1988 Photo Contest in context

Events from 1987 that were featured in the 1988 contest included: the cross-channel ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise that capsized off Zeebrugge, Gestapo chef Klaus Barbie receiving a life sentence for Nazi war crimes, German pilot Mathias Rust after he landed his plane on Moscow’s Red Square, panic on Wall Street during plummeting stock market levels, the sabotaged presidential elections in Haiti, and US President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev signing the nuclear arms reduction treaty.

In South Korea, Roh Tae-woo became the first directly elected president, after violent mass protests against the ruling government in June. Anthony Suau’s image of a South Korean woman leaning against a riot policeman’s shield became World Press Photo of the Year 1987.

China’s so-called open-door-policy, which began in 1986 and opened the country to foreign investors encouraging the development of a market economy, was also reflected in the World Press Photo Contest. Chinese participants flooded the contest, which resulted in the first Chinese winner since 1967. Yang Shaoming was awarded a third prize in the people in the news category for his photo story of Deng Xiaoping at home after his temporary resignation. World Press Photo traveled to China as well and organized an exhibition about 50 years of Chinese press photography, together with the English-language newspaper China Daily. Although the exhibition presented the officially accepted view on China, it gave World Press Photo access to a country previously difficult to reach.

Invited by the Union of Journalists of the USSR, the 1988 World Press Photo exhibition also traveled to Moscow and Leningrad where it was presented uncensored. The growing Soviet policy of glasnost, which permitted an open discussion of political and social issues and a freer dissemination of news and information, had enabled this unique opportunity. Among the prize-winning images of the 1988 contest were a photo series portraying a convicted criminal awaiting his execution in Riga, and a photo story showing life in a Soviet penal labor camp.

Despite the developments in China, the 1988 jury made a strong appeal to encourage the wider participation of photographers from what were then called third-world nations as well as from Japan. Jury member Arnold Drapkin wrote in his foreword to the 1988 yearbook: “Truly, photography is an international language, and ways must be found to breach language barriers that prevent participation in the competition. This cannot be left to the administration of World Press Photo alone, but needs assistance of all concerned with press photography.”

Entry statistics
  • 1215 photographers
  • 64 countries
  • 9202 pictures
  • 3666 black and white
  • 5536 color
1988 Photo Contest jury
  • Arnold Drapkin, USA, consulting picture editor Time
  • Thomas Höpker, West Germany, art director Stern
  • Goro Kuramochi, Japan, photo coordinator GIP
  • Claudine Maugendre, France, picture editor Actuel
  • Támás Revész, Hungary, photographer Uj Tükör
  • Jordi Socias, Spain, managing director Cover Agency
  • Paul Stolk, the Netherlands, photo reporter ANP
  • Vladimir Vyatkin, USSR, staff photographer Novosti Press Agency
Chair of the jury
  • Colin Jacobson, UK, picture editor
Secretary of the jury
  • Ruud Taal, Capital Photos

The 1988 World Press Photo jury, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1988 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

The jury at work in the KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1988 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Jury members Jordi Socias and Claudine Maugendre above the light box, February 1988 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Newsletter: 1988 Children’s Jury (© Vincent Mentzel)

The 1988 World Press Photo exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, April 1988 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Cover 1988 yearbook

Cover of the exhibition catalogue 50 Years of Chinese Press Photography