1983 Photo Contest in context

In 1982, the civil war in Lebanon intensified when Christian militia killed many hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, while the Israeli army looked on without interfering. American photojournalist Robin Moyer managed to get into the camps and photographed the aftermath of the massacre, for which he was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 1982.

Another conflict that dominated the news in 1982 was the two-month Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Happy news came from the UK, where a prince was born, and from Poland, where Solidarnosc leader Lech Walesa was released after 11 months of detention. Two subtle photos of migrant workers in Sweden and Germany were both awarded in the daily life category.

“The very power of the camera to shape events has become the photojournalist’s greatest enemy. Increasingly it is the rare leader or government so naïve to witness their most abominable moments of treachery, corruption, oppression or annihilation,” jury member Wilbur Garrett wrote in his foreword of the 1983 World Press Photo yearbook. Robin Moyer’s photo of the massacre in Beirut was chosen because it revealed atrocities that those involved and responsible would rather have seen covered up. It was a choice advocating the freedom of the press.

Lebanon was not the only conflict zone where independent journalists and press photographers were kept away. The jury was also referring to the Falklands War where journalists, including photographers, were given only very restricted access to the frontline, and to the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the numerous conflicts in Central and South America and the Iran-Iraq War.

Entry statistics
  • 743 photographers
  • 49 countries
  • 4377 pictures
  • 2959 black and white
  • 1418 color
1983 Photo Contest jury
  • Gerhard Aeckerle, West Germany, picture editor Stern
  • Victor Akhlomov, USSR, staff photographer Izvestia
  • Paul Almasy, France, photographer
  • Christopher Angeloglou, UK, picture editor The Sunday Times
  • Wilbur E. Garrett, USA, editor National Geographic Magazine
  • Aad van den Heuvel, the Netherlands, journalist/producer Dutch Television
  • Daniela Mrázková, Czechoslovakia, editor Czechoslovakian Television
  • Yu Junming, People’s Republic of China, editor China Daily
Chair of the jury
  • Patricia Seppälä, Finland, managing director Lehtikuva Oy
Secretary of the jury
  • Gerard Vermeulen

Portrait of the jury, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1983 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Jury members Chris Angeloglou, Yu Junming, Patricia Seppälä, Paul Almasy and a World Press Photo employee (© Victor Akhlomov)

The jury at work, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1983 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Robin Moyer and Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers who handed him the award, Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 30 March 1983 (© T. Schuetz/ANP)

Cover 1983 Yearbook (Photos by Dirck Halstead, Arnaud de Wildenberg, an anonymous photographer and Antonio Suarez)

1983 Amsterdam exhibition poster (photo by Chuck Fishman)