shimbun
  • Goksin Sipahioglu, France, Managing Director Sipa Press Agency
  • Dieter Steiner, West Germany, Picture Editor Stern
  • Anton Veldkamp, the Netherlands, photographer De Telegraaf
Chair of the jury
  • Michael Rand, UK, Art Director and Managing Editor Sunday Times Magazine

    The jury at work in the Elsevier building, Amsterdam, 19 February 1978 (© Vincent Mentzel)

    The jury at work, chairman Michael Rand stands on the right, Amsterdam, 19 February 1978 (© Vincent Mentzel)

    Jury member Alfred Eisenstadt (© Michael Rand)

    Jury Member Dieter Steiner (© Peter Korniss)

    Prince Bernhard hands over the Golden Eye Award to Leslie Hammond, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 5 April 1978 (© ANP)

    Leslie Hammond during the Awards Ceremony in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 5 April 1978 (© ANP)

    Prince Bernhard congratulates winner Vincent Mentzel, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 5 April 1978 (© Peter Martens)

    Example of a Diploma of Excellency 1978 contest

    Cover 1978 yearbook

    1978 Amsterdam exhibition poster