Jury perspectives: global winners

Brent Lewis, global jury chair

In the second year of World Press Photo’s regional format, the true power of the new strategy has become apparent. In 2022 we saw powerful stories ranging from the conflict in Ukraine, and Afghanistan’s first year under Taliban rule, to oil spillage in Peru and the loss of women’s rights, from the USA to Iran. Yet we were also able to see stories of alpaca farmers in South America, and a series of portraits of hip-hop artists that raise the question of social injustices committed against the genre’s creators. All these stories were able to coexist in a collection of the most important stories from all corners of the globe.

That said, the jury did have to make the space to include many highly significant stories, especially when a great number occurred in one region. For this reason, we decided as a jury to include a second Honorable Mention in Asia, instead of awarding one in the North and Central America region. The jury felt the two stories represented were too important and visually striking not to bring awareness to, especially on a continent as diverse as Asia.

The new format also aims to award at least one local photographer and a woman or non-binary photographer in each of the regions, as well as in the global awards. However, we are still subject to what photos are submitted and to the current state of the industry as a whole. Although we were able to award a local photographer in Europe, we were unable to award a woman or non-binary photographer in the region. That was not a decision we came to lightly, but one that ensured that the best photos were chosen, and that the contest maintained its integrity in recognizing only the highest quality of work from the year.

The process by which the World Press Photo of the Year was chosen also departed from the rules this year. While the rules state that the Photo of the Year must come from one of the singles chosen in the six regions, the jury unanimously agreed that the most important and powerful image came from a story – the winning story from Europe. We could not bring ourselves to remove the story as a winner, just for the sake of awarding the single photo. This was yet another move that ensured that we awarded the best and most important photos to represent 2022.

A further critical issue that faced the jury was over-processing and toning in photos. Although World Press Photo holds forensic checks on all photos that make it into the penultimate round, the jury took a decision to look critically at photos that seemed to be toned beyond what a human eye would naturally see. Such photos were not awarded, so as not to perpetuate a level of toning that has increased in the industry over the years.
Everything considered, our four global winners represent the best photos and stories from the most important and urgent stories of 2022. They also help to continue the tradition of what it is possible to do with photography, and how photography helps us to see the universality of the human condition.

The Open Format Award winner Here, The Doors Don't Know Me does just that. The story of forced migration and loss of identity is one we are increasingly seeing across the globe, but what took this story to the next level was an amazing website which allows readers to understand the story beyond the stills, and even allows some interactive communication with people in the story. That gives the reader an opportunity to open up a line of connection with the people who have exposed their lives to make the project possible.

The Long-Term Project Award winner, Battered Waters, was a well-researched and well-photographed understanding of how four countries in Central Asia are using water, but also what is at risk as the resource becomes scarce. This work rose not only because of its ability to tell the story while maintaining a human focus, but also for its universal appeal: issues around water recurred throughout the contest.

The Price of Peace in Afghanistan, the World Press Photo Story of the Year, provided the jury with an insight into the lives of Afghan people over the last year, as the Taliban has reclaimed control of the country. The photos and the edit were concise, with each providing an understanding of the issues facing the people of Afghanistan as they struggle to secure their basic needs. The jury felt that this story also served as a warning note for the current conflict in Ukraine, the subject of the winning single photo.

The haunting image from the siege of Mariupol was unanimously chosen as the winner of the World Press Photo of the Year. With the vote being decided on the first anniversary of the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the jury mentioned the power of the image and the story behind it, as well as the atrocities it shows. The death of both the pregnant woman and her child summarized so much of the war, as well as the possible intent of Russia. As one juror put it: “It’s like they are trying to kill the future of Ukraine.”

The photographs that we have chosen to represent 2022 are indicative of this moment in time, and will serve as historical documents of what the year was like for future generations to look back on and hopefully learn from. World Press Photo has, throughout my career, served as a guiding force for what is possible with photography, and it has been my greatest honor and privilege to serve as global jury chair, and hopefully to pass that guidance on to a new generation.

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