1996 Photo Contest in context

Twenty-three years after Nick Ut photographed Kim Phuc screaming and running down a Vietnam road, she was featured again on a prize-winning photo at World Press Photo.

Joe McNally portrayed Kim with her baby son in Toronto for Life magazine, offering an image of hope amid the horrifying scenes from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya in the 1996 World Press Photo Contest. The World Press Photo of the Year 1995 was awarded to Lucian Perkins for his photo of a boy looking through the rear window of a bus leaving the Chechen capital of Grozny.

The civil war in Chechnya had erupted in December 1994, when President Yeltsin had sent extra troops to the rebellious province. Photos showed how persistent Russian bombing and artillery fire had reduced Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, to a ruined theatre of war. In Bosnia, the Serbian conquest of the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa triggered a mass exodus to the last remaining Muslim strongholds. Faced with a Croatian offensive, Serb inhabitants of the Krajina region also packed into trucks and tractors in an attempt to reach Serbia, and many Bosnian Croats sought refuge in Croatia.

Black-and-white photography made its comeback in the 1996 contest. After dropping to 23 percent of all entries in 1993, it had risen again to 42 percent across all categories. Alain Mingham, chairman of the jury, wrote in the 1996 yearbook: “Photographers had chosen the more graphic possibilities of black and white to even greater effect in Rwanda, Grozny, Tuzla and Sarajevo to portray, document and denounce the violence of situations which television—that many-tentacled octopus of the banal—discards all too quickly into the abyss of history too quickly consumed.”

Not only was black-and-white on the rise again, but the digital age was dawning as well. Copyright issues stemming from this new development, were tackled during the annual World Press Photo debate prior to the Awards Ceremony. During the discussion it became clear that, although the creation of online databases offered tremendous opportunities for the dissemination of pictures, transparent contracts, fully adapted to a digital environment, were also indispensable to protect the photographer’s copyright and provide an income. A balance between the two was clearly required.

Entry statistics
  • 3068 photographers
  • 103 countries
  • 29116 pictures
  • 12408 black and white
  • 16708 color
1996 Photo Contest jury
  • Dirk Buwalda, the Netherlands, photographer
  • Alexei Godunov, Russia, picture editor Izvestia
  • Roberto Koch, Italy, director Agenzia Contrasto
  • Liu Heung Shing, Hong Kong, editorial director M. Photo
  • Sam Mohdad, Lebanon, photographer
  • Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Mexico, photographer
  • Kathy Ryan, USA, picture editor New York Times Magazine
  • Mark Sealy, UK, director Autograph, Association of Black Photographers
Chair of the jury
  • Alain Mingam, France, former editorial director Sygma
Secretary of the jury
  • Adriaan Monshouwer, director Nederlands Foto Instituut

The 1996 World Press Photo jury (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Jury member Dirk Buwalda gives a vote, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1996 (© Louis Lemaire)

Jury members Alain Mingham and Kathy Ryan judging, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 1996 (© Louis Lemaire)

Winners of the 1996 World Press Photo contest during the Awards Ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 1996 (© Louis Lemaire)

Lucian Perkins (right) during the Awards Ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 1996 (© Louis Lemaire)

Nick Nichols during the debate in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 1996 (© Louis Lemaire)

Anthony Suau during the debate in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 1996 (© Louis Lemaire)

Cover 1996 yearbook (photo by Luc Delahaye)