Jury perspectives: Europe

Kateryna Radchenko, Europe jury chair 

The impressive number of applications from Europe inspired us to research and learn more about the lives and stories of people in countries across the continent. Diving into them every day took us on a virtual journey through the events of 2022. Stories about the destinies of migrants (their attempts to cross borders in boats on the open sea; living in unsanitary conditions in forests, or in temporary shelters on long-awaited European land, but behind barbed fences) sat alongside images of natural disasters and the consequences of climate change (dried-up rivers and lakes; outbreaks of forest fires that destroyed everything in their path; people’s fight for every piece of nature still habitable). Alongside these were private, intimate family stories (of motherhood, love and hate, relationships), coverage of sports and political events (protests, clashes with the police, tear gas), and stories about the latest inventions, or the disappearance of small regional villages.

As I looked through the applications, one event gave way to another. Images of vivid moments streamed by, but my eyes would linger on photos from Ukraine. Most stories submitted in 2022 dealt with the war in Ukraine – images of pain, loss, death, and destroyed cities. They were breathtaking, but one’s mind refused to believe that such atrocities against civilians could happen in the 21st century. Ukraine has attracted documentary photographers and photojournalists from all over the world, so many stories came up again and again: faces behind the windows of trains and buses; goodbyes filled with grief; the wounded and the killed; churned-up landscapes; destroyed houses; exhumations; burned-out military vehicles; doctors and volunteers at work; empty, grief-stricken looks.

Every day, at every online session, our panel of judges tried to answer the most important question: “What really matters? What is worth showing and sharing from 2022?” We could not and did not want to avoid shocking images, because the Russia-Ukraine war had become the topic of the year, so events in Ukraine had to be shown as they really were.

The Long-Term and Open Format projects really impressed us because of their authors’ systematic research and the way they immersed themselves in their subjects, giving the viewers access to unexpected stories, to large industrial facilities, to boats that transport migrants, to private homes and gated communities. This closeness brings the audience almost face-to-face with the heroes of the stories, allowing them to feel their experiences, their pain, and their worries.

Choosing the winners is a very intense and responsible process. Each time you try to balance the narrative and visual components of the project. Each time you think about the impact that an image and its author can have. The great power of World Press Photo is in the opportunity it provides to collect and show images that matter to the whole world, and to demonstrate the unity between communities, countries, and people in their intention to solve common problems.

Kateryna Radchenko,
2023 World Press Photo Contest Europe jury chair

Watch the global jury present the Europe winning works

For more information about why each 2023 World Press Contest awarded work was selected by the independent jury, read the jury report