Jury perspectives: South America

Julieta Escardó, South America jury chair 

“Dawn has not yet touched the village, but the first birds can already be heard. Someone stokes the embers, and another recounts, under the starlight, what they have just dreamed. It is not supposed to be he who interprets his own dream; that is what the community is for.” - Text inspired by Kohn, Eduardo. How Forests Think. Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. University of California Press, 2013.

A better analogy would be hard to find for what the jury experienced for four weeks, first during the regional judging online and then – with greater intensity, as we were physically present – with the global jury. Images unfolded one by one on a huge screen shining in the darkness of the jury room. Together, we each brought information about the context of our regions to help understand the relevance of themes represented in the photographs; the position taken by the photographers; their ability to access and engage with what they portrayed, and, of course, the quality of their images. The reading of the projects was collectively enriched, and the stories resonated beyond their region.

What the World Press Photo Contest does – and it does so well – is to provide a snapshot of the media landscape based on the photographs submitted each year. In South America, where print media is increasingly scarce and budgets for photographic projects are practically non-existent, it is interesting to observe that most documentary photographers no longer work for the press. Yet despite the serious constraints this generates, some interesting changes are emerging. Freed from the requirement of perhaps more conventional narrative structures, we enthusiastically observed how many photographers choose to develop what we call ‘Open Format.’ This provides a richer perspective, not only in form, but also in content.

Choosing a regional winner among so many and such good projects in the Open Format category was not easy. We decided to award Silenced Crimes, an exhaustive and necessary investigation into discrimination and violence against the LGBTQI+ community in the Peruvian Amazon.

The Amazon River – the largest river basin in the world – is suffering from the most severe drought in history, and Drought in the Amazon, winner in the regional Singles category, highlights the radical transformation in this territory. In Stories, Red Skies, Green Waters is a call to the Venezuelan government to urgently implement an environmental regulatory framework for the oil industry.

Across the world, and especially in South America, Indigenous communities take center stage in the fight against commercial exploitation of lands and waters, challenging governments and corporations. The Long-Term Project Mapuche: The Return of the Ancient Voices reflects deeply not only the active resistance of the Mapuche community against various extraction projects, but also their cosmic view and ways of inhabiting the world, often ignored by the press.

In Insurrection, we see how the photographer navigates intelligently in a tense environment, and then constructs a precise edit to account for what happened during the attempted coup d'état in Brazil. This Honorable Mention is given with all the women photojournalists in mind who day by day put themselves on the line to cover the news.

Being part of this edition of World Press Photo, alongside colleagues from South America, filled all of us with pride for the sensitivity that stories from our region bring out. We all want to continue working, through education and collaborative practices, to bring new storytellers together – storytellers who can add their own perspectives and textures to narrate the extraordinary cultural diversity of our region.

Julieta Escardó
2024 World Press Photo Contest South America jury chair

Watch the global jury present the South 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