2012 Photo Contest in context

As jury chairman Aidan Sullivan noted in the 2012 World Press Photo yearbook, 2011 was a remarkable year—full of tragedy and turmoil, both natural and man-made.

Many award-winning pictures showed the devastation and sorrow caused by the tsunami following a massive earthquake off the northeastern shores of Japan in March. Others attested of the revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, riots, and civil wars that swept through North Africa and the Middle East, which became known as the Arab Spring.

The 55th World Press Photo of the Year was awarded to Samuel Aranda for his portrait of a Yemenite mother cradling her son, suffering from tear gas after participating in street demonstrations in Sanaa. "It is a photo that speaks for the entire region,” jury member Koyo Kouoh explained, “It stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring. But it shows a private, intimate side of what went on. And it shows the role that women played, not only as care-givers, but as active people in the movement." Despite all the tragedies, the jury had hoped to reward an image that might not only reflect the events of the year but also offer solace. Aranda’s photo showed a compassionate moment, timeless and instantly recognizable worldwide.

The 2011 World Press Photo Contest jury also decided to give a Special Mention to an image of Muammar Gaddafi being pulled onto a military vehicle after his capture on 20 October in Sirte, Libya. The still image was taken from a video. Aiden Sullivan, chair of the jury commented: “The photo captures an historic moment, an image of a dictator and his demise that we otherwise would not have seen, had it not been captured by a member of the public.”

The unstable situation in North Africa and the Middle East led to great loss for the photojournalism industry. In February 2011, former World Press Photo winners Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were killed in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya. And exactly one year later, less than two weeks after he had heard that his picture of a Libyan opposition fighter had won first prize in the General News category, Rémi Ochlik was killed in Homs, Syria. The Syrian army had shelled an improvised media center in Homs, where Ochlik was working with fellow journalist Marie Colvin, who also did not survive the attack.

In honor of Tim Hetherington, World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch, for whose publications Tim was a regular contributor, jointly established the Tim Hetherington Grant in September 2011.

Entry statistics
  • 5247 photographers
  • 124 countries
  • 101254 pictures
2012 Photo Contest jury
  • Nina Berman, USA, photographer Noor (General jury)
  • Manoocher Deghati, France/Iran, regional photo manager AP for Middle East (General jury)
  • Renata Ferri, Italy, photo editor Io Donna – Corriere della Sera and Amica – RCSMediaGroup (General jury)
  • Koyo Kouoh, Cameroon, founder and artistic director Raw Material Company (General jury)
  • Andrei Polikanov, Russia, director of photography Russian Reporter magazine (General jury)
  • Koji Aoki, Japan, chief photographer Aflo Sport / Aflo Dite and president Aflo Co., Ltd. (General jury, Sports jury, chair)
  • Al Bello, USA, chief photographer sport Getty Images for North America (Sports jury)
  • Nicole Becker, Germany, senior photo editor sport DPA (Sports jury)
  • Joel Sartore, USA, contributing photographer National Geographic magazine (General jury, Nature jury, chair)
  • Daniel Beltrá, Spain, conservation photographer (Nature jury)
  • Sophie Stafford, UK, editor BBC Wildlife Magazine (Nature jury)
  • Steve Pyke, UK, artist and photographer (General jury, Portraits jury, chair)
  • W.M. Hunt, USA, strategist at Dancing B (Portraits jury)
  • Dana Lixenberg, the Netherlands, photographer (Portraits jury)
  • Monica Allende, Spain, photo editor The Sunday Times Magazine (News & Documentary jury)
  • Patrick Baz, Lebanon/France, photo manager AFP for Middle East (News & Documentary jury)
  • Pablo Corral Vega, Ecuador, director Nuestramirada.org (News & Documentary jury)
  • Ami Vitale, USA, photographer and filmmaker Panos Pictures/Ripple Effect Images (News & Documentary jury)
Chair of the jury
  • Aidan Sullivan, UK, vice president of photo assignments for Getty Images
Secretary of the jury
  • Daphné Anglès, France/USA, European photo assignments editor The New York Times
  • Stephen Mayes, UK, managing director VII Photo Agency

The 2012 photo contest jury, Amsterdam, February 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

The News & Documentary jury at work in the World Press Photo offices, Amsterdam, 30 January 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

A break from judging: jury members Pablo Corral Vega (left) and Patrick Baz, and chairman Aiden Sullivan (middle), Amsterdam, (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo), 20 January 2012 (© Michael Kooren/World Press Photo)

Samuel Aranda in front of his winning photo at the exhibition in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, 20 April 2012 (© Bas de Meijer/HH for World Press Photo)

Winners of the 2012 World Press Photo on stage during the Awards Ceremony in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, 21 April 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

Samuel Aranda receives the Golden Eye Award from World Press Photo’s Pieter Broertjes, Amsterdam, 21 April 2012, Amsterdam, 21 April 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

Winner Rob Hornstra and World Press Photo director Michiel Munneke at the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 21 April 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

Winners Stephanie Sinclair and Alex Majoli interviewed on stage by BBC presenter Alan Little during the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 21 April 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

Paris Match writer Emilie Blachère pays tribute to her partner, prizewinner Rémi Ochlik, who was killed while covering the fighting in Syria, at the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 21 April 2012 (© Michael Kooren/HH for World Press Photo)

Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols during the Sem Presser Lecture in Felix Meritis, Amsterdam, 20 April 2012 (© Michael Kooren/World Press Photo)

The 2012 Golden Eye Award, designed by Gijs Bakker (© Co de Kruijf)

Cover 2012 yearbook