by World Press Photo

Russian photographer Igor Kostin was one of the very few photographers who witnessed the direct aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in April 1986. 

Exposed to enormous radiation levels, which affects his health up to this day, he documented the plant’s ruins and the liquidators’ work in the no-go area. His story won first prize in the 1987 contest, and in the years that followed, Kostin continued to photograph the affected area in Ukraine and the stories of those living and working there, earning him an honorable mention in the 1990 contest as well.

Other photographers documented the ongoing influence of the disaster as well, such as Victoria Ivleva in 1991 and Robert Knoth in 2005. In 2011, Maisie Crow created a multimedia production about the community of Slavutych, set up by the Soviet government to accommodate evacuees and workers of Chernobyl’s final operating reactor, which finally closed in 2000.


Journalists cover breaking-news events and sometimes their immediate aftermath, but are rarely able to come back for a follow-up when things have settled down. The ones that do are gaining more attention, though, and several of them have been awarded at World Press Photo. In 1997, Francesco Zizola made a story about Angolan children mutilated by land mines, which after years of conflict still threaten life and health in Angola. One of the images became World Press Photo of the Year. More recently, in 2012, Daniel Berehulak went to Japan one year after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami had ravaged the northeast of the country. His story was awarded in the 2013 photo contest, while Unknown Spring, an interactive online documentary that chronicles a community’s efforts to overcome the tsunami that obliterated their town, received an honorable mention in the 2013 multimedia contest.


Several stories deal with the legacy of the Vietnam War, one of the most photographed conflicts in the World Press Photo collection and perhaps indeed in the world. In 2010, 35 years after the war officially ended, Ed Kashi photographed Vietnamese children suffering from disabilities, believed to be caused by the herbicide Agent Orange, used by US forces during the war. A story also pursued by Marie Dorigny 10 years before. In the US, Wendy Watriss pictured Vietnam veterans and their children who were also suffering from severe health problems due to Agent Orange.

US veterans, whose health and personal lives have been deeply affected by war, as well as those of their families, also feature in stories by Nina Berman and Eugene Richards about the war in Iraq. In 2013, Peter van Agtmael portrayed Iraq veteran Bobby Henline, who found a way to cope with his severe injuries by becoming a stand-up comedian and providing comic relief for other burn survivors.

Healing sport

Three years after the end of the first Liberian civil war, in 1999, Tim Hetherington started his project Healing Sport, in which he explored the healing qualities of sport in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Angola, countries torn by civil war. The project was the result of Hetherington’s search for a new, less stereotyped way to communicate about Africa. His pictures of former child-combatants playing football, awarded in 2000, address war in the disguise of sports. Likewise, Pep Bonet’s portrayal of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club deals in an uplifting manner with one of the most brutal legacies of the civil war in Sierra Leone—the many victims of amputation deliberately used as a weapon during the war. Through football, members of the club regain their pride and self-confidence.


For Bosnian photographer Ziyah Gafic, photography itself became an important tool to cope with the aftermath of the Bosnian War, which he experienced as a teenager. Frustrated at being someone whom the war was happening to but not able to participate, Gafic eventually became a visual storyteller. Before turning his lens to other countries, he made several award-winning stories in 2001 about Bosnia after the war, including a story about Gorazde, the last UN safe area during the war, and one about the forensic efforts to trace any of the 27,000 missing people.

In Srebrenica, the identification of men and boys killed during the massacre of July 1995 is a continuing story. Every year, on 11 July, their fate is commemorated at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery and newly identified persons are buried during the ceremony. The endless rows of coffins, photographed by Andrew Testa in 2005 and Ivo Saglietti in 2011, are silent witnesses of a war that ended nearly 20 years ago but has not yet finished for many.

Igor Kostin

Victoria Ivleva

Robert Knoth

Francesco Zizola

Daniel Berehulak

Ed Kashi

Marie Dorigny

Wendy Watriss

Nina Berman

Eugene Richards

Peter van Agtmael

Tim Hetherington

Pep Bonet

Ziyah Gafic

Ziyah Gafic

David I. Gross

Andrew Testa

Ivo Saglietti