2016 Contest in context

As was the case for the thousands of photos that preceded them, the discussion about the last two remaining in the 2016 World Press Photo Contest centered as much on the aesthetic and the technical as on the journalistic aspects of the images.

What does the photo tell about an event? What is its emotional and editorial force? How does it compare to others in the same category? The jury had to balance an event that best symbolized 2015, then a photo to best represent that event. The debate on the last two images lasted an hour, but it took only one round of voting to select the winner.

In the General News category, the refugee crisis dominated the submissions with image after image of refugees reaching southern European shores, especially in Greece, refugees walking in groups small and large, crowds of refugees blocked at the borders, crammed into trains, clashing with police. The war in Syria, the Paris attacks in January and November, the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the clashes in the United States set off by police shootings complete the submissions.

The jury of the 59th annual World Press Photo Contest selected an image by Australian photographer Warren Richardson as the World Press Photo of the Year 2015. Richardson’s picture–which also won first prize in the Spot News category–shows refugees crossing the border from Serbia into Hungary, near Horgoš (Serbia) and Röszke (Hungary). Taken at night on 28 August 2015, this man and child were part of the movement of people seeking to cross into Hungary before a secure fence on the border was completed.

Jury chair Francis Kohn, photo director of Agence France-Presse, said about the image:

"Early on we looked at this photo and we knew it was an important one. It had such power because of its simplicity, especially the symbolism of the barbed wire. We thought it had almost everything in there to give a strong visual of what’s happening with the refugees. I think it’s a very classical photo, and at the same time it’s timeless. It portrays a situation, but the way it’s done is classic in the greatest sense of the word."

General jury member and deputy photo editor Al Jazeera America Vaughn Wallace said:

"This is an incredible image from the refugee crisis of 2015. It’s incredibly powerful visually, but it’s also very nuanced. We’ve seen thousands of images of migrants in every form of their journey, but this image really caught my eye. It causes you to stop and consider the man’s face, consider the child. You see the sharpness of the barbed wire and the hands reaching out from the darkness. This isn’t the end of a journey, but the completion of one stage of a very long future. And so, for me, this had to be the photo of the year."

Click here to watch video interviews with the jury chairs.

Entry statistics
  • 5775 photographers
  • 128 countries
  • 82951 pictures
2016 Photo Contest jury
  • Eliana Aponte, Colombia, photographer
  • Thomas Borberg, Denmark, photo editor-in-chief Politiken
  • David Furst, USA, international photo editor The New York Times
  • Huang Wen, China, director of new media development Xinhua News Agency
  • Michaela Herold, Austria, director of photography Der Spiegel
  • Simon Norfolk, UK, photographer
  • Prashant Panjiar, India, photographer
  • Vaughn Wallace, USA, deputy photo editor Al Jazeera America
  • Sim Chi Yin, Singapore, photographer
  • Tim Clayton, Australia, photographer
  • Marguerite Schropp Lucarelli, USA, director The Sports Illustrated Group
  • Tim De Waele, Belgium, photographer
  • George Steinmetz, USA, photographer
  • Rosamund Kidman Cox, UK, editor
  • Thomas P. Peschak, Germany/South Africa, photographer
  • Narda van ’t Veer, the Netherlands, founder UNIT C.M.A, The Ravestijn Gallery
  • George Osodi, Nigeria, photographer
  • Anastasia Taylor-Lind, UK/Sweden, artist and journalist
Chair of the jury
  • Francis Kohn, France, photo director Agence France-Presse
Secretary of the jury
  • David Griffin, USA, owner DGriffinStudio
  • Simon Njami, Cameroon, independent curator, lecturer and art critic
  • Maria Mann, USA, director international relations European Pressphoto Agency

David Furst is interviewed for a Dutch television program before the judging begins. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Jury and staff members come together for a welcome dinner before judging begins. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Jury and staff members come together for a welcome dinner before judging begins. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

News jury member Huang Wen during a break from the judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

News jury chair Francis Kohn and jury member David Furst look at the screen during the first week of judging the 2016 Photo Contest. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

All entries are judged anonymously during the photo contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Documentary jury chair Michaela Herold and jurist Sim Chi Yin during the 2016 Photo Contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

The People jury members have a group portrait taken during the 2016 Photo Contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

News jury members Thomas Borberg and Huang Wen during the 2016 Photo Contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

The documentary jury discusses entries during the 2016 Photo Contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Judging during the 2016 Photo Contest. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Judging during the 2016 Photo Contest. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Jury members cast their votes during the 2016 Photo Contest. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Jury members discuss possible winners during the 2016 Photo Contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

A point system is used for judging in the last round of the photo contest. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Jury members cast their votes during the 2016 Photo Contest. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

The general jury during 2016 Photo Contest judging. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Voting for the World Press Photo of the Year 2015. (© Frank van Beek / Hollandse Hoogte)

Members of the general jury take a group portrait during a break.