Jury perspectives: Asia

Elyor Nemat, Asia acting jury chair 

Two forces drive the world: the constructive and the destructive. War is death, while peace is life; war is rapacity and bloodthirstiness, while peace is beneficence and humaneness; war is the struggle for existence, while peace is cooperation among the peoples of the world. We have experienced war in many ways, and it has brought only sorrow and irreversible loss. We need hope, unity, and love more than ever.

For this year’s World Press Photo Contest, our choices have been driven by a commitment to stand behind strong projects that tell stories about the importance of love, family, dignity, and human value. Now is the time to suggest ways that photographers may offer solutions, rather than digging further into the abyss by looking at the world through a lens that drives polarization based on fixed opinions and interpretations, or immediate emotional responses. Through the contest we have learned to listen to each other, to admit that all suffering is suffering shared.

This year’s most challenging topic in judging the Asia region (which in the contest includes both Israel and Palestine) was the war in Gaza that had a polarizing effect everywhere. Our region contains half of the population of the world, and we were aware of the risk of underrepresenting issues in other parts of the continent because of the gravity of the situation there. The region is so large, and as jurors we felt we must balance the immediacy of the crisis in Gaza with the difficulties and pressures faced over the entire year elsewhere. A further challenge was that stories of war almost invariably contain disturbing images, and the power of that encounter can have the effect of overshadowing humanity elsewhere.

The Asia Singles winner is a powerful portrait of personal loss that speaks to the suffering of all conflicts happening in the world, regardless of which side you are on. War is never a solution. Afghanistan on the Edge, awarded in the Stories category, is about the suffering of the most vulnerable without support from the outside world. I Am Still With You portrays the strength of family bonds in an intimate personal story, a story close to so many of us, reminding us of the importance of love. The Open Format winner from Japan, Heartstrings, takes an intimate and careful approach to people living with dementia, highlighting the importance of caring for our loved ones and the preciousness of memory.

During the jurying at both the regional and global level, our conversations have remained open to considering not only the types of stories told, but also the many different ways of storytelling in photography, to bring more depth to the portrayal of crucial stories to audiences. While global media often highlight news and events happening in the West, or only elsewhere when the issues portrayed immediately concern Western countries, the regional model has allowed stories from underrecognized parts of the world to gain more visibility. We hope that our choice of winners for the Asia region has helped in some way to redress this imbalance.

Elyor Nemat
2024 World Press Photo Contest Asia acting jury chair

Watch the global jury present the Asia winning works

For more information about why each 2024 World Press Contest awarded work was selected by the independent jury, read the jury report