1984 Photo Contest in context

Judging from the 1984 World Press Photo Contest, 1983 did not seem to be an uplifting year. A devastating earthquake struck Erzurum in Northeast Turkey, killing more than 1,000 people. In Lebanon, the capital city Beirut, once known as the Paris of the Middle East, was rapidly being reduced to ruins by the ongoing civil war.

An ethnic clash in Nellie, in the Indian state of Assam, led to the death of thousands of people. In Iran, revenues from the oil industry were used to fight Iraq, while in Afghanistan resistance in the mountains against the Soviet army and the socialist regime intensified. A Korean airliner shot down over Sakhalin by Soviet fighters caused another crisis between the Soviet Union and the United States. In different European countries, heavy protests against nuclear arms clashed with the local police. And the economic recession that had set in around 1980 spread from the United States and Western Europe to other continents.

Since 1980, the number of color photos submitted to the contest had steadily increased. “This year a third of the photos submitted were in colour,” jury chairman Dieter Steiner wrote in the 1984 yearbook, “with the growing use of colour in magazine, television and newspapers colour photos could come to form the majority of the World Press Photo entries in the foreseeable future.” This point was indeed reached three years later, in 1987. In 1984, magazines entered most color photos from Western Europe and the United States, such as Stern, Time, Life and Newsweek. As other juries had observed before, color photography was often not within reach of photographers from countries where color material and equipment was scarce and expensive. The World Press Photo of the Year 1983, however, was a color photo made for a Turkish newspaper by a Turkish photographer, Mustafa Bozdemir.

In 1984, the children’s jury came in action for the first time and chose Ira Schwartz’s picture of first lady Nancy Reagan on Mr. T’s lap. In 1983, a group of Dutch schoolchildren had written a letter to the World Press Photo foundation pointing out that, if the vote had been theirs, the World Press Photo of the Year would have been a different one. The foundation rose to the challenge by inviting the children to select their own favorite picture, and the children’s jury was born, offering a different perspective every year until 2004.

Entry statistics
  • 827 photographers
  • 47 countries
  • 5012 pictures
  • 3441 black and white
  • 1517 color
1984 Photo Contest jury
  • Victor Akhlomov, USSR, staff photographer Izvestia
  • Hubert Henrotte, France, managing director Sygma
  • Colin Jacobson, UK, picture editor The Observer Magazine
  • Dirk Ketting, the Netherlands, photographer and president Netherlands Association of Photojournalists (NVF)
  • Per Mortensen, Norway, editorial director Ernst G. Mortensen Forlag
  • Daniela Mrázková, Czechoslovakia, editor Czechoslovakian Television
  • Robert Pledge, USA, director Contact Press Images
  • Jordi Socias, Spain, director Cover Agency
Chair of the jury
  • Dieter Steiner, West Germany, former deputy editor in chief Geo
Secretary of the jury
  • Vincent Mentzel, photographer NRC Handelsblad

The 1984 World Press Photo jury (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Jury member Jordi Socias, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1984 (© Vincent Mentzel)

The jury deliberates, in front: Dieter Steiner and Robert Pledge, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1984 (© Vincent Mentzel)

The jury is voting, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1984 (© Vincent Mentzel)

Year winner Mustafa Bozdemir and Ed van Thijn, Mayor of Amsterdam, at the Awards Ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 12 April 1984 (© Ruud Hoff/ANP)

Cover 1984 yearbook (photos by Yan Morvan, Manuel Hernandez, Reza, Don Rypka)

1984 Amsterdam exhibition poster (photo by Manoocher)