2014 Photo Contest, Contemporary Issues



John Stanmeyer

VII for National Geographic

26 February, 2013

African migrants on the shore of Djibouti City at night raise their phones in an attempt to catch an inexpensive signal from neighboring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad.

Djibouti, at the narrow southern entrance to the Red Sea, has become a gateway for migrants from the Horn of Africa heading to the Gulf States and beyond. This photo was taken as part of a project to ‘walk the world’ following the ancient paths of human migration, from Africa to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. When the image became World Press Photo of the Year it sparked surprise because it was different from previous winners, which often show conflict or historic moments. Instead, it is nuanced, poetic yet instilled with meaning. Kim Hubbard who commissioned the story for National Geographic said: “John managed to distill our entire story into one beautiful, moonlit image: modern day migration meets the universal desire for connection.”

About the photographer

John Stanmeyer

John Stanmeyer, born in Illinois, is a founder member of the VII photo agency. Over the last decade, Stanmeyer has worked nearly exclusively with National Geographic, producing ...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
35.0 mm
Canon EOS 5D Mark III

This image is collected in