2004 Photo Contest in context

The Iraq War was omnipresent in the 2004 World Press Photo Contest, just as it had dominated the 2003 international headlines. Eight prizes went to photos and photo stories of this conflict, the preceding situation and aftermath.

From a revealing double portrait of George W. Bush and Tony Blair and a seemingly quiet cafe in Baghdad to bloody war scenes, wounded civilians and grieving Iraqi families. The Associated Press photographer Jean-Marc Bouju was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 2003 for his heartrending photo of a hooded Iraqi prisoner of war comforting his son.

Elisabeth Biondi, president of the 2004 jury, wrote in her foreword to the 2004 yearbook: “At the beginning of its deliberations, this jury thought the World Press Photo of the Year could be of any event, as long as we all agreed that it best fulfilled the qualifications. But the longer we looked at pictures, the clearer it became to all of us that the photograph would come from the Iraq War or the post-war period there.” Photos of the civil war in Liberia, the earthquake in Bam, an AIDS-infected village in China, the Hmong guerrillas in Laos, an execution in Aceh, and the Israeli West Bank barrier were all awarded. But the pictures of the war in Iraq provoked the most discussion. Bouju’s picture was chosen because “it shows how war affects life in a terrible way regardless of why it is initiated,” Biondi wrote.

Bouju’s winning image was also the first digital World Press Photo of the Year. At the annual Sem Presser Lecture, Fred Ritchin, director of PixelPress and Associate Professor of Photography and Communications at New York University, explored the ways in which photography could benefit from the opportunities of the digital age. “While the war in Iraq is heralded as the first all-digital war, what we actually mean is ‘more efficient’. What we do not mean is more creative, more interesting, more innovative,” Ritchin explained, arguing that digital should instead mean more than just efficient. Digital tools make it possible, for example, to add more layers of content and information to pictures, preserving the photographer’s thoughts and intentions embedded within the images. And in an online environment, digital images provide ample possibilities to navigate a story in different ways, Ritchin told his audience.

Entry statistics
  • 4176 photographers
  • 124 countries
  • 63093 pictures
2004 Photo Contest jury
  • Elena Ceratti, Italy, international news editor Grazia Neri
  • James K. Colton, USA, photography editor Sports Illustrated
  • Steve Crisp, UK, editor Reuters News Pictures
  • Ruth Eichhorn, Germany, director of photography GEO Germany
  • Mark Grosset, France, photography consultant
  • Gary Knight, UK, photographer VII
  • Herbert Mabuza, South Africa, picture editor The Sunday Times
  • Susan Olle, Australia, freelance designer and art director
  • Swapan Parekh, India, photographer
  • Reza, Iran, photographer National Geographic Magazine/Webistan
  • Dani Yako, Argentina, photographer and chief photography editor Clarín
  • Aleksander Zemlianichenko, Russia, chief photographer The Associated Press Moscow Bureau
Chair of the jury
  • Elisabeth Biondi, Germany, visuals editor The New Yorker
Secretary of the jury
  • Stephen Mayes, UK, director Art + Commerce Anthology, New York

The 2004 World Press Photo Jury, Amsterdam, February 2004 (© Alek Bruessing)

Registration at the World Press Photo office, Amsterdam, January 2004 (© Pep Bonet)

Preparation of the first-round judging in the Obrechtkerk, Amsterdam, February 2004 (© Ruud Taal/Capital Photos)

The jury at work, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 2004 (© World Press Photo)

The jury at work, KLM Headquarters, Amstelveen, February 2004 (© Michiel Munneke)

The winners of the 2004 World Press Photo contest in front of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 2004 (© Horacio Villalobos)

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Ben Bot, Jean-Marc Bouju and his daughter, Michiel Munneke at the Awards Ceremony in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 2004 (© Horacio Villalobos)

Jean-Marc Bouju speeches at the Awards Ceremony in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 25 April 2004 (© Horacio Villalobos)

Jean-Marc Bouju's Golden Eye Award, designed by Gijs Bakker (© Co de Kruijf)

Mary-Ellen Mark, Amsterdam, April 2004 (© Horacio Villalobos)

Cover 2004 yearbook