Jury perspectives: Africa

Angela Jimu, Africa jury chair 

Being the Africa jury chair for the 2023 World Press Photo Contest was an amazing and yet challenging experience. My own biases and prejudices were called into question. I also had to seriously consider through whose lens I was seeing the world, reflecting on the cautionary words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the dangers of telling a single story.

Although I have often spoken of and been a proponent of “shifting narratives,” the entire process had me rethinking what this term meant in terms of the African continent. The results of the process culminated in a more open mind, as I became more aware of myself and the issues that confront us on the continent when it comes to visual storytelling.

Overall, certain themes kept recurring – themes such as identity, climate crisis, migration, trafficking, and conflict were common throughout entries from the continent’s different regions.

My personal vision for the contest related to its capacity to show the human condition, particularly the effects of the climate crisis. This urgent issue needs to be addressed, and images have a particular power to elicit a response. We could not miss the opportunity to highlight an issue that has affected the entire continent.

I was saddened to note how relatively few entries there were from local photographers, and from photographers identifying as female, especially in view of World Press Photo’s recent introduction of a regional model, which increases the chances of local visual journalists winning. This raises the question of how we can encourage participation from these groups in next year’s contest.

One of the Africa jury’s most crucial discussion points was the politics of identity. We reached the consensus that we were more concerned about a photographer’s intentions than their nationality.

The jury agreed that Africa is not homogeneous and that issues in different parts of Africa had to be represented, as issues were not of equal importance across different regions. And we concurred that some issues of great importance are underreported and need to be talked about. However, we were not willing to present images that spoke of important issues, and yet were badly executed.

As a jury, we needed to address a key issue: What is the Africa we want to show to the world? How do we strike a balance between showing the realities on the continent – realities such as the effects of the climate crisis or armed conflict – without reinforcing stereotypes?

When sitting on the global jury, I quickly realized fundamental differences in our paradigms. However, despite these fundamental differences, the truth remained that an image that is well executed speaks for itself.

Angela Jimu
2023 World Press Photo Contest Africa jury chair

See the Africa winners  

Watch the global jury present the Africa winning works

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