Jury perspectives: Asia

Hideko Kataoka, Asia jury chair 

A journey that began in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and continued for about a month, reached its final day in Amsterdam in late February. The Asia jury and then the global jury had been working sincerely with each photo, going through rounds and discussions among jurors, seeking deeper layers and meanings in works. Sometimes I had to endure emotions that spontaneously overflowed, as I reflected on my own experiences and background mirrored in the photographs.

Countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka (where violent civil protests led to the president fleeing the country) were shaken by complex, entangled events in 2022. Among the many submissions from the Asia region, we received a number of excellent projects depicting the rise of authoritarianism, power vacuums, climate change and more. Some of these photos made the front pages of a range of media outlets, while other projects received little media coverage. Some of the work defied local stereotypes by photographing themes seen from a foreigner's point of view, a completely different perspective than from inside the community. Other work presented the narrative power of the citizens themselves, through creative representation.

The story of Kashmir, a territory that is the subject of dispute between India and Pakistan, stood out in all categories, even though, in the end, it did not number among the winners. The region of Jammu and Kashmir, stripped of its 70-plus years of autonomy in 2019, remained under high alert by the Indian government. In this situation, photographers continued to report while exposing themselves to danger. This courage is crucial because the world needs to recognize this dangerous conflict, and to know the pain endured by those on the ground. As a native of Japan, the only country to experience the hostile use of an atomic weapon, I have a further significant concern because both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.

Some of the submissions from the Asia region were courageous in their protest against authoritarian dictatorship. In contrast, others made me think about the country itself, the tragedy and strife caused, for example, by the power vacuum after a strong power left. And, as always, it is the citizens who suffer.

I also wonder why, although citizens across the region protested against coercive governments, so few pictures of the demonstrations were submitted for consideration. This absence raises a concern about the increasing infringement of freedom of speech being practiced by new and old authoritarian regimes alike. For the Honorable Mentions of the Asia region, the jury selected quiet civil protests as a sign of solidarity.

Our selection of these photographs is not merely a record of a point in the past, but is presented to create discussions about the future that emerges from them. I hope they will generate a rich conversation to create a better future for the world.

Hideko Kataoka
2023 World Press Photo Contest Asia jury chair

Watch the global jury present the Asia winning works

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