Jury perspectives: North and Central America

Tomás Ayuso, North and Central America jury chair

The visual work produced by the North and Central America region photographers in 2022 was as varied as the region itself. From the deep-blue melt dripping off Greenland’s glaciers, to the rusted red earth powdering everything across the vast US–Mexico borderlands, and all the way to the pale-green fronds of Central America’s cloudy rainforests, this year’s entries stunned the jury with their superb variety and sheer technical prowess.

But it was the visual narrative and quality of the storytelling that truly stood out across the region. The submissions reflected not only the ever-shifting news cycle, but also the inner preoccupations of the region’s people. Entries traced migration from source to sanctuary; navigated the fallout from further encroachment on women’s rights across communities; and honored the stories of individuals’ struggles to determine their identity on their own terms.

This year’s contestants went beyond reflection by peering into the shape of stories to come. For instance, as the climate crisis left no country unpunished, photographers composed visual stories that presaged possible tumult – and solutions – yet to come. Given our region’s permanent state of motion, issues which are front and center one year might be supplanted by more pressing continental concerns in another. In addition, core issues seldom if ever stay static, fluctuating along with the people whose lives they affect. The 2023 World Press Photo Contest entrants managed, almost without exception, to assemble impressive bodies of work that presented the interlinked past, present, and future of regional issues, and the states of mind of our people.

Similarly, contestants found ways to innovate on oft-told stories, avoiding derivative tropes of the past. As the regional model evolves and grows more well-known among a pool of potentially interested photographers, the space for photographers from nearly every corner of the region to participate broadens. Notably, female-identifying and non-binary participants reached near parity with the number of their male peers this year, and the ratio of local to foreign photographers was evenly balanced. Compared with past years, more people from less-represented communities and countries now feel empowered to tell the stories of their communities, in ways only someone who grew up surrounded by the tragedies and celebrations of home ever could.

With this year’s cultural and historic moments so perfectly captured, our jury struggled to choose from the wealth of entries. We were constantly struck by the sheer strength and subtle introspection of submissions, apparent as our shortlist ultimately emerged. As a jury, we arrived at one undeniable consensus: whether it’s an image capturing the continent’s zeitgeist in a single still, or a long-term project weaving together the complex instances of a person’s life over an extended period of time, the future of North and Central America’s visual storytelling is safe in the hands of a multitude of photographers, shining incandescently bright.

Tomás Ayuso
2023 World Press Photo Contest North and Central America jury chair

Watch the global jury present the North and Central America winning works

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