Photos in photos

by World Press Photo

‘Instant pictures, instant smiles’: While travelling through China in 1983, American photographer Michael Williamson took instant pictures of people he met and then recorded their reactions to the images.

Nearly 30 years later, Stefen Chow, from Malaysia, was met with an entirely different response when he came to Ai Weiwei’s Beijing studio to portray the Chinese artist and dissident. When Chow was setting up the lights and preparing the camera, Ai Weiwei took out his smartphone to photograph his visitor. It was the moment Chow had been waiting for, knowing that the artist has a habit of picturing everyone who comes to his studio.


Photographs and photography play a role in several World Press Photo winning images. Some photographers have used photos to bridge the gap between two moments in time. In 1974, Russian winner Victor Arsiry photographed a World War II veteran holding up a photo of her when she was 18. In 1986, French photographer Pascal Maître received an honorable mention for his series of Mexican ‘Zapatista’s’, some of them pictured with portraits from their revolutionary days. In other winning images, photos illustrate the connection between the living and the dead, such as the family pictures held by a Vietnamese woman in Dimitar Deynov’s winning photo of 1975. In 1985, American photographer Eric Luse photographed a grieving girl, holding the framed portrait of her mother, who had been found murdered in her San Francisco home.

The missing

Photos of the missing provide relatives with a last, cherished link to their loved ones, and also with some kind of tool in the search for their fate. In 2002, some 3,800 people were still missing in relation to the Kosovo conflict of 1998-1999. Their relatives went to demonstrate for action outside the parliament in Pristina, where David I. Gross made a penetrating portrait of an elderly woman carrying the portraits of two young men, probably her sons. One year later, in Iraq, human rights groups photocopied and displayed thousands of photographs of people who had disappeared during Saddam Hussein’s regime. Dario Mitidieri made an award-winning photo story of the search for the missing in Iraq in 2003. In Rwandese refugee camps in DR Congo, not the missing but the surviving children were photographed in order to trace their parents or other relatives. In 1994, when some 1.5 million Rwandans fled their country, 27,000 children were separated from their families in the confusion. Iranian photographer Reza photographed how aid organizations set up mobile photo studios and exhibitions to facilitate identification of these children.

Michael Williamson

Stefen Chow

Victor Arsiry

Pascal Maître

Dimitar Deynov

Eric Luse

Ziyah Gafic

David I. Gross

Dario Mitidieri

Dario Mitidieri

Dario Mitidieri