1992 Photo Contest in context

During the first months of 1991, the Gulf War dominated the headlines. Many prize-winning photos showed the endless burning oilfields and gushing wild oil wells, caused by the retreating Iraqi army.

On 9 April 1991, the Soviet Republic of Georgia proclaimed its independence, but in December, when the rest of the former USSR was busy forming the new Commonwealth of Independent States, Georgia's capital erupted into violence. Croatia's declaration of independence in June 1991 was also accompanied by violence, and marked the start of a bloody civil war between Croatian national guards and Serbian militias, backed by the federal army.

Fortunately, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the dissolution of the Soviet Union did not involve violence by default. Many countries experienced a relatively peaceful period of transition, such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. “It would not be overstating the facts to say the winds of political reform were in some way directed by the knowledge of similar changes occurring in other areas, thanks in part to relaxed press restrictions in many countries,” Randy Miller, chairman of the 1992 World Press Photo jury wrote in his foreword of the 1992 yearbook.

At the same time, the opposite was taking place in Iraq and Kuwait, where the US military restricted and censored the international press during the Gulf War. That very fact certainly motivated the jury to name David C. Turnley’s image of a US soldier grieving over his comrade killed by friendly fire World Press Photo of the Year 1991. The picture had been widely published, but only because Turnley had personally ‘rescued’ it from the US military public affairs department, which had intercepted and retained the picture. In his acceptance speech at the World Press Photo Awards Ceremony, David Turnley told the audience that the wife of the man in the body bag in the photo did not know her husband was killed by friendly fire until she saw the photo published.

The World Press Photo of the Year 1991 also represented a focal point for criticism during the debate organized by World Press Photo at the fourth edition of Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, France. The debate was explicitly aimed at discussing the pros and cons of World Press Photo with professionals working in the field of photojournalism. Turnley’s winning image, for example, was criticized for showing a distinctly American viewpoint, which touched upon the more general criticism that only very few photographers from developing countries were represented at World Press Photo. This made clear, once more, that the organization should put more effort in reaching photographers in those countries.

Entry statistics
  • 1607 photographers
  • 75 countries
  • 17887 pictures
  • 4943 black and white
  • 12944 color
1992 Photo Contest jury
  • Christiane Breustedt, Germany, picture editor GEO
  • Manuel Ceneta, the Philippines, photographer, editor Agence France Presse
  • Chema Conesa, Spain, photographer, editor El País Magazine
  • Daniel Koning, the Netherlands, photographer De Volkskrant
  • Pavel Krivtsov, Russia, photographer
  • Miguel Martelotti, Argentina, picture editor Página 12
  • Stephen Mayes, UK, managing editor Network Photographers
  • Tomasz Tomaszewski, Poland, photographer
Chair of the jury
  • Randy Miller, USA, director quality and customer programs, Detroit Newspaper Agency
Secretary of the jury
  • Adriaan Monshouwer

The 1992 World Press Photo jury (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

The jury at work, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1992 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

David Turnley at the Awards Ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 28 April 1992 (© Tamas Revesz)

The Golden Eye Award of David Turnley (designed by Gijs Bakker) (© Co de Kruijf)

Entrance to the 1992 World Press Photo exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, April 1992 (© Tamas Revesz)

Sebastiao Salgado at the 1992 World Press Photo exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam (© Maurice Boyer)

Victoria Ivleva at the 1992 World Press Photo exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam (© Maurice Boyer)

Ron Haviv at the 1992 World Press Photo exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam (© Maurice Boyer)

Klaas Jan van der Weij at the 1992 World Press Photo exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam (© Maurice Boyer)

Cover 1992 yearbook (photo by Stéphane Compoint)