Jury perspectives: North and Central America

John Minchillo, North and Central America jury chair 

North and Central America is at home in the contest’s regional model. For all the political trappings of the moment and perennial questions of cultural identity, the peoples of the region are inextricably linked. We walk towards the unknowable future together, no matter where or to whom we are born.

As the jury chair, I encouraged our group towards selecting images and projects that sparked deep discussion. We showcased detailed, impactful stories and powerful single images, emphasizing truth, integrity, and the importance of local photographers who brought an authentic perspective to their work. Our approach was to be open-minded and to challenge biases.

The region’s crises were evident in the projects that reached the global jury rounds, and in those that emerged as winners. A single firefighter surveying charred desolation – framed to place the subject’s eyes at the level of the surrounding treetops – stands as a monument to humanity’s rapidly losing battle with climate change. The stark black-and-white treatment of the migration crisis through Mexico towards the United States border captured the dignity and hardships of those caught in an escalating wave of catastrophes. Yet, there was color and wonder in another migration, taking the form of a masterful sequence on monarch butterflies in the Stories category. The images, from a deeply committed photographer, defied expectations as to what subject matter can succeed at the global level.

Capturing the quiet battles for dignity and identity in our digital age is a complex effort and the result in the Open Format category was one of the most challenging in the contest. It offers its rewards to viewers willing to shift their perspective towards the fantastic. The Honorable Mention showcases a visually sophisticated and finely edited story on climate refugees in a tiny corner of the southern United States, serving as harbinger of what is to come for coastal communities everywhere.

We sought to provide a selection that complemented, rather than competed with, the year’s news. This led to a collection that feels dynamic and globally relevant. The jury’s diversity revealed the limits of our individual knowledge. After all, how can we know what we don’t know? This diversity transformed judging into a journey of discovery and empathy, and in my opinion, joy.

Trauma is often pervasive in images of our world. Yet the act of photography is not one of despair, but of defiant hope. We commend the storytellers whose work demands we recommit to the future we all share. Their work is an inspiration.

John Minchillo
2024 World Press Photo Contest North and Central America jury chair

Watch the global jury present the North and Central America winning works

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