2005 Photo Contest in context

In 2004, the war in Iraq was far from over. Winning photos showed different aspects of the conflict, including US soldiers conducting raids in search of insurgents and weapons, and portraits of US veterans injured for life.

In Haiti, opposition to President Aristide also grew in violence and intensity leading to his resignation and flight in February 2004. The occupation of a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, by Chechen rebels ended in a bloodbath where many schoolchildren died. The year 2004 ended with one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded: a magnitude-9.3 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered a tsunami that wreaked havoc in nine Asian countries and killed more than 200,000 people. Arko Datta’s photo of a woman mourning a relative on the beach of Tamil Nadu was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 2004.

Diego Goldberg, chairman of the 2005 jury, explained in The New York Times during the exhibition at the United Nations headquarters, why some of the most important news photos published in 2004—the pictures from prisoners being abused by US soldiers in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison—were missing from the selection. Although these pictures had not been entered in what is a contest for professional photojournalists, the jury had discussed them because of their impact and whether World Press Photo should allow the submission of these type of images. In the end, the jury argued that World Press Photo was about professional photography and not about photography in general. Perhaps in response to the increase of amateur pictures in the press—not only from Iraq, but also from the tsunami—Goldberg also noted that many professional photographers had gone back to shooting medium format or square format, producing large, lucid negatives that were then still unrivaled by digital cameras.

During the annual Sem Presser Lecture, David Campbell, then Professor of Cultural and Political Geography at Durham University, discussed whether photojournalism could still serve as an instrument of humanitarian intervention. He argued that photojournalists and editors have a particular responsibility and opportunity both to represent the world better and to make better worlds imaginable. At the same time, he saw serious threats to this ethos in the dubious context in which photos are sometimes reproduced and in the way war photography is managed by the military and the media. He reminded the audience that every image is constructed and that objectivity no longer secures the meaning of photography. Nevertheless, Campbell added, photography has a connection to the world outside imagination. It may not be a foundation for truth, but it nonetheless offers limits on lies.

In October 2005, World Press Photo celebrated its 50th anniversary with a wide range of activities. Nearly all winners of the World Press Photo of the Year since 1955 came to Amsterdam to participate in the festivities. To mark the occasion, World Press Photo published a book bringing together all their winning pictures for the first time. World Press Photo also produced a major traveling exhibition and accompanying book Things As They Are, which presented 50 years of landmark photojournalism stories as they were first seen on the pages of magazines. Filmmakers Hans Pool and Maaike Krijgsman made the documentary film Looking for an Icon, in which they used four World Press Photos of the Year to analyze how a press picture can grow into a symbol of its time or of a specific event.

The 50th anniversary festivities also included a seminar for professionals and a two-day symposium that dealt with trends in the industry, such as the rise of citizen journalism and the increasing competition in a changing media landscape. The seminar was dedicated to the opportunities and responsibilities of documentary photography in the digital age. Moderated by jury secretary Stephen Mayes, the participants discussed the differences and similarities between the traditional analog media and the new digital media. They concluded that above all the digital age had to be embraced and, while doing so, new, recognizable standards for both producers and consumers had to be established. Two key survival skills were identified: know your sources—learn where information comes from and how it is processed—and share your knowledge with clients, editors, and readers.

Entry statistics
  • 4266 photographers
  • 123 countries
  • 69190 pictures
2005 Photo Contest jury
  • Peter Bitzer, Germany, director Laif Photos & Reportagen
  • Giovanna Calvenzi, Italy, picture editor Sportweek
  • Nikos Economopoulos, Greece, photographer Magnum Photos
  • Per Folkver, Denmark, picture editor in chief Politiken
  • Daniel Glückmann, Spain, director Cover
  • Alberto ‘Bullit’ Marquez, the Philippines, photographer The Associated Press
  • Juda Ngwenya, South Africa, photographer Reuters
  • Swapan Parekh, India, photographer
  • Kathy Ryan, USA, photo editor The New York Times Magazine
  • Maggie Steber, USA, photographer
  • Alfred Yaghobzadeh, Iran, photographer Sipa Press
Chair of the jury
  • Diego Goldberg, Argentina, photographer
Secretary of the jury
  • Stephen Mayes, UK, director Art + Commerce Anthology, New York

The 2005 World Press Photo jury (© Herman Wouters)

Year winner Arko Datta at the Awards Ceremony in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 24 April 2005 (© Herman Wouters)

Year winner Arko Datta at the Awards Ceremony in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 24 April 2005 (© Herman Wouters)

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

Cover 2005 yearbook

The year winners (© Herman Wouters)

The year winners on stage in the Amsterdam Convention Center, 8 October 2005 (© Peter Dejong)

Dutch postage stamps published on the occasion of World Press Photo’s 50th anniversary (designed by Will Holder)