Jury perspectives: Africa

Nii Obodai, Africa jury chair 

As this year’s Africa jury chair, I am aware of the privilege and responsibility this entails. Our world seems more fragile and divided than ever. As conflicts elsewhere captured the mainstream media’s attention, conflicts and other stories of interest from Africa were mostly invisible, or only occasionally mentioned. It is not that we as a jury were only looking for conflict in the submitted works; we thought it important to make sure under-reported issues were represented and that local and female/non-binary photographers were given a fair chance. We want photography to shift from hard visualization of violence to a more nuanced approach that empowers viewers towards reaching greater understanding. We also wanted our choices to speak of authenticity and dignity, defining a new kind of newsworthiness.

Among the criteria that influenced us were: shifting away from stereotypes of violence and war; shifting away from historical media-driven stereotypes of Black bodies in conflicts, dead bodies, or women and children in vulnerable, violent situations; moving towards nuanced visual narratives; revealing stories about hidden regional conflicts and their impact; seeking more empathetic, authentic visual narratives of the continent's growing youth population; seeking stories that expressed universal human themes, and, finally, photography that helps us reach a better understanding of the lives of our people and the current affairs and other events that shape our lives.

The regional jury intended to represent the diversity of what is happening on our continent, yet we felt that issues of access continue to exist. This was evident in the higher number of submissions from non-local photographers. Many non-local photographers come with a certain privilege and support system with which few local photographers can compete, but this should not stop local photographers from producing interesting, newsworthy work. Who else can better represent our own stories? Africa still has hurdles to overcome to increase submissions from local photographers. I hope this year's contest winners will encourage more local, and especially female/non-binary photographers to submit work.

The Africa Singles winner showing a wounded, permanently disabled soldier returning home and being embraced by his mother is an image of universal love. We all can empathize with the joy of returning to family: an oft untold other side of war.

Our winning Long-Term Project is a beautifully told black-and-white narrative of Tunisian youths, poetically pictured with dignity and connection. We see the disquiet of their lives and at the same time sense the disturbing quietude in their everyday lives. We witness the painful, beautiful relationships of youth occupying the concrete urban space: their stage, and playground.

The winning Open Format story confronts us with the perils and tragedy of intended migration from West Africa to Europe, a journey that goes terribly off course. If not for the tenacity of the visual journalists, this story would never have been told. This multimedia project sets an impressive benchmark for investigative photojournalism.
The Honorable Mention for this year is a story that places the healing of women affected by sexual violence and abuse at its center. We feel in the photographs that the photographer is searching to find a way to tell us of both the pain and grace of moving beyond the experience of being a victim.

As a jury, we set out to reach consensus and make the best decisions possible, to raise the bar a little higher so that we can all work together, no matter our differences, and help shape photography towards a better tomorrow. I believe we did.

Nii Obodai
2024 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 2024 World Press Contest awarded work was selected by the independent jury, read the jury report