Statement on potentially harmful content

Our statement on potentially harmful content in the World Press Photo Contest online archive

The World Press Photo Archive

The World Press Photo online archive features many World Press Photo Contest winning images that date back to the origins of the competition in 1955. Our historic physical archive containing more than 10,000 photographic objects (prints, negatives, slides, etc) and ephemera is housed at the Dutch National Archives in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The World Press Photo Contest rewards the best photojournalism of the previous year. The photographs awarded in the competition, made over seven decades, represent powerful visual records of key moments that have defined modern and contemporary history.

Preserving, sharing, and fostering discourse around these historical records is a fundamental part of our mission, all while upholding ethical, trauma-informed archiving practices and ensuring respect for the rights of the individuals portrayed in the photographs.

Harmful content

Some content in our archive may be harmful or difficult to view. We acknowledge that certain materials contained here reflect outdated, biased, and offensive language and viewpoints. Furthermore, our archive includes materials related to violent and/or traumatic events, which hold historical significance.

The online archive may contain:

  • Content that may be racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, and/or xenophobic.
  • Material that is discriminatory and perpetuates harmful stereotypes, often reinforcing colonialist and/or patriarchal ideas and practices
  • Graphic depictions of historical events, such as violence, medical procedures, crime, wars, terrorist activities, natural disasters, and more.
  • Instances revealing bias and exclusion in our past organizational policies and practices, and in society in general.

Who selects the archive contents?

Since 1955, an independent jury made of photography and journalism professionals has selected the winners of the World Press Photo Contest. All of the winning photographs from each year contribute to the expanding World Press Photo Archive.

Text accompanying the photographs in our archive is written by World Press Photo, based on the information provided by the photographer and additional research. While we strive to provide accurate and complete accompanying texts, we recognize that our records at times fall short, containing inaccurate or incomplete information and harmful language. We also recognize that language is always in motion and that our older captions reflect the prevailing societal attitudes at the time of publication. Since 2021, captions follow our Inclusive Language Guide in order to promote a more intentional and conscious use of language.

Reckoning with the past and incorporating diverse perspectives

“The opening up of the archives constitutes an opportunity not only to generate new knowledge but also to confront the ‘politics of our lack of knowledge.’” - Paul Lowe.

Since 1955, World Press Photo has helped to define history through its contest. It has remained a trusted source of information, operating in the public interest. With this role comes a responsibility to question and redefine how stories have traditionally been told through our contest.

Our archive is made up of a selection of material. This selection is the result of decisions made by jury members throughout the years–decisions that were thoughtful and informed, but also subject to the biases of the time and perspectives of the people who made up the jury, so ultimately subjective. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the power of selection that determines the contents of the archive, which leads events to be remembered in a certain way. We recognize that the majority of the photographs and stories in our archive represent a white, male, Western perspective.

For this reason, we are actively seeking funding to digitize the World Press Photo physical archive, consolidate our records (improving their functionality and searchability), conduct in-depth research, and recontextualize its contents, incorporating diverse perspectives. We aim to work with communities and peer institutions to inform our archival practice.

Our ultimate goal is to share our history with a global audience through meaningful programs and critical discussions, as well as improve the quality and quantity of information we present about past winners through our website. In tandem with these efforts, our regional strategy, initiated in 2021, also serves as a part of our commitment to representing diverse stories from around the world, in alignment with our organization's name.

Every photograph and story in the World Press Photo Archive sparks reflection and provocation. What stories mattered in 1955 and why? What were deemed to be the most newsworthy world events of the year and how were they documented? How could we read these stories now? What voices dominated the contest, and whose voices were excluded? Why did it take over 20 years for a woman photographer to be awarded the Photo of the Year? By spotlighting these lines of inquiry and the images related to them, we can trigger people to discern the threads that connect moments from the past to contemporary challenges.

We look forward to achieving this mission with the support of future donors and funders. Find out more about how to support this project here.

Archive updates

In this section we will keep track of general updates done to the archive since 2023.

November 2023

In September 2022, World Press Photo initiated a comprehensive review of its public online archive to better understand and carefully assess the archive's contents, based on ethical considerations.

In August 2023, the organization prioritized addressing photographs in the online archive depicting child nudity due to their sensitivity and the urgent concerns they raised, especially images revealing the identities of child survivors of sexual exploitation, which conflicted with principles outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The results were implemented in November 2023, and our Code of Ethics was adjusted for future contests. Read more.

Do you have questions or suggestions about our archive? Get in touch