2013 Photo Contest in context

The civil war in Syria, the aftermath of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, the Summer Olympics in London, and Israel’s offensive against Gaza were among the world news events on many of the submitted and awarded photographs.

Paul Hansen’s image of the bodies of two children being carried by their uncles to a Gaza mosque for their funeral became World Press Photo of the Year. A powerful and direct image that functions on multiple levels, Santiago Lyon, chair of the 2013 jury, explained: “It reaches your head, your heart, and your stomach—all the keys to effective photojournalism.”

A new trend emerged from the results of the 2013 contest as well. Increasingly, photographers returned to the places and people they had photographed, to develop initiatives that actively helped the protagonists of their stories. Jan Grarup, who won first prize in the Sports Feature category with his story about the Somali women’s basketball team, started a fundraising campaign that enabled these women to hire security to protect them from threats by some radical Islamist groups in Mogadishu. Due to donations from all over the world, the school under the Delhi railway bridge that Altaf Qadri pictured in his award-winning photo story had received clean drinking water, clothes and learning materials.

In the case of Portuguese photographer Daniel Rodrigues, it was the photographer who was the beneficient. Rodrigues made his picture of boys and girls playing football in Guinea Bissau when he was volunteering for a humanitarian organization. After he came back, the economic recession in Portugal made it impossible for him to sustain a living from photojournalism and he had to sell his photo equipment. Winning first prize in World Press Photo’s Daily Life category gave his career a new impulse: the attention his prize generated brought him new commissions and a new camera.

Rodrigues’ story also illustrates the awkward situation in which many traditional, print-based media had to operate: collapsing advertising revenues have brought print journalism to a crisis. This had been the starting point of the research project David Campbell presented during the 2013 Awards Days, commissioned by World Press Photo and the Dutch Photographers Association: Visual Storytelling in the Age of Post-Industrial Journalism. Campbell had researched the emergence and development of multimedia in visual storytelling, observing that screens are the future, that the internet’s open quality challenges business models, and, fortunately, that audiences are still hungry for news. He advised visual journalists to explore presenting their work in their own digital space, to learn new skills, to find new presentation forms, to collaborate with people with complementary skills and to connect through social networks.

Following the Awards Days, year winner Paul Hansen suddenly found himself in the middle of a dispute about the integrity of his photograph. On several media and social media platforms his photo was thought to be a composite of several frames. The 2013 Photo Contest jury and the organization never questioned the authenticity of Hansen’s image or his explanation about its processing. However, the discussion and speculation became so intense that World Press Photo felt obliged to submit the image for a forensic analysis. This analysis cleared the winning picture of all accusations. Independent digital photography expert Eduard de Kam explained: “When I compare the RAW file with the prizewinning version I can indeed see that there has been a fair amount of post-production, in the sense that some areas have been made lighter and others darker. But regarding the positions of each pixel, all of them are exactly in the same place in the JPEG (the prizewinning image) as they are in the RAW file.”

The controversy illustrated “the current state of photojournalism within a society that has learned not to trust what it sees,” as the British Journal of Photography put it. World Press Photo was inspired to rethink its role in the discussion about photojournalism regaining the public’s trust. Should it define what is acceptable within post-production by setting strict rules, or should it facilitate debate about the presumed objective nature of photography?

Entry statistics
  • 5666 photographers
  • 124 countries
  • 103481 pictures
2013 Photo Contest jury
  • Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Iraq, special correspondent The Guardian (General jury)
  • Mayu Mohanna, Peru, photographer and curator (General jury)
  • Véronique de Viguerie, France, photographer Reportage by Getty Images (General jury)
  • Anne Wilkes Tucker, USA, curator photography Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (General jury)
  • Gu Zheng, China, professor at School of Journalism, Fudan University, Shanghai (General jury)
  • Bill Frakes, USA, photographer Sports Illustrated (General jury, Sports jury, chair)
  • Anja Niedringhaus, Germany, photographer The Associated Press (Sports jury)
  • Pim Ras, the Netherlands, freelance photographer Algemeen Dagblad (Sports jury)
  • Staffan Widstrand, Sweden, photographer and managing director Wild Wonders of Europe (General jury, Nature jury, chair)
  • Barbara Stauss, Switzerland, photo director and founding member Mare magazine (Nature jury)
  • Steve Winter, USA, contributing photographer National Geographic magazine (Nature jury)
  • Elisabeth Biondi, Germany/USA, independent curator (General jury, Portraits jury, chair)
  • Jérôme Bonnet, France, photographer (Portraits jury)
  • Platon, UK, photographer CLM/David Maloney (Portraits jury)
  • Monica Allende, Spain, photo editor The Sunday Times Magazine (News & Documentary jury)
  • Jocelyn Bain Hogg, UK, photographer VII Photo Agency (News & Documentary jury)
  • Rena Effendi, Azerbaijan, photographer (News & Documentary jury)
  • Riason Naidoo, South Africa, director South African National Gallery, Iziko Museums of South Africa (News & Documentary jury
Chair of the jury
  • Santiago Lyon, USA, vice president and director of photography The Associated Press
Secretary of the jury
  • Daphné Anglès, France/USA, European Picture Coordinator The New York Times
  • Simon Njami, Cameroon, independent curator, lecturer and art critic

The Sports jury: Bill Frakes, Anja Niedringhaus and Pim Ras, Amsterdam, February 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

Jury members Staffan Widstrand and Gu Zheng, Amsterdam, February 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

Jury chair Santiago Lyon and jury member Véronique de Viguerie (left), Amsterdam, February 2013 (© Michael Kooren for World Press Photo)

Jury members Elisabeth Biondi and Bill Frakes, Amsterdam, February 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

The 11th Sem Presser Lecture during the 2013 Awards Days was a multimedia performance by multiple award winner Larry Towell and Mike Stevens, Amsterdam, 25 April 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

David Campbell presents his report during the 2013 Awards Days, Amsterdam, 25 April 2013 (© Bas de Meijer, HH for World Press Photo)

The 2013 award winners on stage during the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 27 April 2013 (© Jaap de Boer, HH for World Press Photo)

Alan Little interviews Stephan Vanfleteren at the Awards Ceremony, Amsterdam, 27 April 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

Paul Hansen receives his award from Santiago Lyon, Amsterdam, 27 April 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

Paul Hansen is applauded by HRH Prince Constantijn, the organization's patron, Amsterdam, 27 April 2013 (© Michael Kooren, HH for World Press Photo)

The 2013 Golden Eye Award, designed by Gijs Bakker (© Co de Kruijff)

Cover 2013 yearbook