2009 Photo Contest in context

In 2008, a massive earthquake hit China, a cyclone ravaged Burma, riots gripped Greece, and Russia and Georgia went to war over South Ossetia. Less tangible, but not less intrusive, was the financial crisis that began to emerge from the severity of losses that US banks had incurred over sub-prime mortgages in 2007.

Spreading worldwide, it was considered the worst crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The rising interest rates coupled with increasing unemployment and a slowdown in the housing market meant that many US borrowers could no longer afford payments on their homes.

Anthony Suau captured the tragic consequences of the situation in his prize-winning image of a US detective entering a home at gunpoint, following mortgage foreclosure and eviction. The image became World Press Photo of the Year 2008, while the accompanying story won a prize in the daily life category. “The mystery of the picture is revealed in its caption,” MaryAnne Golon, chair of the 2009 World Press Photo Contest jury wrote in the yearbook. “The jury agreed that great journalistic photography should encourage viewers to think, and should raise as many questions as it provides answers—as this photograph does,” according to Golon.

In World Press Photo’s newsletter Review, MaryAnne Golon identified a dramatic change in photography over the past five years: “In the past, everyone took a pretty homogeneous, journalistically neutral approach—like following a code. Photographers were witnesses, almost historians, which prevented them from inserting themselves into the situation. The arrival of digital photography and citizen journalism has made it imperative for professionals to distinguish themselves. They are expected to put forward a strong personal vision.” The 2009 contest certainly illustrates this development, as do the older contests for the historical part. As Stephen Mayes, long-serving secretary of the jury, observed in his farewell lecture ‘470,214 Pictures Later’: “It’s worth noting the World Press has steered its careful course, over these 55 years, as a reflection of the industry rather than as a driver.”

Entry statistics
  • 5508 photographers
  • 124 countries
  • 96268 pictures
2009 Photo Contest jury
  • Akinbode Akinbiyi, Nigeria/UK, freelance photographer and curator
  • Patrick Baz, France/Lebanon, regional photo manager for the Middle East, Agence France-Presse
  • Olivier Culmann, France, photographer Tendance Floue
  • Peter Bialobrzeski, Germany, photographer Laif
  • Erin Elder, Canada, digital media manager The Globe and Mail
  • Per Folkver, Denmark, photo editor in chief Politiken
  • David Friend, USA, editor of creative development Vanity Fair
  • Ayperi Karabuda Ecer, Sweden/Turkey, vice-president Pictures Reuters
  • Volker Lensch, Germany, Head of photo department Stern
  • Ricardo Mazalan, Argentina, photographer The Associated Press
  • Arianna Rinaldo, Italy, photo editor, D La Repubblica delle Donne and editor in chief OjodePez
  • Sujong Song, South Korea, freelance photo editor
Chair of the jury
  • MaryAnne Golon, USA, consulting photography editor
Secretary of the jury
  • Daphné Anglès, France/USA, European picture coordinator The New York Times
  • Stephen Mayes, UK, managing director VII Photo Agency

The 2009 World Press Photo jury (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

The jury at work in the World Press Photo office in Amsterdam, February 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

Jury member Akinbode Akinbiyi, Amsterdam, February 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

The jury and its secretary Daphné Anglès, Amsterdam, February 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

Michiel Munneke, Director of World Press Photo, and MaryAnne Golon, the jury’s chair, during the press conference in the Amsterdam City Hall, 13 February 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

Anthony Suau during the press preview in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, April 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

Anthony Suau at the Awards Ceremony in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, April 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

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

Nan Goldin presents the 7th Sem Pressure Lecture during the Awards Days in Felix Meritis, April 2009 (© Co de Kruijf / Hollandse Hoogte)

Cover 2009 yearbook