2008 Photo Contest in context

In December 2007, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, became Time magazine’s Person of the Year. The remarkable portrait that Platon shot for the cover was awarded first prize and became an icon over the years. Many of the breaking-news stories that were awarded happened at the end of the year.

On 27 December, Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, was assassinated in a bomb attack after an election rally. John Moore happened to be in the middle of it, and was awarded duly in the spot news category. On the same day, riots erupted in Kenya after Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the presidential election. Many winning images attested of the violence that swept through the country, leading to hundreds of deaths and some 250,000 displaced persons.

Gary Knight, chairman of the 2008 World Press Photo Contest jury wrote in his foreword of the yearbook: “The judges made a deliberate decision to prioritize what we considered to be the best photography of an issue, rather than the issue itself […] One of the results of that decision is that many of the grave issues of our time do not appear on these pages, because the jury felt that they were not photographed well enough.” Annoyed by the predictability of many submitted pictures, he explained that the jury sought to reward creative, effective journalism and images that did not offer simple solutions, but stimulated curiosity and raised questions. Among the many Joop Swart Masterclass alumni awarded was Tim Hetherington, whose photo of an exhausted American soldier after a battle in Afghanistan was named the World Press Photo of the Year 2007.

The 2008 Sem Presser Lecture was presented by Magnum member Martin Parr. Parr talked about his fascination for the interaction between society and photography, his photographic work, his collection of vernacular pictures such as photos used in memorabilia, and his passion for photo books. As he told his audience, he tried to “take photography out of the photography ghetto, making it function more broadly in society.”

Entry statistics
  • 5019 photographers
  • 125 countries
  • 80537 pictures
2008 Photo Contest jury
  • Jodi Bieber, South Africa, photographer Noor
  • Oliver Chanarin, South Africa/UK, photographer Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
  • Erin Elder, Canada, photo editor The Globe and Mail
  • Craig Golding, Australia, photographer Sydney Morning Herald
  • MaryAnne Golon, USA, director of photography Time
  • Maria Mann, USA, managing editor European Pressphoto Agency
  • Enric Martí, Spain, regional photo editor Latin America & Caribbean, The Associated Press
  • Michael Nichols, USA, photographer National Geographic Magazine
  • Simon Njami, Cameroon, independent curator
  • Swapan Parekh, India, photographer
  • Stephan Vanfleteren, Belgium, photographer
  • Sujong Song, South Korea, freelance photo editor
Chair of the jury
  • Gary Knight, UK, photographer and chairman VII Photo Agency
Secretary of the jury
  • Stephen Mayes, UK, chief operating officer, The Americas, Image Source

Jury member Michael Nichols and the rest of the jury at work, Amsterdam, February 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

The 2008 World Press Photo jury (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

The first-round jury at work in the office of World Press Photo, Amsterdam, February 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

Year winner Tim Hetherington during the press preview in the Oude Kerk, April 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

Tim Hetherington prepares his speech in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, 27 April 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands and Tim Hetherington at the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 27 April 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

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

Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands and Tim Hetherington at the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 27 April 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)

Martin Parr presents the 5th Sem Presser Lecture at the Awards Days in Felix Meritis, April 2008 (© Roger Dohmen/Hollandse Hoogte)