1989 Photo Contest in context

Few war photographs were awarded in the 1989 World Press Photo Contest. However, prize-winning images included pictures of the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland and of the First Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which gained momentum in 1988.

In Bangladesh, the simultaneous flooding of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra caused the worst inundations in history, while Sudan was not only struck by floods, but also by drought, plagues, civil war and famine. A massive earthquake in Armenia mobilized international rescue teams and journalists, including American photojournalist David C. Turnley, who received his first World Press Photo of the Year award.

More positive news came from Pakistan, where Benazir Bhutto became prime minister after the first free elections in 11 years. In Chile, the end of General Augusto Pinochet’s military regime came in sight after the majority of Chileans voted for the end of his rule. Chilean jury member Fernando Paulsen, however, risked arrest upon his return to Chile for publishing photos that may have insulted the army, as he said in an interview with a Dutch magazine.

In the same interview, Russian jury member Gennadi Koposov pointed out that the international press coverage of the Armenian earthquake was an important indication for the quick opening-up of Soviet society. In 1966, news about a huge earthquake that had wiped out much of Tashkent had hardly reached Soviet newspapers let alone foreign ones. Jury chairman John G. Morris wrote in the 1989 yearbook: “It is significant that the picture was taken by an American photographer who reached the scene with the relief workers, who came from many countries. In order to awaken the world to Armenia’s needs, his job was as vital as theirs.”

Wishing to award a Russian photographer, the jury, always judging the entries anonymously, had assumed that a Russian photographer had taken the World Press Photo of the Year. After the name of the winner was revealed, it became clear that the jury had chosen instead between a photo by David Turnley and one, of the same burial, by David’s twin brother Peter.

Entry statistics
  • 1294 photographers
  • 62 countries
  • 19197 pictures
  • 3694 black and white
  • 6503 color
1989 Photo Contest jury
  • Michael Crozier, UK, executive editor The Independent
  • Xiliang Feng, People's Republic of China, emeritus executive editor China Daily
  • Thomas Höpker, West Germany, art director Stern
  • Adriaan Monshouwer, the Netherlands, director Canon Image Centre
  • Grazia Neri, Italy, president Grazia Neri Photo Agency
  • Gennadi Koposov, USSR, picture editor Ogonjok
  • Fernando Paulsen, Chile, managing editor Análisis
  • Tamás Révész, Hungary, photographer Uj Tükör
Chair of the jury
  • John G. Morris, USA, european correspondent National Geographic
Secretary of the jury
  • Ruud Taal, Capital Photos

The 1989 World Press Photo jury (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

The 1989 jury has chosen the World Press Photo of the Year 1988 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Piles of boxes with slides to be judged by the 1989 jury (© Ben ten Berge/World Press Photo)

The 1989 children’s jury (© Fred Heyn/De Volkskrant)

David Turnley after the Awards Ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 19 April 1989 (© Unknown)

Cover 1989 yearbook

1989 Amsterdam exhibition poster (Photo by Charles Hires)