1998 Photo Contest in context

The civil war in Algeria intensified in 1997, when the Armed Islamic Group conducted one of the most violent campaigns of civilian massacres since the beginning of the war in 1992.

The World Press Photo of the Year 1997 showed a grieving woman after the massacre of Bentalha, and was one of the very few images that emerged from the troubled country. The full identity of its maker, Hocine, could only be revealed in part because the award could put his life in danger. The jury chose the photo for its symbolic value as a rare signal of the tragedy being played out in Algeria.

Award-winning photos of the 1998 contest also showed how Albanians took to the street in 1997 after losing their high-risk investments in a pyramid scheme; the Japanese Embassy in Peru was captured with force after a four-month occupation by MRTA rebels; the United Kingdom’s Labour Party returned to power after a landslide victory; President Mobutu of Zaire fled into exile while Laurent Kabila’s rebel forces marched into Kinshasa; Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic suffered the worst flood in a century; Rwandese passengers on a train to Kisangani were crushed to death; Mother Theresa died in Calcutta; and how a sheep named Dolly was successfully cloned.

One particular event in 1997 had a profound impact on the profession itself. When Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris, many people put the blame on the photographers who had been pursuing her car. Although it became clear that the paparazzi were not directly involved in the accident, their presence at the scene had a devastating effect on the public perception of press photographers, who were treated with scorn by the media and public alike. Jury chairman Neil Burgess pointed at the hypocrisy of this response in his foreword of the 1998 yearbook. “The issue of privacy is an important one, but so is the freedom of the press,” he wrote. The controversial question of whether pictures of Diana’s accident should be published had to be answered by the photographers, their agencies and their publishers, he stressed, not by the police or by politicians. A discreet photo of her grieving family at her funeral received an honorable mention.

Picture policies were also discussed during the annual World Press Photo debate, prior to the Awards Ceremony in April. Good taste and common sense seemed to be the major policy pillars practiced by most photo editors attending the debate. Gratuitous use of strong images will weaken the point, was their general point of view. Other subjects discussed were the influence of advertisers on editorial decisions, the assumed competition between writers and photographers, and the lack of money and space for serious in-depth photo stories where lifestyle and celebrity stories were often favored.

Entry statistics
  • 3627 photographers
  • 115 countries
  • 36040 pictures
  • 13796 black and white
  • 22244 color
1998 Photo Contest jury
  • Werry Crone, the Netherlands, staff photographer Trouw
  • Ana Cecilia Gonzales-Vigil, Peru, picture editor in chief El Comercio
  • Mark Grosset, France, director Rapho
  • Carl de Keyzer, Belgium, photographer Magnum Photos
  • Michele McNally, USA, picture editor Fortune
  • Reza, Iran, photographer
  • Tomasz Tomaszewski, Poland, photographer Visum Archiv
  • Andrew Wong, Hong Kong, chief photographer China for Reuters
Chair of the jury
  • Neil Burgess, UK, managing editor Network Photographers
Secretary of the jury
  • Adriaan Monshouwer

Studio portrait of the 1998 World Press Photo jury, February 1998 (© Louis Lemaire)

Registration of digital entries: for the first time photographers can submit their photos digitally, January/February 1998 (© Louis Lemaire)

Press conference of the Children’s Jury (© Louis Lemaire)

The 1998 World Press Photo winners in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 20 April 1994 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Hans van Mierlo talks to year winner Hocine, seen on the back, at the Awards Ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 20 April 1994 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Hocine is being interviewed in front of a selection of his work in the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 20 April 1994 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

Hocine's Golden Eye Award, designed by Gijs Bakker (© Co de Kruijf)

Cover 1998 yearbook (photo by Hocine)